Our first cosplay story for the new year takes place on a far-flung island called Capones, almost 4 kilometers off the coast of Brgy. Pundaquit, San Antonio, Zambales. Originally planned as a straightforward location shoot for intrepid photographers and cosplayers with earnest desires to take their skills to the next level, the group got much more than what they signed up for as they battled the elements and gravity and ended up with an adventure of a lifetime.
The event, retroactively called the Extreme Moments Out-of-Town Cosplay Project Series, was organized by Jeff Ricalde of Jeric Photography along with Donnie of Chiisu Studio, Luis Jeff Encontro of Jenco Photography, and Eric DC of Eyestrain Photoworks. As a project months in the making, photographers and cosplayers were gathered and presented with the opportunity of a unique experience that would include trekking and camping aside from the usual photoshoot everyone has been used to. There only a few interested souls at first, but eventually more people got into the idea and signed up for the trip until a bit over 30 folks comprised of cosplayers, photographers and supporters completed the roster.
After weeks of thorough preparation, the group met up early on a fated weekend morning in Buendia. Not all of them knew each other, and everyone had their share of awkward moments. There was anxiety as people wondered if others will be coming or not, but fears were allayed as all, save for one who was later picked up somewhere, finally boarded the rented bus bound for Zambales. After a prayer, head organizer Jeff gave additional instructions and reminders to the group and entertained questions they had. Since he discovered his passion for photography, cosplay photography in particular, Jeff Ricalde has always wanted to take the experience to the next level and called it ‘The JeRic Way.” Far from the usual, monotonous events and conventions the community has grown accustomed to, Jeff has strove to innovate and create shoots and events that have given its participants a unique, lasting, memorable experience, and that Extreme Moments Out-of-Town Cosplay Project Series would be a good example of that.
The bus made a stop in Lubao, Pampanga so that everyone can have a meal, stretch their legs, and, well, talk some more. As the trip resumed, people clamored (violently) for videoke and the result was a cacophony of their personal favorites, mostly novelties and 90s hits. Well, it’s better than it sounds, really.
After the five-hour trip, the group arrived at Brgy. Pundaquit in the town of San Antonio, Zambales. There the group had a delightful lunch of stuffed bangus and steaming rice. Thanks to their healthy, if not ravenous, appetites, nothing was spared. This scene would be repetitive in the meals to come. Afterwards, Jeff announced the cosplayer-photographer pairings decided through lots to facilitate the shoot, then they were off to load their luggage, equipment and props on the rented motorized bancas.
After some folks getting their underwear wet from the waves, the team split into two unto two bancas. Both veteran adventurers and first-timers got to appreciate the relaxing trip to the island, with some enjoying it a little more than others, howling at each and every wave that rocked their boat. The clear, blue-green sea, the crispness of the blue sky, and the imposing sight of the steep cliffs and rocky hills of Capones as it grew bigger as we came closer was a blessing to the senses. Well, the same steep cliffs and rocky hills of Capones that some won’t appreciate later.
After the close-to-30-minute boat ride the group finally arrived at the white sand beach of Capones. The sand was not as fine as Boracay’s, but it wasn’t any less pleasant. In fact, some hit the beach in the clothes they came in right after unloading their belongings. Well, it wasn’t like hitting the beach so early in January was unheard of. And besides, the noon sun was harsh. Apparently the one/s who prayed for good weather prayed a little to well.
After setting camp, the group started the journey to the historic lighthouse located on the hillside on the western end of the island. To get there from the camp, the group had to trek along the shoreline. Aside from Jeff and a few who had been there before, the group eventually realized that the trip was far from their idea of a lazy, relaxing walk along the sandy beach. Far from it. There were lots of rocky areas with boulders where they had to climb over and navigate through. Then there were the rocks were often either too slippery or sharp and slips and cuts became more and more prevalent as the trip went on.
After the ordeal with the rocks there was the ordeal with the path: some too steep and some uncomfortably close to ravines. And, as if natural selection purposely wanted to make life a bit more challenging for the group, each and every plant, each and every leaf, branch and trunk, had thorns. The group had to learn about this fascinating defensive adaptation by plants the painful way, as when who one slips and grabs onto a branch to regain balance would be unpleasantly surprised. The sweltering afternoon heat didn’t make the trek any pleasant either. Thankfully, everyone in the group was helping each other out in going over boulders and helping bringing things and sharing their water to the thirsty. Rey, a local ice cream vendor, also served as a guide and helped the group out in carrying some of the baggage.
After two hours of what might as well had been the path to Hades, the group arrived at the lighthouse. Others sighed with relief. Others sat to catch their breath. Others slumped down to rest. Rey the Ice Cream vendor made a well-deserved killing as most of the group bought his products with glee (or desperation). While waiting for the others to arrive or recover, I inspected the area climbed the lighthouse. The keeper’s house and the other buildings in the station were either deteriorating or completely destroyed. The tower though still looked usable, and I got to know that despite the rusty stairs of the tower, the support was still firm and the top part was quite modern.
