NendoVault: What to do and What not to do! Cosplay Events in PH

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In the cosplay community of PH, it seems to have been a trend to invite international renowned cosplayers to grace his or her filipino fans a visit may it be just a day or two. While this is a good thing for the local community, it doesn’t mean that organizers however can do as they please.

As of late there has been news about the Cebu incident that involves a famous cosplayer named “Reika” Reika’s from Japan and she has done quite a few visits in the country though its in Manila. While i’m not a fan of hers it is still something that even I would say a great thing that she gave her filipino fans a chance to see her in person.

Going back, the incident seems to really have taken a toll with a certain famous cosplay team known as Tux Team. They are a group of friends who loved cosplay and they are known for not only the characters they’ve cosplayed but for their craftsmanship which is really excellent.

To put everything in place here’s the exact article written my “Jin Joson”

Title: A lesson for organizers and invited guests
by Jin J. Joson (Notes) on Monday, May 6, 2013 at 11:38am

Just so it’s clear: The purpose of this post is to shed the light on our unfortunate experience, in order for others to learn from it. I don’t think people realize how much damage can be caused by incompetence of the individuals who are supposed to be the pillars of an event.

So I hope this will be educational to other organizations, and newbies who are thinking of making their own conventions. There are also lessons to be learned for cosplayers who are being invited to be guests.

I usually do not speak up about negative incidents, but so many people were affected by this that I cannot keep my silence and let organizers think they can get away with this sort of performance.

May we all learn from yesterday’s mistakes to improve future events.

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Cosplay events are popping up at an alarming rate nowadays. Established events are going strong, and new groups are coming up with new events all the time.

In recent years, well-known cosplayers from overseas have been gracing local events more frequently. Perhaps this has made people realize that to be able to invite their idols to come to our shores is no longer an unattainable dream. So many people are doing it, so it can’t be too hard, right?

Wrong.

“It’s our first time” is not an excuse.

Everyone has to start somewhere, but remember: You have the option of starting small in order to decrease the chance of failure. That is how the longest-running and most organized and successful cons began.

If you’re going to go big, make sure you at least have the guidance of someone who has relevant experience, the resources to cover logistics as well as a healthy amount of provisions for everything that might go wrong. Because probability dictates that unexpected problems will arise. It happens even to the best of people. If you’re just starting out, what makes you think you’re any better than those who have been organizing for years?

Believe me, it pains me that I have to drop names for this but it is necessary to get my points across and to lay down the facts.

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OUR PREVIOUS CEBU EXPERIENCE:

The last time I was invited to be a guest for a Cebu event, to say that I had a good experience would be a complete understatement. The organizers for that time was iLuvCebu. My friends and I were treated with utmost hospitality and professionalism.

We were happy with just sponsored flights and accommodations, but they pulled out all the stops to make sure we were having a fantastic time, all the time. And that we were always safe and comfortable. Schedules were followed. Security measures taken. Whenever something would not go according to plan, they would quickly work on solutions. For the days during which we had no obligations, they planned out tours, photo shoots at scenic places, reserved VIP rooms, took us to the best places to eat.

iLuvCebu really did make us love Cebu.

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COSMAZE CARNIVAL:

A lot of you have been asking about the group name of the organizers of Cosmaze Carnival.
The name of the Cosmaze organizers’ group is Artfield Media.

Sometime around March, I was sent an invitation for Tux Team (my friends and I) to be guests at Cosmaze Carnival, another event that was to be held in Cebu. I happily obliged, since we had such a wonderful time last time and would love to once again see the friends we’ve made and the warm community we met there. The person I was in contact with introduced herself as Mellyzza, and stated that she was one of the organizers of Cosmaze. She even mentioned that she attended the workshop we gave during the last visit. She was very amicable and gave prompt responses, so all of this made me trust her. She also seemed in close contact with one of our closest Cebuano friends, so I felt reassured.

She said that they planned to have us fly in on May 3 and leave on May 6 so that we would have ample time for touring and just hanging out. Generous. She said that the rest of the organizers agreed that they could bring in up to six or seven of us. I coordinated with my friends, and six of us could make it on those dates. She asked for our personal details for the flight bookings, and I gave them promptly so that tickets could be settled ASAP and it would cost less for them.

When my friends and I commit to something, we do so with our whole hearts.

