2 young men earn a living constructing cosplay figures
MANILA, Philippines–You wanna see a robot?
Visit the resettlement area Disiplina Village in Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City, and you’ll find two people working on Bumblebee–although with rubber.
Joseph Galicia, 23, would be drawing patterns on rubber sheets while Melvino “Benok” Quijano Jr., 24, would be cutting them out. It is a foray into cosplay that began in 2007, when they joined a network of cosplay enthusiasts. They were then residents of a squatters’ area in Ilog.
Cosplay is an activity where participants wear the look and the clothes of fictional characters from movies, television shows, video games and books, and often channel them.
“Life was hard in Ilog,” Quijano told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Quijano said they could not make the costumes in the area because they couldn’t find a space wide enough.
“Kung saan-saan,” he said when asked where they would make the costumes back then. He said they’ve been to Rizal and Bulacan provinces, often working on the costumes in their clients’ homes.
Their family was transferred to Ugong in August 2012, just after habagat. Galicia was among the first village occupants in 2011.
Now, their workplace is the two-meter-wide aisle in front of their home in Building 2, where they cut out and assemble pieces from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., when no one is using the area. They would even sleep there, they said. It is a few meters away from Galicia’s unit in Building 35.
“We started with cartons. Sometimes we got them from schools, other times we bought them,” Quijano recalled. “Back then, we were just playing. We could not complete a set because it was hard to use cartons.”
They shifted to rubber sheets in 2011 and subsequently began making whole sets.
“We joined contests. We wore the costumes during events,” Quijano said. They won some contests in the process and also met the initial market for their costume-making work.
Right now, the duo is working on an 8-foot Bumblebee, which would soon be flown to Singapore. Others are already in Australia and the United States, they told Inquirer. Galicia keeps a portfolio of their works.
Singaporean order worth P50k
Most of the orders, which they receive through referrals and online, are robots including Marvel’s Ironman and those from Transformers. In their biggest project so far, a Singaporean ordered two Ironman pieces for P50,000. They can also do manga characters.
According to Quijano, they sometimes see their works on Facebook, a couple of times without credit. But it is OK, they say, as long as they make people smile.
“Every single project is hard, nakakabuang (they drive you crazy),” Quijano said. Costumes that they’ve already done would take a week, but the ones that they had nothing to copy from take months, Galicia explained.
They surfed the Internet to find models. Many times, the orders came before a movie’s release and they had to copy from comic books, thus notable differences from the movie version when unveiled.
“I give my income to my family. I help pay the bills,” said Galicia, except that orders do not keep on coming.
“The income always depends on the orders,” Quijano said. He had bought gadgets and appliances for their home but explained that there would be lull periods. The duo also could not pinpoint peak seasons for the cosplay costume-making business.
It is also a complicated business, especially if there is no capital. “If the costume is worth P10,000, we divide that between the two of us, but the money for expenses comes from that, too,” Quijano said.
The group receives money in advance and is sent more every time it runs out of materials, at which point operation stops. Sometimes, too, their work gets rejected multiple times, thus resulting in more expenses.
They would also travel to Marikina to buy rubber and other materials and also deliver the finished products. These eat up one-fourth of the payment said Galicia, as Ugong is on the fringes of Valenzuela.
“As we make the costumes, we use up some of the money,” Galicia said. “We call the customer when we run out.”
That’s where Francis Albert Veloso, 31, comes in the picture. Aside from the extra hand, he is the only one that has an ID card they can use for money transfer transactions. He lives in Bulacan but goes to Disiplina Village often. The duo met him in a cosplay group in 2007.
In some cases, the customers are just middlemen, Quijano explained. They do not directly talk to the foreigners because they have no contacts nor do they have PayPal accounts for payments from abroad.
They also give lower prices for patrons and, according to Quijano, cannot just increase their rates because their outputs would seem amateurish compared to others and their material is cheaper.
With their group named JBF Works–Joseph, Benok, Francis–in July, Quijano and Galicia admitted that they wanted their business to grow. A step toward their dream, they have been thinking to rent a commercial space and establish a Facebook page. The earlier option would need a considerable amount of money.
Quijano also wishes that one day they would not have a need for middlemen. However, he knows they need business sense to get there.
“If we get the support we need, we will come up with better work,” he said.
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