Geekdom as serious business

AFTER three years of planning for the comeback of the Manila Pop Culture Convention (known as ManiPopCon), geeks will finally be able to come together as the event returns this year, bringing more big-name guests and highlighting more geekdoms than before.

Japanese actor Mackenyu Arata, who plays pirate hunter Roronoa Zoro in the Netflix-produced One Piece live action series (among other roles in animé/manga-to-live action adaptations), will grace the main stage of ManiPopCon 2023 for meet-and-greet photograph opportunities and autograph signing.

Also confirmed as a main guest is Stan Sakai, the Japanese cartoonist and comic book writer best known as the creator of Usagi Yojimbo. He will be holding a panel discussion on the said comic book, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

ManiPopCon, a three-day event that will take place from Nov. 17 to 19, aims to host different geekdoms under one convention, from tabletop and card games, to comic books, e-sports, and cosplay. It will have game demos, artist booths, film screenings, and the like, all within Ayala Malls Manila Bay.

“We’re inviting different geeks from different geekdoms so they can see other geekdoms that they might be interested in joining. This way, there’s a cross-pollination of interests, increasing the number of geeks,” Marco Aventajado, ManiPopCon’s founder and chief executive officer, said at the press launch on Sept. 26.

As an inclusive space, the three-day convention was planned to make sure every geekdom gets its time to shine.

“Laro: The Philippine Games Convention” lets people witness Dungeons and Dragons games and tabletop game demos while Councourse de Geek contains booths for collectibles and merchandise pertaining to all things pop culture.

The Artist Alley will showcase Filipino comic artists and art toy creators, who will have dedicated booths and gatherings as well.

Finally, the Cinema Classics program will spotlight Sagip Pelikula’s remastered classics like Ibong Adarna, Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara, and more.

In 2019, the first and only iteration of ManiPopCon prior to this year saw over 200,000 attendees at its peak, with similar gaming events and pop culture merch booths and Superman actor Henry Cavill as the main guest.

For 2023, about 250,000 people are expected to attend, with Mackenyu Arata’s visit to the main stage as the biggest attraction.

“Everything stopped after 2019 due to the pandemic. Planning started again in 2021, and we wanted to figure out how ManiPopCon can truly differentiate itself from other conventions,” Mr. Aventajado told BusinessWorld.

The key was to go back to the core of the convention — to gather as many geeks as possible — and collaborate with the many Filipinos in the various pop culture industries with ideas on what to do next.

Patrick Henry de Dios, marketing director of, said at the press launch that live events and gatherings may have suffered over the pandemic, but they are now back with a vengeance because fans of animé and manga really increased during that time.

Surprised to find the many, many fans seeking out ways to fuel their hobby,” he told BusinessWorld.

The growth of cosplay, or the activity of dressing up as fictional characters, goes hand-in-hand with the growth of animé and manga. “It was difficult to find, stream, and download animé when we were young. Now it’s widely available,” said Mr. De Dios.

For Mr. Aventajado, the overall rise of geekdom among Filipinos is an opportunity to provide avenues where these hobbies can safely and happily run wild, which is why the convention is free to the public.

“We welcome everyone — young people, old people, barkadas, families. There’s something here for everyone,” he said.

For the full schedule of the convention, visit Manipopcon’s social media sites. — Brontë H. Lacsamana

Joseph Emmanuel Garcia

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