We blocked off our schedules, prepared new costumes, some people filed leaves from work, and Melo declined another job offer because he accepted the offer to co-host Cosmaze Carnival while waiving his usual fees, because he wanted to do something for the Cebuano community who have always been welcoming towards him.

I even obliged when they asked me to send our photos in the highest possible resolution. I hesitated though after sending a couple, because it seemed like she was no longer updating me about our flights. I figured that perhaps they were still busy working things out, so I decided to wait.

Not wanting to be pushy toward Mellyzza, I asked our mutual friend if she had heard anything about the status of our visit. She said that the organizers told her that they were talking to me and everything was fine. Huh. That’s funny. I am most certain that no one from their group was talking to me.

Fast forward to April. It was just a month before Cosmaze Carnival. It had been announced that Reika would be one of the other guests. Still no word regarding our tickets. My friend Charmie, who is one of the six of us who were supposed to go, could not sit still about the lack of news. Charmie and Reika talk through mobile chat, and they discussed how we would all be at the same event.

Charmie was one of the handlers for the international guests during Cosplay Mania, so she had also taken care of Reika back then. Knowing that Reika has trouble navigating our airports, she wanted to synchronize our flights so Reika would not have to wander anywhere alone. She got in touch with another person from the organizer team and coordinated with her about flights.

As of April 3, none of our tickets had been booked by the organizers. That was just a barely over a month before the event, which was to be held on May 4. I was with Charmie at a coffee shop at the time, and she immediately looked up flight schedules and prices on her phone, and figured out a schedule that would be cost-effective and convenient for all parties involved. Even though this was not her responsibility as a guest, she did it anyway because it would not do anyone good to just keep waiting around.

When she checked up on them again, the tickets that the organizers booked for Reika did not follow the flight details Charmie so carefully selected to keep Reika rested and comfortable. They had already paid for it so there was nothing else we could do but try to fix our flights so that some of us could still accompany and guide Reika through the terminals in Manila, since there were no direct flights at the time from Kansai to Cebu. Artfield Media did not plan to have anyone come pick Reika up in Manila, so Charmie volunteered so that Reika would not get lost.

By April 8, a big revelation was made to Charmie. With the event only around 3 weeks away, Charmie had to insist that they confirm flight bookings for the 6 of us. After dodging the issue for a while, the Cosmaze organizer was finally forced to admit that they would no longer be getting Tux Team as guests. Their reason was that Mellyzza, the person who contacted me was not actually part of the main organizing team and had no business inviting us. Apart from that, they asked Charmie to keep quiet and not tell us anything. Charmie obliged, thinking that eventually they would break the news to me themselves.

1) If you find out that someone who is supposedly not part of the organizing team is doing something they shouldn’t be, YOU FIX IT. YOU FIX IT AS SOON AS YOU FIND OUT. They were aware for a while and did NOTHING to remedy the situation.

2) You don’t ask a guest to keep cruicial information from her fellow guests. That is just conniving, immoral and unprofessional.

Maybe they had instead decided on getting Reika as a guest instead of the six of us. All of us adore Reika and would not blame anyone for choosing her over us. It is exciting after all to have a Japanese guest! And we had already been to Cebu and Reika hasn’t.

We would have been COMPLETELY OKAY with this, if they just had the decency to TELL US. And you know what, up to this day (it is May 5 as I type this) they have not informed us of ANYTHING. Even though they told Charmie that they would. We were left completely in the dark, and we just pieced things together ourselves and come up with the conclusion that we would no longer be going to Cosmaze Carnival.

However, since we were not informed ahead of time, this means that those of my friends who filed work leaves for Cosmaze had wasted their time and the limited days they could take a break from work. Those days could have been valuable time to work on projects with their teams at the office, days to earn money, etc.

Melo declined an offer to host a high-paying event for a prestigious company. That is a 5-digit paycheck that he gave up out of the goodness of his heart because he wanted to do something for the Cebu community again. You have to understand that for someone in the hosting industry, contacts are a huge deal. And you make contacts by showing up at events and showing them a good performance. Melo not only missed out on payment for his work for that day, but also the possibility of booking more events or meeting people that could help his career.

So to summarize just some of the points from this part of the story:

1. The Cosmaze organizers had wasted our time and efforts, and betrayed our trust by making promises they could not keep. They could not even muster the basic human decency to inform us of this development. We were left hanging, which kept our schedules for our other priorities in limbo.

2. They lied to our friend when she asked about us, stating that they were in contact with me and that everything was fine — when in fact, they were not keeping in touch with me and things were not okay.

