Yesterday, we introduced Khursten, Rochelle, and Rael, the people behind BLush Convention, the longest-running BL convention in the Philippines, and the ongoing #BLush Hashtag Party on Twitter and Facebook. They talked about how they started taking interest in anime, manga, BL and even gave us insights on BL consumption in the Philippines.
This time, the three talk about BLush Convention, how it started, the difficulties of organizing a convention and their future plan for BLush!
Let’s talk about BLush Convention. What is this event about? How did it start?
Khursten: Our event is BLush. We take pride as the only Boys Love event in Manila. It has been around for more than a decade. It used to be called Lights Out but we decided to end that event because of work. Years later, we rebranded into BLush after we realised how precious and important a BL event was for BL fans. Given our experience with Lights Out, we’ve been holding BL events for the last 15 years.
I remember that as part of the rebranding, we had to rebrand as a BL event because we felt that yaoi had such a bad reputation and at that time, we wanted a title that captured the pulse of BL in Japan. Hence, BLush was born.
Part of our activities used to involve the BLush Anthology, BLush Cafe, and the talks. The talks are still an important part of BLush. The Cafe has now become our premium experience where fans can play games and such for some premium BLush goodies. The anthology, which I organised, has long been cancelled. I got too busy to really manage the editorial process but I’ve always enjoyed the submissions for the anthology. It was an opportunity to find fans who use BL as an avenue to express themselves.
Rochelle: BLush Convention started in 2012, and was held annually except for breaks in 2013 and 2017. In the early years of the con, we held it at the University of the Philippines Diliman Campus, until we found our recent home in Elements @ Eton Centris. We’ve featured a diverse range of guests such as local artists and international cosplayers, as well as top BL academics from Japan, Australia, and around the world.
From the first BLush composed of about 100 people we now welcome over 1,200 fans — not just from Manila but as far away as Jakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and even Dubai.
Rael: Our event is BLush a Boys Love event in Manila. BLush was a rebrand of our earlier event called Lights Out which we parked mainly because of our day jobs. Taking our experience with Lights Out along with BLush, we have been organizing BL events for 15 years. We started with a hundred attendees on the first event way back 2004. Since recognizing the growing BL fan community, we currently provide the VIP and regular ticket tiers to attendees.
The aim to provide a space for BL fans in the Philippines to celebrate BL and hopefully connect with fellow BL fans reflects the event activities which included talks, fan market, café, and the anthology. The talks have been there from the very first event and encourage audience participation. The fan market has also been part of the event from the start and offers BL related creators and buyers to connect. The anthology is another means to connect with fans who use BL to express themselves. Another standing feature of the event is the Butler Café which was modeled on the Japanese Butler cafés which were very popular at the time. The success of the initial Café prompted the team to include it as a premium experience for VIP attendees. We have decided to retire the Café concept in favor of something new hence the experience zone feature currently part of the BLush events.
Why did you decide to start an event like BLush?
Khursten: We started planning the first yaoi con with Lights Out in 2004. Launched the event with a group of friends who used to volunteer in anime conventions. Lo and behold, we’re all yaoi fans too. We just wanted a space where we could squee in joy and with a community. We held the first event in a building’s basement. We even served dinner! I think we were around 10 organisers and 100 attendees.
Rochelle: Our event BLush Convention is the spiritual predecessor of another series of events we put up as college students called Lights Out. Lights Out was dissolved when we graduated from university and went our separate ways. Some fans literally begged for us to come back and organise another event, and after some discussion, we banded together as a smaller team to do BLush.
Rael: The first event under Lights Out was organized by a group of friends who met as volunteers in anime conventions who are also in yaoi. The agreement then was we wanted to have a space to share our love for yaoi with fellow fans. The first event was held in a building basement and we fed everyone. At the time there were at least 10 organizers most of whom were still University students.
What were the challenges of holding an event for the first time?
Khursten: All of us had experiences in organising cons so that was easy. What was difficult was running the con as students. It was financially difficult for us and it was a hard lesson on how to manage the finances of the con. We’ve been doing better since then.
Rochelle: We had to be strict with the budget and ran the con on a shoestring budget. Now it costs us about ten times as much to put up BLush, but then again our attendance is also ten times (or more) of the first event’s.
Rael: As mentioned earlier, most of the organizers were still students so money was the challenge. Commercial sponsorships were out given the nature of the event we were organizing so the money upfront was from our pockets and we reimburse what we can from the ticket sales. It took several iterations of the event to generate enough returns to fund the next con without the aid from the organizing team.
Do tell us about your team.
Khursten: Our team has changed over the years but we’re generally all fans of BL of different kinds. We’re also all nuts to still do this for more than 14 years. But we’ve grown to love the event.
Rochelle: BLush has always been a volunteer-run con. Three key organisers take care of the programme and marketing, three more volunteers are in charge of logistics and staging, and one volunteer is in charge of concept and visuals. We also count on some supportive friends who we rely on for on-the-day staffing.
Rael: The team is composed of content, logistics, and finance. The members have changed over the years but at the core, our love for BL is still what motivates us to keep going.
Which aspect of BLush do you think has grown through the years?
