Hello everyone, it feels great to type again~ with overflowing feelings once more, haha!
I actually don't know where to start.. since I still have the hangover from Kawaii in Manila 2. Our journey right from the start wasn't smooth-sailing and even if we had all the positivity and optimism inside our pockets, there were A LOT of times when we all felt overwhelmed by the roadblocks and all the questions we have in mind. Halfway through convention planning, I was still in Japan and juggling our work with meetings, brainstorming sessions.. and my teammates were all in Manila.
At first, we were challenged with a big "HOW!!?".
"How the hell are we going to make a convention and pool a community of kawaii lovers in the metro to one venue?"
"How will we get enough funding to support everyone and have our dream convention actualized without comprising the international quality we have already set for Kawaii.PH?"
"HOW will we invite Harajuku brands to sponsor their clothes and recreate the fun fashion shows that Japanese kawaii events have?"
"How are we going to be heard by the media and all the key people in the current industry to help us with our movement?"
"How do you coordinate with everyone while you are in Japan, still pitching the idea you have in mind, yet the convention is in the Philippines?!"
There were a lot of HOW's, What If's.. and all the possible questions a newbie convention organizer would have.
But you know what kept us going and made us just bravely gulp down our fears as we search and arrange all the puzzle pieces in creating a successful festival of all things cute?
We knew from the start WHY we had to spearhead the event.
We didn't know what exact things to do and how to do it, but we just chose to just.. do it and just figure out everything along the way.
And the WHY has always been our (used-to-be overly shy) community.
"WHY" is that girl who would visit us in our exhibitor booths during past conventions, telling us that we have inspired her and she became more confident and she finally accepted her own quirks & weirdness (which the society would try and try to subtly discourage by telling every creative / any person to be ordinary instead, when we were made extraordinary).
For a long time, kawaii girls and kawaii culture appreciators had been longing for an event where they can feel they are accepted. A place in our country where nobody could judge them even if they wear something crazy colorful outfit / Japanese-inspired... there are many people who adore cuteness, regardless of the age.. but there wasn't one event that catered to that. There was a need that had to be filled.
And that is why as a team, we worked hard to build that venue. The venue where self-expression is celebrated, adoration for kawaii culture is shared, and where dreamers are encouraged to chase after their wildest ambitions. Who thought that kawaii could be such and empowering venue as described? Like what my brother told us during her inspirational talk in our after-party / mini gathering in Kawaii in Manila 2. Though "Kawaii" might be originally from Japan (as it is a Japanese word), it is now considered as a global phenomenon since kawaii events around the world have started to happen, etc... but for us or the way we spread kawaii here in the Philippines (and later on, to the world too), it's a lot more than that. How so?
In Japan or in mainstream media, tell someone that if you wear or get this look or apply this fakelashes, you will be changed into a "kawaii" person (also hinting that as a girl, your natural looks or being as you are isn't enough). I have had my own share of experiencing all kinds of kawaii when I was in Tokyo, and sadly, when I was in Japan (dunno if this would be scandalous).. it felt like "kawaii" became a way packaging a person instead. If you want to be "in" or you want to be considered as a kawaii person, you have to buy this expensive dress, wear this make-up from lala brand, etcetera. Then I also experienced or observed from afar how these "kawaii" communities would bash other people's sense of kawaii (pick on other's coordinates, rather than encourage other people's definition of self-expression, etc...). After seeing the whole picture (I am quite observant as you can tell, haha), I wanted to change the perspective of other people's towards "Kawaii" culture because for some reason.. I felt like, if this becomes more sensationalized, this would affect the whole society as a whole as well. Who wants a society full of "kawaii" ladies with "kowai" (scary) personalities? Nah, I don't want that, I know you don't want that too. Who wants a society where CEOs of cosmetic companies / fashion brands / cutesy businesses just see "kawaii" as a very effective marketing / promotion scheme just for their own selfish interests & just taking advantage of the "kawaii" boom around the world (and then later on, they pay these kawaii models / representatives with low pay)? I will be very frank because this has always been my stand (and I think I've made some unknown haters because of this, haha oh well). Personally, I think we've had enough of those deceiving ways. And this is why Kawaii Philippines team / the community is trying to redefine and repackage the whole kawaii sensation into a more sparkling and real one.
Let me share with you how I think of "kawaii" in the deepest sense (and surprisingly, after Kawaii in Manila 2, we got feedbacks and those were aligned from our vision).