3. They asked Charmie to keep the truth from us under the pretense that they would inform me themselves, which turned out to be another lie because they did not tell me anything.

4. Aware that Charmie is one of the people they would no longer be flying in, they withheld this information and basically took advantage of Charmie’s organizational initiative. Charmie was doing all that work because she thought she would be helping with the flight bookings for our group and for Reika. In the end, it’s like she just did the organizers’ work for them.

5. My friends and I wasted their work leaves and the extra effort and expenses to finish costumes quickly enough to make it in time for the event. We have a lot of priorities and we made some important things take the backseat for the meantime because we wanted to pool our efforts together to do something special in time for Cosmaze.

6. Melo was deprived of a 5-digit paycheck and the possibility of making valuable work connections because he declined an event from a prominent company to be at Cosmaze Carnival.

7. After all that, they could not even take one quick moment to say something as simple as, “We are sorry but due to financial constraints, we will no longer be able to accommodate you and your team for our event.” It took me only a few seconds to type that out.

Maybe it was our fault for being too trusting. But you know what, I would rather be trusting to a fault than be untrustworthy.

And what organizers need to understand is that just because some cosplayers are known to be fun-loving and happy-go-lucky does not mean that we don’t have lives outside of this hobby and priorities that demand our time. It doesn’t mean that we appreciate people treating us like fools. Nobody wants that. Nobody deserves that. Our time is valuable, and as with any other human being, we deserve even the most basic notion of respect. All of this is just the most disgusting discourtesy I have ever been dealt out of all my experience with events.

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THEIR TREATMENT OF REIKA:

Disclaimer: Let me just make it clear that Reika and I are not close friends. I have utmost admiration and respect for her for her craft and the way she treats her supporters. But I am not defending her because I’m pretending to be her friend or whatever. This section is to discuss the general treatment of invited guests, especially foreign ones.

Despite all that happened on our end, Charmie continued to coordinate with the Cosmaze organizers to hopefully fix things so that Reika would be taken care of. Even I offered Charmie my assistance if she needed anything.

Reika was just as surprised as we were about the news that we would no longer be going. She did not feel comfortable around an unfamiliar organization and actually negotiated so that Artfield Media would at least get Charmie to accompany her. Thankfully, they managed. However, it still wasn’t smooth sailing from there.

1. No time to sleep

The flight schedule they booked for Reika was like this
– On May 3, she would arrive in Manila at around 8PM.
– Her flight to Cebu is at 4AM the following day, May 4: the day of Cosmaze Carnival.
– Cosmaze was to end at around 6PM, and Reika was to fly out from Cebu on the same evening to go to Manila, then another flight back to Japan.

You don’t have a guest fly in during ungodly hours of the morning on the day of the event itself. They need ample time to rest.

When is the last time you were happy about having obligations to fulfill while having no sleep?

2. No one to pick her up in Manila

They did not account for anyone from Cebu to fetch Reika when she gets to Manila. If not for Charmie, Reika might have just been waiting at the airport from 8PM to 4AM.

3. The “Reika did not complain” justification

With a schedule like this, when would there be time for Reika to rest? Charmie bought this up with them, and their justification was that “Reika did not complain.” Of course she wouldn’t! She’s a guest that is being flown in from another country, so it would seem ungrateful to complain. In addition to that, Reika is one of the most gracious, professional and dedicated guests I have met. She will do all she can to make her hosts and her fans happy.

Of course she would tolerate and power through a hellish schedule like that, but that doesn’t mean she is actually happy about it. Who would be? And regardless of how the guest might feel or how willing they are to take crazy schedules, as an event organizer and a host to a land that is foreign to the guest, it is their responsibility to make the experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible for her.

Aim for the highest standard, not push the limits of how much crap a guest is willing to accept before they complain or back out. The options you provide a guest reflect how much you are concerned about them as a person.

4. No hotel room

When Charmie asked Artfield Media about hotel details for Reika, they said at first that they would not be booking a hotel for her but will instead have a private air-conditioned room for her at the event hall. Um. I wonder if that private room has a proper bed for Reika to rest up in, and a heated shower? It is doubtful to say the least. Charmie insisted on a hotel so that Reika could get some sleep, and their reply was that Reika could sleep in the dressing room during the event.

