In a brief span of time, she lived a great life. She will be missed.
Nice. Approachable. Sweet. Kind. Innocent. These are how friends of Zhanely Neilsen Chan, known as Hana by her peers, described her during her wake last Wednesday, November 1. Hana, who was supposed to celebrate her 16th birthday this November 17, passed away on October 28 due to Japanese encephalitis.
In a brief span of time she spent with the metro’s cosplay community, she got acquainted with many people — including the friends of yours truly. (The testimonials are edited for brevity.)
Hana started her cosplay journey last year. It is through her Hinata Hyuuga (Naruto) and D.Va (Overwatch) cosplays that she got popular among her fellow cosplayers and con-goers.
Though they were not that close, Krisha describes her as an approachable and friendly person who also respects those who are older than her. “She’s so happy when you see her cosplay in conventions,” she added. Prior to her supposed 16th birthday, she wished that someone will give her a pair of wings as a cosplay gift.
Her D.Va cosplay got Dale so curious that he played the game. He’s ashamed that he failed to have a conversation with her.
Faye told me that Hana is having fun with her fellow Naruto cosplayers. “Marami siyang supporters and wala siyang issue sa cosplay community,” she said. (She has a lot of supporters and she doesn’t get involved in issues in the cosplay community.)
Early this year, Cosplay.ph’s Cosplay Carnival held the Cosplay OTP contest where each cosplayer has to think of a skit with the one next to them. This is where Reginan met Hana for a skit.
“She asks her fellow cosplayers how to do the skit […] She was able to pull through her performance. […] She’s a good listener, willing to learn, ready to adapt, maaliwalas (serene). […] Hindi halata sa kanya na siya ay kabado (It was not obvious to me that she is nervous).”
He is thankful that he met Hana, and he regrets that he wasn’t able to tell her “Good job — you’re great on stage. Thank you.”
Pocholo remembers Hana as a smart person, and as someone who looks unapproachable at first but is actually easy to approach over time. “She deserved more than this,” he added. “She has a lot to live up for.”
“She has so much potential as a cosplayer,” adds Arkadymac.com’s Christian Mack. When he met her first at Otaku Expo 2017, she seems new to him; and so he went to know her up close. The second time he met her was at the second day of Best of Anime 2017. “She was kinda special.” She has planned photo shoots with Sir Mack before, but it was not realized due to schedule constraints.
“This has probably affected the community,” stressed Sir Mack. “It’s not every day you lose one of your friends in the community, especially someone this young.”
Jiiarr is more known as the one among a few who cosplays large characters such as Baymax from Big Hero 6; and despite having no interactions online, he wished that Baymax was real so he can heal her. “She will be missed by the community.” He had a promise to show her his Olaf cosplay, which he did in her wake. “Thank you for your passion and love for cosplay.”
Minazukiru’s friends describe Hana as a professional and extraordinary cosplayer. “[…] Akala mo artista or taga-ibang bansa.” (You will think of her as an actress or someone who from overseas.) For her, it is difficult that her life is short-lived. “May pangarap yung tao. […] Ang taas ng narating niya, hangang-hanga ang tao sa kanya.” (She has dreams. […] She has achieved far high. People are awed by her.)
Photo (Edited) taken by Emeer Macapili
Hana’s close friend Denisse described her as a sweet and very kind person who thoughtful and innocent. Denisse serves as Hana’s make-up artist in events. One time, she was given a bracelet from her and her mom to show their appreciation to her. “She is motivated, an achiever and is dedicated to her passion,” she concluded.
“There’s a certain magic na kapag nakikita mo siya, masaya ka na.” (There’s a certain magic that you are happy once you see her.)
Another close friend of hers, Nelle, is a photographer, and the best moment she had with her is during a photo shoot in Intramuros, where they had more time for bonding compared to conventions.
Paula met Hana at Ozine Fest 2017 donning the same costume as hers (D.Va), and from there they got to know each other — turns out that both have the same interests in gaming (such as Overwatch and Tekken), and they went on to become partners in events (one example is during Rampage 2017 where Paula cosplayed Officer Caitlyn and Hana cosplayed Jinx). For her, she will be the best D.Va and Hinata cosplayer that the community will never forget.
Hana is also part of the Will of Fire group of Naruto cosplayers, in which Jovit is also included. Her Hinata cosplay led her to get invited to the group. “There’s a certain magic na kapag nakikita mo siya, masaya ka na.” (There’s a certain magic that you are happy once you see her.)
Hana’s mom Ms. Ashley Chan was surprised with how many of friends are coming over to see her wake. As Ms. Chan points out, she has more friends in the cosplay community and online rather than in school. According to her, Hana is so neat that she knows where her things should be placed. She also told me that Hana was thought to have no talent at school until she got into acting.
Hana’s sister Jewel remembers the time when they bought Vocaloid costumes at Comic Alley when she was starting her journey as a cosplayer.
Jewel also shares Hana’s happy moments — when she met cosplayer Hikarin at Cosplay Mania and voice actor Gaku Space at the Asia Pop Comicon Manila this year. (On another note, If yours truly had asked about her having an exhibitor ID at APCC, I wouldn’t have known that she was invited by Acer’s Predator brand of gaming laptops. That’s how far she got in the community at a young age.)
Photos from Hana’s Facebook
Always supportive of her daughter’s hobby, Ms. Chan invited her friends to come in costume as a tribute to her. Hana’s friends in the community paid their respects to her on her “last cosplay event.”
Hana was apparently close to quitting her cosplay journey before, but in a Facebook post dated August 2, she said:
“No. No. No. I can’t quit a hobby that have been part of my life already. No. I can’t quit. I love cosplay. It is who I am. I can’t just quit from what I’ve already started. And I really wanna continue my cosplay journey. Cosplaying makes me really happy. Nobody can stop me from doing what I really love.
It’s been 5 months since I started cosplaying and cosplaying makes me very happy. And I can’t just make people who supported me throughout my journey sad or upset.
Cosplaying made me feel like home. I love cosplaying. And I will never stop loving cosplay. **** people who told me to quit doing what I love. They bring people down because they have nothing to do with their life. Cosplaying will always be my everything. And I will never quit. […]”
I may have neither known Hana nor took a picture of her, but I learned more about her from her friends and family. Memories of her will not be forgotten by her peers. She will definitely be missed.