Khursten: I feel proud that the circles have grown over the years. The first Blush, we only had 3 exhibitors. Now, we have more than 50. I think technology and access to production of goods have made it easier. That said, I don’t know how that’ll go after this pandemic.
Rochelle: As the pioneer BL convention in the Philippines, we have always been compared to more recent events that have sprung up in our wake, but we have consistently rated high for the quality of our programming, the variety of artist circles and merchandise on offer, as well as the respectful way the topic is handled and the the “safe space” the convention provides for all fans of the genre.
Rael: The number of BL fans and creators. The first event market then consisted of 3 selling booths in comparison to the 50 we had last year. Technology had made it possible for BL content to be readily available thus more people now are aware of and profess their love for BL.
How was BLush Convention 2019?
Khursten: We had quite a lot of attendees last year. One of our largest and one that we had to control because of our space. We also had more foreign scholars, such as Thomas Baudinette, Fusami Ogi, and James Welker who attended the event. They all gave talks about BL in Asia, the history of BL through shojo manga, K-POP shipping, and Thai BL. I also gave a talk on Kono BL ga Yabai.
As for the other details, I think Rotch will know better.
The reception of the event has been warm. Certainly, the foreign scholars have really helped inform local BL fans and helped them discuss some things they were curious about with the genre.
Rochelle: The number of circles and the fandoms involved has grown exponentially over the years! In our first event we had only five circles — but last year we had 42 circles, 5 featured artists, and 8 exhibitors! We’ve also had some very well-received talks onstage from international BL scholars who also took the opportunity to further their studies by speaking with our guests and artist circles.
Rael: We had more than 500 attendees last year, more than 40 exhibitors and we had more foreign scholars who attended the event – Dr. Thomas Baudinette, Dr. Fusami Ogi, and Dr. James Welker to name a few who talked about BL. We also had several fan talks during the event starting with Khursten’s K-Pop shipping to Challenges of being a Non-Chinese Danmei fan. There were also artist demonstrations, game demo, and of course the experience zone following the year’s event theme.
What were your plans for BLush Convention 2020?
Khursten: Our BL event is cancelled this year but we’re holding a virtual hashtag party on #Blush801!
Rochelle: Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s BLush has been moved to 2021.
Rael: This year’s event is cancelled due to the pandemic. In its place, we will be holding a virtual hashtag party (#Blush801) starting in the last week of July culminating on August 01.
Were there any guests planned on inviting?
Khursten: We had people in mind but we’ll see how this pandemic goes and hopefully we’ll have these guests onboard next year.
Rochelle: We already had at least six or seven guests slated to appear, but at this point, we can’t be sure if their schedule will likewise be clear for next year’s event 🙁
Rael: No reveals for now.
What is your future vision for your event?
Khursten: I hope it continues to be a safe space for Filipino fans but given the conservatism in the region, I hope that Blush can be a fan space for BL fans in Southeast Asia.
Rochelle: We hope to be able to keep going even under the “New Normal”, practicing an abundance of caution and ensuring the safety of everyone involved.
Rael: I hope that event continues to offer a safe space for the BL fans in and out of the Philippines to connect with fellow fans.
What do you think about futekiya?
Khursten: I LOVE IT. I’ve subscribed since you had Kumota Haruko in it! I think the site has been pivotal in seeing the diversity of BL titles. WELL DONE!
Rochelle: As mentioned previously, it’s a fantastic new medium to legally acquire and directly support your favourite BL authors, and I recommend all BL fans check out the futekiya library to find their new favourites!
Rael: Thank you and good job on providing this service!
Thank you! Lastly, what is BL is for you?
Khursten: BL for me is the joys, heartbreaks, kinks that come when two boys, or men, find love whether in manga or film, in original stories or fan work, in Japan or in other parts of the world. BL represents queer desires, initially by women, but now by everyone who find joy and pleasure in these kinds of stories.
Rochelle: BL has been a huge part of my formative years — helping me find friends, explore my own identity, and reach out to my favourite artists and authors. I hope that other fans also find the same literary satisfaction and personal fulfillment as I had.
Rael: BL is a glimpse on a different take on reality of boys/men and love’s many twists and turns – originally created and enjoyed by women but now includes all who delight in these stories.
Thank you very much for your time!
We hope you enjoyed #BLush801 and the activities the organizers prepared for all BL fans! futekiya is also holding a watch party of Haruko Kumota-sensei’s drawing session that ends at 11:59 PM Japan time as part of #BLush801! Hope you enjoy the rest of Yaoi Day 2020!
About futekiya: BL manga subscription
In 2018, futekiya began as a Boys’ Love manga news and culture website operated by FANTASISTA, INC., a CG/VR production studio based in Tokyo, Japan. futekiya transformed into a budding global distributor of officially licensed BL manga in 2019.
futekiya launched as an online subscription service for officially licensed BL manga on July 8, 2019. Determined to connect fans around the world with English-translated BL legally and conveniently, futekiya empowers readers to support creators and the manga industry.
Readers who subscribe to futekiya and pay a flat monthly fee of $6.99 will have access to our expanding library of English-language manga. To subscribe, please go to read.futekiya.com and create an account. More information is in our Guide.