MANILA, Philippines?Twenty-year-old Alodia Almira Arraiza Gosiengfiao doesn't wait for Halloween to wear costumes. They're a regular part of her life.
This Information Design student at the Ateneo de Manila University is one of the country's best cosplayers. Alodia regularly dresses up as her favorite animé and video game characters.
But there is more to cosplay than just costumes.
"Cosplay is derived from 'costume roleplay.' I guess that's the best way to describe it. The cosplayer takes up the character, not just in terms of look but also mannerisms and gestures. Cosplayers look into the details of a character, and eventually become the character," says Gosiengfiao.
"I feel that cosplay is a fusion of all my passions: art, fashion, gaming and, sometimes, music," she adds.
Gosiengfiao has always been a big fan of video games, even in the era of the family computer. But it was "Final Fantasy" that got her really hooked on her fifth grade.
"I can even remember not having enough sleep because I was so into the game!" she says.
It was the artwork of "Final Fantasy" and the animé series "Sailor Moon" that inspired her to pursue art. This eventually led her to discover the joys of cosplay.
"After years of playing video games, drawing and watching animé, I was introduced to the world of cosplay in the online forum Animé Club."
That was five years ago, and she hasn't stopped. "I cosplay because I find it a means of expressing my love or admiration for a certain character. It's like being a different person every time you put on a different costume, but you still retain a part of yourself. It's like being able to take your 'game of pretend' to a whole new level."
Gosiengfiao's big passion for gaming, animé and cosplay has led to exciting things-even game endorsements. She was part of the Official Muse Guild for the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) Mu Online.
"We were on the banners on the Internet to promote the game. We were also given high-level characters with great equipment and items, too. I was also a game moderator for another MMORPG called Khan Online. I also joined Rose Online's "Rose It Girl" contest and won. I was given the title of "community manager" and I had a one-year contract with Level Up Games.
"The most recent endorsement I did was for Sega's beat game 'Love and Berry,' where my sister and I dressed up as the main characters in the game 'Love and Berry.'"
She and her sister were also the cover girls of Culture Crash Comic's issue 14.
"Ash was cosplaying Magic Gunner Yuna, and I was Magic Gunner Rikku, both characters from the game 'Final Fantasy' X-2," says Gosiengfiao.
With cosplay friends, she also appeared in a music video of the band Pedicab. And, she has a deal with Yehey.com.
"I had a meeting with the founders of Yehey a few weeks ago. It's all about Internet blogging and, maybe, in the future, podcasts," she explains.
Gosiengfiao has become a celebrity of sorts in the country's gaming, animé and cosplay communities. She has a lot of fans who have put up Friendster pages devoted to her, who go to conventions to meet her and have photos taken with her, who write Wikipedia entries about her, who regularly check her website for updates.
"I feel very honored. I feel a sense of achievement when people tell me that they are inspired by my works, whether my artworks, cosplay or even music," says Gosiengfiao.
It's no big surprise that people are paying attention. Gosiengfiao does take cosplay very seriously. "I spend days, even weeks making a costume or preparing for the shoot. That includes searching for materials, canvassing, making and looking for accessories."
One of the most memorable characters Alodia has cosplayed is Misa from the manga-animé "Death Note."
"I was with a lot of friends during the shoot. The cosplay group was composed of my sister Ash as Mello, my close friend Cris Si as Near, Rick Lo as L, Jan Caparas as Light, Diego Manansala as Ryuk. We had two photographers during that shoot-my close friend and favorite photographer Tricia Gosingtian and schoolmate Tata."
The shoot was held in San Agustin Church. "I remember this one incident where my mom even had to talk to a Spanish priest to allow us to shoot in the premises. We all had fun."
Recently, Gosiengfiao cosplayed the "Tekken" character Lili. "Every time I play with my friends, I would pick her. I practiced using her, and I now know most of her moves and poses."
Gosiengfiao plays an active role in the country's animé, gaming and cosplay scenes, which are all intertwined, according to her.
"The scenes are quickly expanding and gaining recognition. How people look at it is starting to change. Before, it was only a niche, there were only a handful of people who supported these scenes. Now, it is noticeable that more conventions are held every year, and there is more support from cosplayers, gamers and animé fans. Before, some people would stereotype animé fans or cosplayers as geeks-I experienced this myself! But now, I'd say that more and more people are becoming interested. It is becoming more mainstream."
A lot of other things keep Gosiengfiao busy, like her art and music.
"I work on art commissions for international clients. I illustrate both digital and traditional artworks. I also play the piano. I've been playing since I was three. I have a sense of achievement when I learn new songs and I can't wait to play it for my friends. I guess I also feel challenged by harder songs, and it allows me to push myself into getting better at the instrument."
Juggling all her passions with her schoolwork may seem like a crazy task, but Gosiengfiao says she's doing fine.
"My passions take a long time. I don't know how many hours I've spent practicing drawing. It usually takes me a day to make one artwork from start to finish. I take time to plan things out. I make a schedule of what needs to be done, which usually helps me balance everything. I admit, I sometimes get tempted to have breaks, but I remind myself that I have to work hard to fulfill all of my responsibilities."
Visit Gosiengfiao's DeviantArt page at http://blackmage9.deviantart.com.