Me and my wife Jewel had been playing around the idea of traveling to Singapore last May, just when Cosplay.ph's Tournament of Champions was gearing up for its debut on June. We thought this year would be the best time to do it since we would be witness to our first AFA event with following our Philippine Representative for their Regional Cosplay Competition. Cosplay Mania, Cosplay.ph's annual cosplay-centric event, will become the final showdown for TORCH finalists, with the winner to be sent to Singapore. Three months before AFA, we decided to do something radical for a change: why not cosplay in Singapore, and in mecha of all things so we can show our support for the Philippine Team and show the other ASEAN cosplayers talented Filipino cosplayers can be. Our choice of cosplay being Custom Zakus from the Gundam UC universe will be foretold in detail in another entry titled "Pretty fly for Mono-Eye: The making of Zaku cosplay", so for now this entry will be about our experience in AFA in general.
|All we need now are zombies!|
|We're way too early|
|My stuff on our way to Customs|
|Her stuff at Changi Airport in Singapore|
Day 1: November 11
Preparing the costumes and booking our flight was fairly easy and the credit goes to Jewel for being the internet savant regarding these things, and before I know it, we're already a day away from our scheduled flight. We left for Singapore at 10am in Manila via Cebu Pacific and arrived at 1pm. Just like what I mentioned in my Facebook account regarding my Tips on Cosplaying Mecha and Armor Overseas, going through customs in both airports was nothing short of interesting. The NAIA security were amused of the costumes we brought along, although the Singapore Customs officers were more strict with our stuff that they asked us plenty of questions, and not believing that we only brought two costumes (one commented that we might be selling them, since he still thinks we brought a lot along). But after going through the xray, they relaxed and let us go.
|The Marina Bay Sands Building and the Singapore Flyer|
|Suntec Center where AFA is located|
|Our hotel right across Suntec Center|
|Our Room 904, as presented by our roomie Rael and promptly thrashed by us ^^;;|
Next was getting to our hotel. The driving rain didn't make things any easier, and none of the regular taxis would want to accommodate us due to our huge boxes, so we were forced to spend 50 SGD (roughly P1,600) to rent a van. Arriving at the Mandarin Marina Hotel we were greeted by our friend Rael, whom she and Rotch would be our room mates for the duration, and led us to our hotel room where we immediately thrashed it with our costume stuff, much to their delight.
Leaving our costumes out of their boxes to have them "aired" and expand (because rubber tends to warp into the shape of whatever container its forced into, like a box for example), although there were some minor damages that I plan to repair later that day.
Before going to Singapore, we actually purchased from a friend a Singtel SIM card, their equivalent of Globe or Smart. The SIM didnt work with Jewel's phone because it was sim-locked for SMART but its a good thing my other Nokia phone was purchased outside SMART and thus accepted the SIM. Unfortunately that left with just one working phone for the whole duration of our stay so we made it a point to be with each other as much as possible.
One thing about Singapore we first noticed are the rules. There are rules everywhere, and for each rule is a corresponding fine that the city is famous for worldwide. Earlier in the rented van, the first thing I noticed upon entering the city premises was not the welcoming visions of billboards like back home, but a sensory information overload of street signs everywhere! And its no different for pedestrians. Crossing the street is against the law in most parts of town, and the irony was that the hotel we took which is just across Suntec Convention Center where AFA is located: a mere stone's throw away. We were forced to take the detour- a confusing maze (for me perhaps) passing through a mall and crossing the overpass bridge on the other side: a good 15 minutes walk if you know the way, triple that when you get lost. I know I did on the first try, going back to the hotel when Jewel asked me to pick up something we forgot at the our hotel room. I let her have the phone because she needed to contact the other Cosplay.ph peeps, which turned out to be the wrong decision because I got lost and there was no way to contact anyone. She was worried sick when I went missing for a good 45 minutes but eventually I found my way back to Suntec and found the other Cosplay.ph peeps Pablo, Tanya and Guy, checking out the Electronics and Appliance Expo right beside AFA, munching on what was supposed to be my first meal in Singapore, some sort of Chinese style sour egg-drop noodle soup sold for only 1 SGD at their food stall area. Tanya called up Jewel, who was out searching for me in the mall connecting to the hotel, and she promptly came back swearing that she'll never let me out of her sight again. ^^;;
|Hotel restaurant area from the 9th floor|
|It's so huge! The hotel I mean. :D|
|Crossing the Suntec Bridge|
|AFA Ticketing Booth|
|AFA Program Souvenirs|
Neways, we also saw Jin, Miguel, Melo, Dom, Kat hanging around the area, as well as Henry, Hades, Leanne and Judith, checking out the place and buying Anisong concert and AFA tickets in advance. That was the best time to do so because it was still a work day so there were significantly less people around. We also got in contact with our Singaporean friend Clive Lee, also known as Mirage_cld in the mecha cosplay community, and promised us free dinner when we meet up later that evening.