For me, "Kawaii" is a way of accepting your own quirks & weirdness (uniqueness is the synonym) & embracing your own strengths & weakneseses. You don't have to do the winged eyeliner / wear dolly lenses to open up your eyes more. If you realize that you are beautiful and kawaii already with our without these "wear-this-and-you-will-become-ka-wa-ii" stuff, you are indeed "ka-wai-ii"!. Nothing is wrong with make-up etc. In fact, I love putting on make-up and wearing clothes that accentuate my features. But I feel that as girls / women, we should feel that we are already kawaii enough, and these external additions should be considered as what they are.. "additions". I am tired of hearing "I look ugly without makeup" etc (though I don't blame them to think like that, because the advertising world / media has been putting that message inside their subconscious minds, and we are here to try to redefine it slowly, haha)... and that is why at Kawaii Philippines, we think that "kawaii" is more like "I feel kawaii enough because I feel kawaii inside & out!" rather than "Yay I finally look kawaii!". See the difference? I hope so! Hehe.
You know why I feel that even with all our imperfections, loopholes and a bit of missed coordinations during the whole event / convention, without bias.. I can tell that "Kawaii in Manila 2" was a HUGE SUCCESS. Why?
It's because it was a day where good vibes, positivity, cooperation, warm smiles, dreams coming true, friendships made... all of these descriptions echoed around. From 500 expected participants, 1,500+ people came to support and to think that we only used social media to promote. When the electricity suddenly stopped, people cheered instead and waited (was surprised! didn't get boooooooos). Even though we had a few not-so-good events in the morning & people complained.. most just adjusted & understood (special thanks to the exhibitors who were so understanding of our shortcomings), thankfully.. it went well. It felt like.. "Oh my God, this is my crowd!". There were artists around, kawaii converts (those who thought of kawaii differently before are now being appreciative), fashionable people, etc. Influential people just came on their own to support (which touched our hearts btw). No VIPs, just purely a celebration of everything cute. We invited models who weren't really "professional", mostly were students & some were already working in the corporate world.. but they all have one in common, and that is their love for kawaii. Everyone did their best, and every person from the crowd just cheered each other on, even if they didn't know one another. It was so uplifting to see and experience.
I cried when 3 people from the Japanese media came to interview me (and then our doors opened at 11:00 AM!) and all I could talk about was our passion of bringing kawaii here. I cried when Campus Royalties had a dance performance and then suddenly, a Kyary dancer came out (huge fan here btw) and danced PON PON PON (because I am seeing that it won't be impossible to bring KPP next time, with such immense feedback). I cried before I was able to start my speech (which I will upload later on) and when Anne Kate went towards me to hug me in front of the whole crowd. And those were all tears of happiness. My personal dream was actualized, our vision in Kawaii PH was happening as a reality, and other people's dreams came true too! :-)
Everything that I was seeing and experiencing in Japan, in that convention.... it was even greater! People came from Singapore, Cebu, Batangas, Baguio just to celebrate. I was so shocked when I walked around, and people were congratulating us already in the afternoon. In other conventions or similar events, I don't think it's the norm to congratulate the organizer..? I don't know but I feel like we underestimated the feedback! :O And of course, we're very grateful of these positive surprises!
I have so many things to write about kawaii, and our succeeding projects after this historical event but I cannot spill those yet. I am just beyond thankful especially to everyone who believed in our movement from the start. God knows the number of sponsorship proposals we've sent and all the meetings we set, just pitching this "kawaii convention" idea, that was once considered impossible.
Along the way, I met people who wanted to jump in and take advantage of our team / connections / and everything instead, without the wholehearted "let's help out each other" idea. It took a lot of guts for me to stick by my principles and our vision on how to spread kawaii differently. Did you know that we even pitched this idea to the Japanese government and got a negative result in the end? And that is why I am just so grateful for every person who just.. believed. Believing goes a long long way, and I think that Kawaii in Manila 2 was a big success because we were a team and a community of dreamers, believers, supporters and action-takers.
And I take leadership / being a "founder" quite serious. For me, a leader with a good following is a good leader. But a leader who reaches out, and believes in other people that they can be leaders as well... that is a Great Leader. And I want to be someone great as a founder / leader in this community, not someone that "looks great" because of followers. When I was younger, I just wanted to become a person who could be of good influence.. and someone who can leave a legacy behind. And I am working my way towards that goal.
Who would have thought a shy girl / a person who would rather do behind-the-scenes production / etc.. can be so empowered to organize the first ever kawaii convention in the Philippines (and possibly South-east Asia)? I could say, even this is so shameful of me.. but I feel that I am a living miracle (my family is the most shocked I guess, they didn't expect that bratty Kaila would be like this lol, I shocked myself too.. maybe some kawaii spirit possessed me). I cannot even speak on my behalf before.. and now, because of the empowerment that kawaii has, I will do whatever it takes for Kawaii PH to grow and inspire more people, not only locally, but around the world.
That is the other power of kawaii, and we want to empower and encourage more people. In the end, this will benefit everyone in our society again. Can you imagine happy individuals supporting each other's dreams (rather than pulling each other down)..? The way we think, we act, we dream, and everything.. this can make a difference in this world.
Changing the world with kawaii? Why not.