Sunday, August 16, 2009

Government and Cosplay: The 1st Philippine Cosplay Mini-Summit

Yesterday me and my friends were invited to attend an open forum gathering called 1st Philippine Cosplay Mini-Summit at the UP Diliman ITTC building with the topic "Promoting the Philippine Cosplay Community" with speakers from the Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) Mr. Jonathan de Luzuriaga, Commission of Information and Communication Technology (CICT) Mr. Ramon Ibrahim, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Mr. Eric Tamayo, Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) Mr. James Romana, ABS-CBN Interactive representative Mr. Cid (i forgot his last name, my apologies) and Game Developers Association of the Philippines Mr. Ranulf Goss.

What caught my attention at first is that for a mini-cosplay summit, nobody represented the cosplay community among the speakers. The only person i saw that had experience regarding cosplay was from the gaming industry Mr. Ranulf. Now i do not mind him being part of the panel, but when he spoke he was more into the gaming industry side instead of representing the cosplay community in general. The last two speakers, were to my opinion, not speakers but more like advertisers promoting their wares (which I'm not surprised, considering they probably sponsored the place). But being speakers, they were given the opportunity to relate their respective companies with cosplay, in which both tried valiantly but to me, no avail.

In particular was the speaker for ABS CBN's AMPED. Apparently he based his knowledge of cosplay thru whatever he heard from the grapevine. I wouldn't have had to correct him if he didn't claim to have "been into it" and that "he can help develop cosplayers for gaming" and then comparing the process akin to a farm. Yes, a farm. Being announced as speaker also gave him us the opportunity to clarify his statements. I ended up explaining what cosplay is to him and to us in general. In the end, we shook hands, and even discussed more about cosplay after the event. Nothing personal whatsoever and that i was glad he was more than willing to hear the rest of the story regarding cosplay.

But the more important topics were discussed regarding DFA and their intention in being in the mini-summit. To sum it up, the DFA speakers were there to learn what cosplay is. They were invited so that they can see and understand what this sub-culture really is, so basically they went there a bit half-blind and focused more on why they were there in the first place.

So the whole thing came to this: Mr. Ibrahim was asked what can DFA can do for the cosplay community, he answered saying, and i quote "What can we do for you?"

Cryptic, safe, and definitely with no idea how to help the community. Questions were given regarding helping sending cosplayers to represent WCS in Japan to allowing cosplayers to have "Cosplay Day" (which personally, was unnecessary, and i was even embarrassed by the question). I personally don't see any need to have a day for cosplayers: we have gatherings and conventions for that, and done on a weekend as not to disturb school and work, which to me is more of a priority than anything else.

But regardless, I felt everything was made clear by another statement given by the DFA representatives: "DFA would help, if there is TRADE involved."

There you go, clear as day. If there is trade in cosplay, then DFA would be interested to support it. "Otherwise", they said, "This would be the concern for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)" Please correct me if I heard it wrong, cuz isn't that the same group who got C.J. Caparas in the National Artist list? I think some of the audience thought so too, as groans were heard after he said it.

Going back to the trade aspect, i think this topic with the DFA would have been better off discussed with people who organizes cosplay events and those who capitalize on cosplay related paraphernalia.

Oh, and one last thing though, there were talks regarding fears of government being involved and adding taxes to our small niche hobby, well here's the thing: there were no discussion regarding taxes, or if taxes are to be imposed once DFA had an interest in cosplay. I think the discussion was at best, unnecessary, since those who do get taxed are people who capitalize on cosplay, not cosplay itself. If you sell something inside a well known establishment, you get taxed. In a convention, the trade hall owners get a cut out of your deal because it pays taxes to the government. When you pay the entrance fee, you pay taxes to the government. Some micro businesses can get under the radar and getting 100% of the profit, but they are only few and far in between (not to mention pretty much common when you go outside and check out the tiangges).

(image taken from "
Death, Taxes, and Spooky Sales"

So if you are deathly afraid of the government accountants eyeing on cosplay, then heck, your paranoia is well spent since its has been going on from the first time a cosplay was held in a convention in SM Megamall back in 2000. That convention has been tax mapped. The government actually got something out of an event that had cosplay in it.

Don't get your mind wandering off the board. Death and taxes are a reality, and only people who get money out of cosplay gets taxed. Its called business taxes. Don't worry, your Orwellian vision of big brother leeching money out of you for just wearing a costume is still within the realm of horror fiction.

All in all the summit did bring some issues to light and discussed civilly and respectfully as it could. But to me, the idea of DFA having to help cosplayers directly is still within the realm of wishful thinking. What reason can we hobbyists give for the DFA to invest on the community? From the cosplayer it's pretty much a self-serving issue: getting somebody to pay for some cosplayer to represent the Philippines in whatever international contest being just one of them. Its a nice dream, but does anyone ever ask themselves the price one would pay for such support, for a hobby that's not even distinctly Filipino in nature?

Its a question whose answer one would only find out when they actually get there.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the matter as mature and civil as possible. Flaming and trolling posts will be deleted.

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