After freshening up in our hotel, we met up with Clive at the lobby, but before we left we brought him with us to the Mandarin Marina cafe where Jin and her Tux Team friends were hanging out. Then we took him to our room and showed the disassembled mecha and that got him pretty excited. He was still working on his Gundam Unicorn and hopes to have it finished the next day. We showed him our chopped up Zaku guns he was excited to see as well. Jewel also gave him our pasalubong of his (and his wife Caroline's) favorite Pinoy snack Chicharon, and other snacks you can only find in the Philippines like Baconette Strips, Dried Mangos, several flavors of canned Sisig, and a DVD of yaoi unmentionables (ewww). They were for Vienni and Pinky, who will be passing by Singapore on another date, unfortunately.
Earlier after meeting up with Jin and her friends, and riding the elevator, Clive was pretty excited to see the props that he said in a rather loud voice saying "So, were you able to get the guns past airport security?". Note that it was a full elevator full of asian and western foreigners alike and they all looked at us suspiciously. I immediately tried quelling the paranoia by saying just as loud that the toy guns passed inspection. Im glad I didnt get a knock on my door later that evening by the Singaporean SWAT team.
|Pasalubong for Clive, Vienni and Pinky. Jewel made sure she had evidence that everything was there BEFORE Clive got his hands on them.|
|Taking the escalator to the MRT subway|
|Figuring out how to buy MRT Tickets. So high tech!|
|Entering the MRT!|
Traveling from Point A to Point B in Singapore is like trying to get to Mordor by walking through the caverns of Moira. And Im not exaggerating. Since its against the law to jaywalk, the government had provided a maze of tunnels snaking underneath buildings and streets, not to mention an MRT subway whose entrance doors are well-disguised fake shopping windows. Clive told me that they designed the MRT stations that way to prevent people from jumping off the ramp when the train passes by. Yes, people actually commit suicide by jumping off ramps to their doom. One station had it so bad, they actually closed it after achieving what was the highest suicide rate than all the other stations combined!
We ended up having dinner at the 5th floor Foodcourt of a building whose name I've forgotten but its along Orchard Road. Clive treated us to a Hainanese Chicken dinner, which was very good! After that, he also had me taste their famed Milo Dinosaur. Naturally pretty good, but I guess I wont be able to understand why in Singapore they're pretty much Milo-crazy, maybe its the same reason why back in the Philippines where just as crazy with Milk Tea. Fad or not, Clive claims its been around for the longest time that its considered a dessert staple. Remind me to let him try Ovaltine when he visits Cosplay Mania again. XD
During that time Jewel was able to buy her 3DS at their local hobby store called Funzcenter. They remind me of Comic Central here but definitely selling lots of original Japanese merchandise. At 10pm, Clive escorted us to our MRT station and commuted the rest of the way back home to Caroline, who wasnt feeling well that day.
|Night life at Orchard Road|
|A Robinsons Mall with light effects similar to The Link beside Landmark|
|Ultraman figures minimum 80 SGD each|
|Our long awaited Chicken Rice Dinner!|
|Sweet of Clive to serve us our dinner|
|Wonderful spare rib spicy soup!|
Continued to Anime Festival Asia 2011: Day 2