About some two and a half decades ago in the Philippines, there was a deadly crowd crush stampede that happened that killed some 70 people and injured about 400 all at once. What was this for? It was to get inside one of the country’s most popular variety shows, Wowowee. Now, I haven’t been visiting the Philippines since I was a child, but I knew about this because at that year, my parents were visiting the relatives there. In fact, they planned to actually go there to be part of the audience for the experience. But because it was reported that there were so many people camping out the day prior, they decided to skip it and do something else for that day instead. Looking back at it, I’m glad that they decided not to go there.
Fast forward till today and then we’ve goT the biggest news ever to grace the Philippine pop culture media – the overcrowding of one of the Philippines’ biggest anime cons, CONQuest 2023. I don’t know what it is with the Filipino mindset, but I can tell you that they love unnecessary rivalries of everything.
"My idol is better than yours. My loveteam 1 is better than yours. My favorite drama is better than yours. The anime con that I’m gonna make is going to be much bigger and more popular than all the famous anime cons like Anime Expo or Crunchyroll Expo…" etc. etc. You get the picture.
The last sentence I mentioned in that quote was what you drove this anime con into the overcrowding disaster that we’re now seeing today. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but being too ambitious can lead to disastrous results. People waiting in line for hours, only to learn that they won’t even have a chance to get inside the venue because it was too damn crowded. Then you get the guests who have various issues with the organizers and staff on how things should go to the point that one influencer streamer 2 took the time to buy some hundreds (?) of Jollibee meals to all the tired and weary people sitting around waiting for their turn to get inside. If you check out the hashtag #CONQuest2023 on Twitter or any other social media such as Facebook, you’ll find various reports and experiences from attendees, invited guests, and those involved including the con organizer himself. You’ll get the idea what the issue is there.
Everything Always Starts Small
The first anime con I attended was FanimeCon, back when I was in uni. It was organized by a group of anime fans who happened to be fellow students in uni and I remembered that the only thing they had were small booths from local businesses who sold anime VHS tapes and DVDs, as well as specialized art books, etc. There were a few guests, just local artists introducing various anime genres, etc. The entry tickets were cheap too 3 because it was intended to be a small event. This was back in the mid-late 1990s.
Then from there, little by little, the small event grew that the organizers started to get sponsors from local anime distribution services such as Viz Communications. 4 Fast forward some 20-ish years and Fanime is now one of California’s biggest anime cons alongside Crunchyroll Expo and Anime Expo. Yes, it took them some 20-ish years to become this big!
Let’s go back to CONQuest in this subject. From what I collected from people who had been there, this is a brand-new anime convention that was launched in the Philippines not too long ago. They had one last year and a few years before (probably before pandemic? Can’t remember…). The first few had been a success, and that’s quite awesome. What I don’t understand is why they would cook too much just to make early history of becoming "the biggest anime con in the Philippines"? They sure made an early history, alright…
There’s nothing wrong with starting small. In fact, everything we build always starts from the first level. And we need to take small steps to get to the next level and the level after. Taking shortcuts way too early will only affect the pristine quality of our product. This year’s CONQuest already proved that you can’t take shortcuts like that for the sake of overtaking other existing big anime cons.
Everything Always Has Limits
Hosting events, big and small, takes some simple knowledge of logistics: the place where you want the venue to take place, the cost of renting that place which will be based on how many days that event will be held, the capacity of the people that the place can hold, etc. All those considerations are used as the basis on the number of tickets you want to sell.
Earnings from those ticket sales isn’t just going to the rental fees, but part of those will also be paid to the guests you invite to make their appearances. Part of that also proceeds to pay the staff also 5. That’s why big events always have sponsors. The sponsors pay you in exchange for featuring their products and services to the public during the events.
For example, the event will be held for two days. Tickets on sale should have three options: tickets for both days, tickets for the first day, and tickets for the second day. If it’s held for three days, there should have four options, and so on. Once they’re sold out, they should stay sold out. Those who purchased one day only tickets are likely to leave the venue early or stay the entire day, but regardless, those sold-out tickets will at least meet (or maybe exceed a little) the limit capacity number of the location. In that way, we wouldn’t have these long crowds of people waiting outside for hours just to get inside.
Sure, people will miss out if they don’t purchase their tickets during the sales period, but that would be their fault. They can wait till next year or another similar event to come to make for it.
In reality, we really can’t please everyone. Pleasing everyone like this can lead to disastrous results like what we’ve witnessed lately. Everything has to be in moderation.
What happens to the organizers is all up to the local authorities. I may predict that there may be lawsuits coming along with all this. There is a possibility that the organizers may be fired/replaced by new (and responsible) ones or altogether just shut down the entire con committee. People who went will lose their trust and faith with the committee of this particular event and will likely not going to attend next year’s event, if there ever is one.
Overall, it’s a good thing that this overcrowding disaster did not end up like the Wowowee Stampede. However, just overcrowding in general just for the sake of sales and popularity is just plain harmful for everyone.
To all the guests who attended (even the ones who never got inside), to the guests invited, and even the staff (volunteers and hired?) — I feel you all.
I wrote this post here because I thought about all my fellow Holostars-min moots who had some mini-events organized to gather all the fans together, whether they’re cosplayers or even artists selling their themed fan merch to fellow fans and those interested. It was from the moots where I read about this incident. Their furious takes and stressful updates were more than enough for me to write this post. There were photos posted and even major media outlets even wrote about this in news sites and probably reported it on TV news too. Yes, it was really, really bad.
I hope everyone, not just the organizers, would learn from this incident. Please be careful next time should you decide to hold another event next year.
- a "loveteam" is a pair of celebrities, actors and sometimes even singers, who are always paired by the fans to appear together in every single project, event, etc., to the point that these "fans" are playing "matchmaker" to them, expecting them to be together in real life. I got my own two cents with that, but this isn’t the place for it.
- I believe it was Pokimane?
- when I attended, it was around $15 USD
- they’re now known as Viz Media. Their HQ is located in San Francisco, just across the bridge from where we’re located, which is why I called it "local." Obviously it’s not that "local" anymore.
- unless they’re volunteers…