Even then!
– A dressing room is no replacement for a proper hotel room.
– They flew Reika in to be a guest at the event and at the same time they expected her to sleep sometime during the event? How is that right? How is that fair for Reika and the people who came to see her?

After more discussion, they agreed to get Reika a hotel room. However, on the night before Reika was to arrive in Manila, they surprised Charmie with the news that they had failed to book a hotel room after all.

(Edit: Charmie confirmed that there was no shower in the dressing room. Since Reika wanted to shower before the event, they were taken to someone’s house just so she could freshen up. It wasn’t private and the people of the household were of course walking around their home.)

5. Basic things were overlooked

Reika was updating as she checked into the Kansai Airport. Then we receive word that she was almost not allowed to board because the ticket they had booked for her had no weight allowance for luggage. All she was allowed to bring was her hand-carry items. She can’t be without luggage! She’s bringing an elaborate costume, as well as her photo books! After being hassled, she was able to negotiate at the counter and ended up having to pay for the fees herself.

It may seem like a little thing, but these are things that shouldn’t be overlooked by organizers. Maybe it was lucky that it managed to get resolved but they can’t keep counting on things like that. They can’t keep counting on other people to clean up their messes. They shouldn’t be causing their guest any unnecessary aggravation and stress.

After the airport ordeal, we were waiting for Reika to arrive in Manila. Despite how the Cosmaze organizers had cost him a lot, Melo was the one who volunteered to drive Reika around Manila. They picked her up at the airport, and Charmie arranged a welcome back dinner for Reika, with people who had taken good care of her here during Cosplay Mania. Included in the group were 3 Japanese language speakers so that communication would be easier.

The Cosmaze organizers did not make it clear to Charmie whether an interpreter would be available for Reika for the event. To be safe rather than sorry, Charmie suddenly asked Chelli to come along to the trip to be Reika’s translator. At least Reika has worked with Chelli during both her previous visits to the Philippines so she trusts her. So Charmie bought another plane ticket a few hours before their flight to Cebu, using her money once again.

This isn’t even everything yet, but this post is getting alarmingly long already. I hope this gets the important points across.

Those of you who saw Reika at the event might say she looked happy anyway, and she said that she wants to go back to Cebu.

Even if a person looks happy on the outside, you can’t always take that as the truth. I’ve had similar experiences when I had gotten ill in the middle of an event, but since I made a commitment with the organizers and promised to fulfill certain obligations, I didn’t let it show. I did my best to smile and do my work.

She probably wants to go back because she really wanted to go sightseeing around Cebu. She didn’t even have time to do that last weekend, even though that’s the reason she agreed to it.

Something that was discussed during our dinner with her is that she will now need to have someone to act as her manager for events in the Philippines from now on. Someone who will filter out her invitations and translate terms and conditions properly for her. Her trust and kindness had been taken advantage of, and once is enough.

I will now also take more care when it comes to invitations. I never felt the need for it before, but I think we should demand contracts now. It’s sad that it has come to this. Other cosplayers who are being invited as guests should also do what they can to avoid being treated this way.

__________________________________________________

LOCAL GUESTS:

It was not just Reika’s kindness that was exploited in the course of this event.

A renowned artist was asked to judge the cosplay competition at Cosmaze. He usually charges P50,000 for something like that. He was not paid a cent.

His daughter, an established soprano, was asked to perform at the event as well. She even had a costume made for it. She was not compensated either. She even ran late for a recording appointment because the event which was supposed to open at 10AM ended up starting during mid-afternoon.

The organizers are lucky these people did not complain, or choose to abandon their posts, or take legal action.

Organizers should not even try to cruise by on how much they can get away with without other people complaining.

__________________________________________________

A MESSAGE FROM MELO

As a freelancing host, I value my clients a lot. It is through the relationship that I have with them that allows me to continue what I enjoy doing and make a living. Given that, I strive to uphold a professional image and work ethic. When I am offered a gig, I block off the ENTIRE day for them if only to prevent overlaps between one client and another. I’m sure my peers would say that I can make more money if I am to schedule several events in a day if I set them apart long enough. However, this goes against what I believe. If I did do multiple events in a day, my mind would not be on the job at hand, rather on the fact that I have to make sure I make it on time for the next one.

Last month, my friends and I were invited to guest at an event. We were promised so many things and seeing as it was a cosplay event, I decided to waive my professional fees. We were promised a paid flight, accommodations and even pocket money for when we would like to just hang out. I even jokingly said that I wanted a box of kittens waiting for me, to which they promised as well.

