CONQuest 2023 was a wild and unforgettable experience, filled with rare ups and many downs. However, before all of that, let’s focus first on some of the most anticipated guests – the voice actors. Not only did some of the previous guest voice actors returned but more of their colleagues tagged along. The panels, meet and greets, and dedicated booths provided congoers with opportunities to connect with their favorites like last year. What really stuck with me during this year were the panels, particularly the ones that featured voice actors, offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the art of breathing life into the characters we all know and love and more insights into what truly makes a voice actor.
The Emotional Panel Experience at CONQuest 2023
To relive the positive CONQuest 2023 experience, first up on the scheduled panels were the Titas of Inazumanila, Anne Yatco and Ratana, along with Cory Yee. During their panel, they explained that using imagination is part of the intricate process of portraying the voices of characters. “For us as actors, we’re doing our homework, we take all the information, but at the end of the day, it’s all our imagination,” Anne stated. They emphasized the importance of imagination, visualizing the character, enabling them to seamlessly bring the scenes to life. “We’re just playing pretend,” Ratana expanded on the topic. Cory added that aside from imagination, attitude is also important.
Sean Chiplock, Vanille Velasquez, and Adam McArthur’s panel talked about the challenges of voice acting and how to convey emotions when acting in front of a mic. As voice actors, they represent the characters, and sometimes talents get judged over how they look and won’t get the role despite their voice being a perfect fit.
Meanwhile, Laura Stahl and Khoi Dao’s panel was not only sweet and heartwarming but also deeply meaningful. First off, they expressed their gratitude to the audience, acknowledging that without their support, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be where they are today. “This is our only opportunity to see how our work impacts people, and every single time it is delightful, mind-boggling, and I’m so grateful for the chance to get to hear from all of you what it means because it really makes me want to do better when I’m behind the mic,” Khoi Dao warmly shared.
In addition, Laura and Khoi took a moment to remind the audience that despite their jobs as voice actors, they are just as human as everyone else in the room. They highlighted that although fans may have their favorites and admire their work, it’s important to recognize that they are also ordinary individuals. Laura gracefully articulated, “You can have your favorites that you love and you can be fans of them but remember we’re just people just like you. Because if you think of your favorite actors, artists, directors, or what have you, it’s putting yourself down. You are very much just as capable as anybody else. To go and do the things you want to do and create that you want to create.”
With all the Jollibee jokes and Khoi impersonating Laura aside, their words resonated deeply with the audience. A constant reminder that everyone has the capacity to achieve their dreams and make an impact. Through their sincere words, Laura and Khoi inspired everyone to embrace their potential and believe in themselves.
The panels were truly precious experiences that left a lasting impact on all who had the privilege to be there. It was certainly one of the positive experiences that congoers had in CONQUest 2023.
Interactive Yet Chaotic Booths
Most of the time, the voice actors were in their respective booths, meeting and signing autographs for their fans. Almost every booth had lines that stretched long enough to block the way to other booths which often resulted in a cut-off.
Despite CONQuest’s efforts to accommodate everyone by creating more space between booths, the sheer volume of people made navigating the venues challenging. One congoer even shared their frustration with me after enduring the long lines from outside the SMX, the escalator, and the halls of the second floor, only to have their place in line abruptly cut off.
Visitors also found it difficult to discern where to line up due to the disorder caused by the crowd. When I tried to line up for Laura Stahl’s booth, to my surprise there wasn’t one. It might be because people who were queueing for Khoi’s booth were blocking the way. While I did successfully meet Laura (and flexed to her my triple-crowned DPS Barbara), it’s just sad that others who wanted to meet her thought that she was unavailable due to the chaotic booth conditions.
My colleague Carla also had her own set of experiences with VA booths at CONQuest 2023. She saw Sean Chiplock’s unwavering enthusiasm throughout all three days. He had candles that his wife made, each representing the elements of Genshin Impact and advertised them by saying, “Don’t forget to sniff Zhongli’s butthole,” when referring to the geo-themed one.
