Team Symphony of Swords, the Philippine representatives to the 2017 World Cosplay Summit, selected among seven teams during the National Finals at the 16th Philippine ToyCon inside SMX Manila last Sunday, July 2.

[Interview] The WCS ZamPen qualifying round in the viewpoint of its event director

Amidst all of the brouhaha happening in southern Philippines, one thing’s for sure: This year’s Philippine representatives to the World Cosplay Summit, for the 5th time since we first entered in 2013 as an observer nation, are from this part of the country.

Just last Sunday, July 2, the Philippine representative to the 2017 World Cosplay Summit has just been announced — Team Symphony of Swords (S.O.S.), composed of John Daryl Pioquinto and Lara Florentes coming from the Zamboanga Peninsula.

As the spotlight is on the pair who will be the country’s pride in this year’s WCS, let’s go to a different approach and pay attention to the people behind the event which nominated them as Zamboanga’s representative to the National Finals.

In light of the team’s selection, I got in touch with Ambox Events ZamPen’s Head Coordinator and Event Director Cee Culanculan to discuss what it’s like to hold a qualifier in their turf. (This interview is slightly revised for clarity.)

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Team S.O.S. as they are selected to represent the Zamboanga Peninsula in the World Cosplay Summit Philippines National Finals, held at the Matsuri Fever event at the KCC Mall de Zamboanga last March. Cee is the one on the right. (Photo taken from Ambox Events ZamPen)

Q: How was the journey of holding a WCS qualifier in Zamboanga?

It was a hard one for it was the firs time we, as AMBOX ZamPen, hosted a WCS Regional Qualifier without the close supervision of AMBOX Davao.

We started out with no financial capital, but because of the guidance of AMBOX Davao especially Ms. Joy Nakata and the support and cooperation of the ZamPen group, we were able to execute an event beyond everybody’s expectation. (Ms. Nakata is the Marketing and CFO head for WCSPH Inc., the holding entity for World Cosplay Summit Philippines; and MATCH, Inc./AMBOX.)

Team Symphony of Swords as they perform their Dynasty Warriors skit at ToyCon 2017 x PopLife FanXperience in Pasay City.

Q: What were the challenges in holding the said qualifiers there?

First, it was really the need to invite more pairs to join. We have lots of talented cosplayers here but only very few are able to pair up and join the main competition.

As mentioned, we also started with zero capital and most of our basic needs pre-event came out of our pockets but we worked out way through and found supportive people and companies willing to bank our event and help us in producing delegates to the National Finals.

Q: What has been the inspiration of Zamboanga’s Cosplay Community as it was noted by Lara that it is a tight-knit community?

I think we were driven to be recognized as a community with talented cosplayers that can match that of other places with much older communities to put Zamboanga on the cosplay map of the Philippines.

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Tears of Joy. The first few moments when Team Symphony of Sword’ Lara Florentes shed her tears of joy as the pair is selected to represent the country in this year’s World Cosplay Summit in Nagoya, Japan. [keepsakes. composite]

Q: With the outocome of the National Finals, what were your initial reactions as the team is the first from ZamPen to be selected as representatives?

I was overwhelmed upon receiving the news about the results. In all honesty, we weren’t expecting to even place during finals not because I don’t believe in our pair but because the competition is tough. Other regions sent honed and skilled delegates, and this was our first entry to the National Finals. The pressure was there but we still held on to that little hope that our team might get the chance to represent the country.

Q:Any message to the ZamPen Cosplay Community and this year’s representatives?

To Lara and Rylle — Congratulations to the both of you for making us proud even though we were not there to personally cheer for you during the competition. Keep the fire burning until you reached Japan to win the coveted title. We, the AMBOX ZamPen Team, are always here to support you. Banzai!

*Last time I noted that Ms. Nakata is the COO for WCSPH. This has been corrected.