The return of “mega conventions” in the Philippines has been long-awaited for two years, and spearheading this was CONQuest 2022 held last July 23 to 24, 2022 at the SMX Convention Center in Manila, as thousands of Filipinos from all across the country flock to experience this one-of-a-kind event.
From its humble beginnings as a small gaming convention held in Iloilo City in 2017 with an attendance of 2,000 people, it has now transformed into a behemoth of an event celebrating pop culture, breaking records with over 33,000 people attending making it one of the biggest Philippine conventions to date.
The Standard Press was given access to tour the event halls a day before CONQuest officially started; the convention utilized both floors of the SMX Convention Center, with five function rooms and three event halls in its disposal. The first floor held big name exhibitors, coming from the Web3 and Gaming Industry, showcasing activities and games that attendees can participate in to win prizes, ranging from merchandise to five-figure cryptocurrency prizes. The second floor on the other hand, had booths from local artists selling merchandise for pop culture fans who were attending. It also housed a stage where local & international celebrities were going to host a panel, allowing the community to ask them questions about anything that they had in mind. The event space was huge, however nothing could prepare the staff for the crowd of people arriving on the weekends.
Images of CONQuest 2022 Pre-Event
The first day of CONQuest 2022 showed how people were excited for the event. As early as 7am, the queue was already quite long, and it got drawn-out even more as it got later into the day. According to some attendees we asked, it took them three to four hours to get inside the venue, despite lining up that early.
Image of CONQuest Day 1 Line at 9:30am.
Con-goers outside were exposed to the scorching heat and long wait times, however once they got inside the venue, they were required to queue up again in order to get their wristbands for entering and exiting the venue freely. After this debacle, they can finally experience what CONQuest had to offer.
To start off Day 1, the opening ceremony for the Alliance Games (AllG) was held, where AcadArena Alliance students played in the finals of various Esports titles, such as League of Legends, Valorant, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, COD Mobile, and Wild Rift, being played live on stage by Campus Esports teams.
Introduction of New Era University's "Paradigm Verendus."
If that didn’t pique your interest, on the second floor there was a community panel being held by Mobile Legends champions JDanerie “Wise” Del Rosario and Johnmar “OhMyV33nus” Villaluna, or more commonly known as “V33Wise” in the community. These players won the M3 World Championships representing the Philippines last year, which makes it all worthwhile to tune in as you see these “legends” in the flesh.
JDanerie “Wise” Del Rosario and Johnmar “OhMyV33nus” Villaluna being interviewed at the Community Stage.
The second floor also boasted something for everybody, as not only were there panels & merchandise but also guest booths of popular figures such as Ratana, Christian Banas, and Anne Yatco, all known for their work voice acting as Genshin Impact characters, and popular artists such as Hunghang, Aeonix, and Sskait, known for their Facebook presence. There were also several booths of indie games, a dedicated space for board & tabletop games, and even a retro arcade to play old classics.
Crowds gathering at the Retro Game Arcade and osu! Booths.
Several more community panels were held throughout the day, such as JiConyo, GLOCO and TriNhil's 'Sheeshathon' Panel, where they talked about what it's like to be a local Filipino influencer, and what their future plans are with their respective platforms. Artists such as Aeonix, Hunghang, and Sskait also discussed what it was like to start off as a digital storyteller online and how they eventually found their own artstyle.
Captures of the 'Sheeshaton' Panel (GLOCO, JiConyo and TriNhil) & 'Digital Mayhem' Panel (SoAsianComics, Aeonix, Hunghang, Sskait, LibrengKomiks).
The day ended off with a casual cosplay contest at the community stage, while fans who wanted to tune in to the “Drip Check” Panel being hosted by local cosplayers can do so as well. Attendees that have paid extra were able to hangout with their favorite stars in person at a Private Meet & Greet held at a separate room.