I made my way to the top and took some shots of the surroundings and of the group still recovering downstairs. I got to find out that original lamp and lantern used since it was first commissioned in 1890 were replaced with modern solar-powered lighthouse light by the Philippine Coast Guard, and that the lighthouse guides international vessels coming from the north towards Subic Bay, or south to Corregidor Island Lighthouse at Manila Bay. I thought I’d be nice and spare everyone the history lesson but apparently I couldn’t.
After seeing a bit more of the amazing scenery around the lighthouse, both photographers and cosplayers got their second wind and started preparing for the shoot. Photographers set up their equipment and had their tests. Cosplayers put on their costumes and make up, with their support equally as determined. It would be sunset soon, so time was of the essence. With the established pairings from earlier, they split into smaller groups and went around to take shots in and around the lighthouse. Photographers took to their art with eagerness as the cosplayers gave their best poses for this rare opportunity to make the most of a great location as the rapidly setting sun bathed everything in a soft, golden, nostalgic glow.
I can’t begin to describe how utterly wonderful the place was, how the ordeal going here was almost worth it. Almost, as everyone in the group can’t shake off the thought that another ordeal was waiting for them on the way back. When it got dark, everyone hurried to pack their stuff and prepared for the trip back. There were earlier reports and sightings of the supernatural during the shoot, particularly of a woman in red, but it wasn’t quite as frightening as the thought of going back the way we came. In the dark. We then set off, advancing slowly and carefully with flashlights in hand, trying to retrace our weary steps from earlier, down the steep hill, past the ledges of cliff sides, through the thorny bushes, then the rocks on the shore.
There was a full moon, so it wasn’t that hard to navigate, but it brought about a different dilemma: high tide. Most of the trail from earlier had disappeared, which left the group no choice but to stick to the cliff side, precariously holding on to any crevice they can. At some points the waves crashing into the shore reached them, soaking them in brine as well as their baggage and equipment. The group was tired and most were hungry and dehydrated. One of them pointed out that he tried to spit but couldn’t because he didn’t have saliva anymore. But again, those who were able helped out carrying others’ equipment, lifting others onto safe footing, and, most of the time, encouraging others to go on as some wanted to give up already.
The trek back took three painful hours. For some, it was the longest three in their lives. All were glad to make the trip back. If there were some who thought earlier before the bus ride that they’d be sharing the trip with strangers, they now considered each other as friends for life. The group was welcomed back by an anxious support crew, who immediately prepared their meal. The sinigang the baboy and steaming rice were so good. It may actually have been ordinary sinigang, but back then it tasted like heaven and salvation and forgiveness all in one steaming, heaping bowl. Nothing was left after the meal, except perhaps the desire for more.
After the life-saving meal, as if in a game, spirits were instantly lifted and everyone miraculously regained their energy. After claiming and setting up their tents, they fixed themselves up a bit and prepared for socials. Everyone should have been tired and in despair but everyone was friendly and smiling at each other.
They gathered around lamps to share their own versions of the trip. Later on, the bonfire was finally up and burning, and everyone, like little kids, gleefully roasted marshmallows and hot dogs on sticks. The scene was comforting, with everyone smiling, with the reassuring sound of laughter, chatter, singing, cheering, jeering, and “kuyabenekuyabenekuyabene” filled the air. Around 1 am everyone settled to their tents to take a much needed nap, because, guess what? There’s still Day 2. Hope to finish it soon.
The cast. Cosplayers: Vanessa, Marren, Lerie, Tare, Rochelle, Nicole, Misaki, Jemz, Yuu, Mark, Meg, John Rey, Aldrich, Neko Shie and Paul Michael. Photographers: Jeff, Eric, Luis, Donnie, Christopher, Ruichi, Japs, Oniichan, Peppy, Ej, Sol, Ron, Aldrin, Gevan, Clintz, Dale, Romel, Mark and Biin. Also to Jeff and the family of Nicole and Rochelle. Sorry if I didn’t get to focus on my shots of you guys. I was just quickly snapping away for coverage so the other photographers have more time to get better photos of you.
Thank you for dropping by, and please visit us again for Day 2, as well as other cosplay features here at arkadymac.com.
Xtian Mack took up AB English Studies, Major in Creative Writing at UP Diliman. Currently works for a medical transcription company. He is the Creative Director of The Cosplay Cafe: arkadymac.com, doing photography, writing, and reporting for the website. His line of photography specializes in cosplay event coverage, having covered 300 events in a span of 3 years. Loves cute and furry things.
View all posts by Xtian Mack