As a boy, I used to dress up and pretend I was Superman. On weekends, I would wear my favorite blue shirt and slip on my red brief over my pajamas. I would rummage through our closet for a towel, drape it on my back and use it as a cape. I tried so hard to look like my idol that I even wore “kiss-me” locks like Christopher Reeve. I’d fly off chairs and jump off flight of stairs. I was the Man of Steel! Want to know what my green kryptonite was? It was the unfinished homework that my maternal grandmother, Mamang Manding would follow me around with. But oh boy, it was so much fun playing dress-up and make-believe! It was well worth the bruises, sprains and aches from falling and stumbling.
When I got tired of being the “Red Blue Blur,” I became Sho Kosugi! Watching so many karate and ninja movies at Jade Cinema in Dagupan City made me want to be a ninja. My friends and Iwould wear t-shirts over our heads with the hole for the neck that would reveal only our eyes. The sleeves were knotted together to keep the shirt from falling off. We improvised nunchucks from Johnson’s baby powder containers and plastic rope. Our katanas were bamboo poles, rattan stick or rolled-up newspaper. Our shurikens were folded scrap paper. We fluttered like butterflies as we climbed trees and hid in dirty crevices. We would sprinkle powder as our metsubushi. Then, poof! -- we were gone!
Pinoys like to mimic their idols – real or fictional. They wear costumes, role-play and emulate their idols’ actions and mannerisms.
My knowledge of cosplay was once only through comic magazines and the internet. This changed recently when on the Rayos Clan page in Facebook, I came across Winnie Rayos-Dimanlig, a distant relative who has a cosplaying daughter named Monique. Within days, I had set up an email interview with Monique.
Monique Dimanlig aka “Geisha Girl” started cosplaying in 2008. According to her, cosplay originated in Japan. It’s where anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese comic books) came from. As people started going to conventions dressed up as their favorite characters, they soon attracted attention and generated interest. The practice eventually spread overseas and became a global phenomenon. With the rise of anime in the Philippines, it was inevitable that cosplay would also begin and flourish here.
What attracted Monique to cosplaying is the opportunity to portray a character. After all, most everyone wants to be his or her favorite movie, literary, video or cartoon character. The appeal of cosplay is that you get to BE that character. Evident in her monicker -- Geisha Girl -- Monique’s favorite cosplay is Geiko (geisha). It has since become her trademark, the character she is now well-known for among cosplaying circles.
Unforgettable for Monique is winning a competition for the first time. It was during Ame 8th Avenue in 2008; it was also her second attempt to cosplay and to “catwalk.” She confessed she was perfectly happy just to compete.“The other contestants were so amazing, really incredible, so winning was really unexpected,” she exclaims.
Another hard to forget experience took place during theMangaholix event in 2009. Struck by what she calls as Murphy’s Law, she had a costume fail. Dressed asSorceress Edea from Final Fantasy VIII, she wore a gigantic arch which unfortunately fell apart in the middle of the convention. “There was practically no saving it but as professional artists say, the show must go on,” she laughs.
Monique loves cosplaying so much that her only regret is not having co-splayed sooner.
I asked who her favorite cosplayer is and who she thinks is the icon of cosplaying in the Philippines. At first, she demurred, saying she would have a hard time picking a favorite cosplayer. In the two years she has been in the cosplay scene, she had seen so many people and so many “amazing,amazing” cosplayers, both in the Philippines and around the world. Eventually, she lets on that she holds in high esteem the legendary Kaname from Japan. As far as cosplay icons in the country go, she believes Alodia holds the distinction. Alodia Gosiengfiao, Animax's first ever Levi's Kawaii girl winner in Mad Mad Fun remains the most famous and iconic Filipino cosplayer.
Monique plans to continue cosplaying with traditional characters. But she is capable of breaking the pattern every now and then to try something new.
Her dream cosplay is to become a perfect geiko. By that she means a genuine hikizuri (geiko kimono), with the perfect wig, accessories and make-up -- the works!
Cosplaying is at once a hobby and passion for Geisha girl. She admits that she really doesn’t earn enough from it to call it work. She would give anything, though, to make it her full-time career, she gushes. But right now, she only gets paid for appearances on TV and magazine articles and interviews.
Her advice to people who would like to try cosplay is for them to find the character that they would truly love to be.“It’s not about going with the trend or what’s popular. It all comes down to who they feel they want to be and want to portray.” For her, each convention she goes to is like a massive stage. “When people look at you, they should see the character you ought to be,” she asserts.
When not cosplaying, she adopts a fashion style she describes as “hyper-trendy.” She favors Shibuya-style or Korean pop style clothes, as she loves to dress up and have fun.