Knowing that I already agreed to be part of this, it goes without saying that I blocked off several days since we were supposedly going to Cebu. During this time, I was offered a hosting gig by a prestigious company and were willing to pay my professional fee. Unfortunately, I declined the offer since I was already booked and I told them that I would love to be part of their event some other time. And so that ship sailed and went along with the professional fee that would have been included.

Fast forward to the present. It turns out that the organizers decided to take in a different guest. It would have been all fine and dandy had we, or at the very least, I been informed that we were no longer to be part of it due to whatever reasons. I would have accepted the offer from the other company and I would have made what was due. The thing is, we were never informed of the cancellation. So much so that as of writing this, the organizers themselves have not had the decency to explain to me, to us, as to what happened. We had to figure it out on our own and piece together the details.

Which leads me to this: To the organizers, your actions, mostly the lack thereof, are nothing short of unprofessional. You have not only inconvenienced an entire group of working individuals, but you have denied me a full day’s work which is nothing short of valuable for freelancers like me. You have not only insulted us personally by the way you have treated us, but also professionally but not even having the decency to inform us of the situation. We had to find out from other people, non-organizers what was happening.

Please know that I will never conduct business with you or anyone affiliated with you and your group. Please know that I am nothing short of displeased with your behaviour and I will not let this slide. I tend to keep my silence regarding these things however you have single-handedly dealt me a hand to which I must react to. I have hosted events which could have used a lot of work, but you and your organization take the word “unprofessional” and redefined it.

Let this be a warning to those who would like to work with these people. You will be promised the world and all you will receive is neglect and ignorance. It saddens me that you have forced not only me but my friends to act upon your incompetence.

__________________________________________________

TO THE COSMAZE CARNIVAL ORGANIZERS:

I received an apology letter from Artfield Media in the middle of typing this out (early morning, March 6). There really is nothing to be remedy the damage that has already been done.

Artfield Media, I only hope that you can learn from this.

Let me tell you, it PAINS me that I have had to post this. But people cannot keep doing this. If I do not speak up about what we had been subjected to, people would assume everything was fine and things like this might keep happening.

To say you are a small organization, that you are young, and that it is your first time to attempt something like this is not an excuse for what has happened. These are not reasons for people to forgive you for a poor performance. They are factors which you should have acknowledged and considered when you made your plans for this event. Don’t make plans with money you don’t have yet. Sponsors might promise funding but until it has been given to you and you have permission to use it, don’t make promises you can’t keep.

I saw your FAQ page for Cosmaze Carnival in which you stated:

13. Who are the organizers of this event?
This event is a dream made into reality by a group of enthusiastic individuals who just want to share the love of their hobby.

You may have fulfilled your dream of bringing Reika to Cebu to meet her fans there.

You admitted in your letter to me that you were inadequate and incompetent in many ways. Would it have been part of your dream to let Reika suffer due to the repercussions of your shortcomings? If Charmie and Chelli weren’t there at the event and all those weeks preparing for it, things could have been terrible for Reika.

In chasing after your dreams, do not forget to be considerate of the feelings of others as you run. I hope you are aware of the people you trampled on (intentionally or not) along the way. The lives you disrupted, the cost of your mistakes, the trust that has been broken.

It is one thing to have a dream and to pursue it. It is even okay to have a healthy does of optimistic blind faith. But when other people are hurt, disrespected, and lose their hard-earned money over the failure of those who are supposed to set the foundation for an event, it is quite a different story. One that cannot keep happening.

__________________________________________________

I hope we can all learn from this.

So overall, i’ve been part and still actively participating in an organizing team for cosplay related events and treatment of guests is a high priority for us. If anyone would ask why, reason being is that we do not want our guests to feel awkward even for a second. At most, if they need help we need to be able to do what we can. When I say “What we can” is because there are things that one cannot do and one must not do and one can do and one can only do. Never promise something you cannot do or accomplish. This event clearly shows that. For me, what’s done was done, we can’t do anything about it since its over and crying over spilled milk is not a good thing. Like what Jin Joson stated, the best is we take this as a learning point in our lives even if we are not part or currently part of an organizing team for cosplay related events or other events around the metro or country.

As filipinos, we are known for being courteous & welcoming. We take care of our guests to the best of our capabilities. I just hope that such filipino tradition isn’t gonna die out as we progress further into the future.

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