He also lowered his additional selfie rates on Saturday because he said people were guilt-tripping him. His dedication to the community was also seen as he stayed in his booth until 9 pm. Meanwhile, Cory Yee freely signed artists’ gifts, saying, “We support artists here,” which further emphasized his support for the artist community.
Carla also had the opportunity to chat with Khoi and asked about the rates. Khoi explained that due to their contract, they are required to charge fees for signatures and photos while inside the booth. However, Khoi stated that they didn’t mind signing autographs for free and to look for him while he roams outside.
Problems, Setbacks, Misfortunes
While the panels were enjoyable and the booths led to some heartwarming interactions, it’s difficult to really even try to say that CONQuest 2023 was a successful convention. Even us media had a fair share of misfortunes. One thing was the inexplicable restriction placed for media personnel, preventing us from entering the Sunday panels that were open to everyone else and despite the fact that we already attended the previous days without any trouble. This exclusion left us perplexed and disappointed to this day, as we were eager to cover the event in its entirety.
Another thing is that my media badge, unlike those of my team members, was unexpectedly taken and replaced by a wristband. This left me scratching my head for the rest of the event. Although I still somewhat had the benefits of being part of the media crew, the lack of clarity and information about this change only heightened my confusion about the management and I further saw how disjointed the organizers were. Lastly, it grinds my gears how the staff wasn’t on the same page with each other: miscommunications and mismanagement everywhere. It was disheartening to witness the inconsistencies and disorganization of the staff, causing unnecessary hindrances for everyone.
Personal Thoughts and Experiences
Overall, while there were enjoyable aspects of CONQuest, it is beyond doubt that the event suffered from numerous setbacks and shortcomings. Truth be told, I had high hopes for CONQuest being the talk of the town for a long time. This event is close to my heart as it originated in my hometown. As much as I want it to raise the standards of pop culture events here in the Philippines, it is excruciatingly sad to see how it all unfolded.
As the community continues to grow, so do the expectations for events like this. The first day was promising with noticeable improvements compared to the previous year. CONQuest seemed poised to cement itself as the premier convention in the country, offering a premium experience for congoers. That’s exactly the experience I felt roaming around the venues on the first day of CONQuest 2023.
But alas, when the weekend came, the reality set in, and we found ourselves confronted with the consequences of a pipe dream. Sometimes, transforming dreams into reality often comes at a price just like how Kamisato Ayato from Genshin Impact would aptly put it, “Everything comes at a cost. And if you aspire to things that most could never dream of, then naturally, there will be an unimaginable price to pay.”
But don’t get me wrong, amidst the challenges, there were certain aspects of the event that I genuinely enjoyed. The panels provided an emotional experience and were filled with engaging discussions and entertaining insights. The merchandise offering was truly captivating, tempting congoers, including myself, to bring out their wallets and support the local community. The guests themselves were also delightful, radiating genuine happiness as they met and interacted with their fans. And lastly, the passion of the community shone brightly with the cosplays on display, further showcasing the creativity of the Philippine cosplay community.
Even though there were a lot of things that never went as planned, I still would like to thank everyone who joined me throughout the coverage of the entire event. I had fun with my colleagues Carla, Ian, JM, and Jerome as we relentlessly roamed and almost got lost on our way to the media lounge. CONQuest was also fun to roam around with friends, assuming you didn’t get stuck in the lines. The true meaning of community came to light here: one congoer cosplayed as a French lady in a blue top hat – she went around with actual baguettes as props, which is always handy if you get hungry.
All in all, despite the organizational meltdown, CONQuest 2023 was memorable. Perhaps it was memorable because it was a mess but perhaps because we truly got to get together, hang out and meet new people. The community even embraced a new hashtag, #SeeYouInTheLines. In the end, perhaps the true premium experience of CONQuest 2023 was the friends we made in the lines.
Anime Corner was the official media partner of CONQuest Festival 2023.