"V33Wise" giving a fan their signatures. (Photo Credits: CONQuest PH)
Day 2 had a lot more in store for “Questers” attending on Sunday, as some of the biggest names in the pop culture & gaming community were about to make an appearance, both on community panels and on the main stage.
On the side of panels, you had the “Titas of Inazuma” that showcased Genshin Impact voice actors Anne Yatco and Ratana. The crowd had slowly accumulated in the afternoon with the appearance of OfflineTV’s LilyPichu and Michael Reeves, where they have talked about their experiences in the Philippines thus far and projects they’re currently working on.
Capture of Genshin Impact voice actresses Anne Yatco and Ratana panel.
It didn’t end there as Atsu, Tuonto, BTMC, Nekkopii, together known as “Scamily,” were taking this time at their panel to interact with their audience to answer questions they may have, and snag a picture or two while they were at it. This was followed up by VTubers Bao and Senz, who had a massive crowd on their own as this was one of the first times they had made their first public appearance.
'Scamily' answering questions from the crowd, Bao being asked to 'bark' for the audience.
Cosplayers were also not left out today, as another cosplay contest was being run, this time with the focus on Genshin Impact characters. The crowd was in an uproar whilst seeing the creativity of how each costume was presented and their distinctive features to make it stand out.
"Best Stage Performance" Zhongli performing at the Community Stage.
Eventually, CONQuest inevitably had to conclude, with the AllG Valorant Finals between ADMU & DLSU, and formally finishing the event with the closing program.
Hosts introducing the teams for the AllG Valorant Finals.
With this event, AcadArena definitely made a statement that cons should be inclusive for everyone and that you shouldn’t feel left out, whether you’re an anime fan, a gamer, or a Web3 fanatic. AcadArena showed how much they care about their students, even going as far as to host a graduation ceremony for those who didn’t get a face-to-face ceremony due to the pandemic.
Attending the event as a regular visitor and a media partner, the crowd turnout was indisputably amazing. Seeing both floors being packed to the brim with people during peak hours was truly a sight to behold in this setting.
Capture of Genshin Cosplay Crowd on Day 2.
However, CONQuest did have its fair share of issues, like any other massive event, with the long queue-up times & gridlock issues on the second floor. The layout was well thought out, as you didn’t hear any overlapping sounds inside the venue, however the crowds during panels were massive and the halls of the center of the second floor were pretty congested.
For both exhibitors and attendees, this leaves much to be desired as it was difficult to navigate through the event, even if you had a good idea on where you’re headed to. There were also reports of security not letting alliance students inside the expo hall, most likely due to miscommunication between MOA & AcadArena staff, and this is something that can’t be taken lightly.
Metacrafters Booth at CONQuest 2022.
Similar incidents about ventilation and signal congestion have been made, however this has been an underlying issue for massive events held at SMX. The resting area for the event could’ve been utilized more as it used one hall, but a dedicated space separated from the con is good step in the right direction.
Despite not being perfect, CONQuest 2022 was a massive success for all parties involved, and this wouldn’t have been possible without the student volunteers and crew members making it all run smoothly. This event would most likely be followed up in the foreseeable future, as #CQ2023 is already being teased by AcadArena’s co-founder, Justin Banusing.
This event has undoubtedly raised the standards for “mega conventions” here in the Philippines, and this could possibly be the start of something exciting for Filipino pop culture enthusiasts in the future. AcadArena is challenging the status-quo for the way events like this are being organized, most notably the involvement of the younger generation and an optimistic concept that there should be something enjoyable for everyone. There are still a lot of improvements to be made, but this is an event that truly shook the landscape of what people can expect when they hear the word “convention.”
Crew Members & Alliance Students at the end of Day 2 (Photo Credits: CONQuest PH).
The LPSci Standard Press is one of the official media crews of CONQuest 2022.
Photo Credits: CONQuest PH, Regel Kent Aggabao, Ralph Andrei Nuñez
Additional Photo Credits: