FAR from his usual escape of reading old dusty books in the iconic Provincial High School Library 10 years ago, Steven now finds refuge in dressing up famous characters from books and comics he read.

A total diversion from the hectic turnaround of being in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, cosplay is his saving grace that keeps his sanity.

Wikipedia says cosplay, short for “costume play,” is a performance art in which participants wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character or idea that is usually identified with a unique name.

I admit, it’s always a little surprising to see him in colorful wigs, mismatched outfits and become 'in the flesh' of portraying anime characters day to day, but Ban, as he is more known popularly, is a pack of surprises himself.

His photos online are rescuing Facebook netizens from nonsense posts of ego-centric, self-promoting social network geeks. His cosplay works, purely imaginative and labored with intricacy, are drawing more and more attention online. It may be far from being a nursing graduate, but cosplaying is what he considers as the new life he vowed to live with courage and excitement.

I am drawn to stalk his account and what he is up to every now and then. In recent memory, I found him in a big colorful cloak, a sword at hand, and an entire rushing water falls as background. Posing as Japanese character, maybe a God or King of whatever kind, he proved to me what most cosplayers fail to see: Cosplaying is a way of life. And, yes, Ban breaths cosplaying in and out.

What he does actually still confuses me a little bit but at the same time never fails to amaze me. His self-expression maybe costly and he is wickedly creative.

To add to his growing list of character dress ups, he recently engaged in closest resemblance of an equally loved and well hated dark fairy of all times. With black cape and layered drapes of what appears as a flamboyant resemblance of the Sleeping Beauty antagonist; horns carefully crafted to perfection, and face chiseled with patience and flawless brush strokes, Ban became Maleficent. In his Facebook account, he received hundreds of likes and others shared his Maleficent photos.

What inspires Ban started in Japan, but after more than a decade, it found its new home in our country. With artists like him, its subset, known as Crossplaying, is slowly taking popularity among cosplay artists in Bacolod. In simple terms, crossplay is cross dressing.

This trend allows Ban to explore more characters from Japanese graphic novels and even classic acts like Maleficent. "Well, Well" (as it sounded seamless in the screen), with Ban's towering height and transformative features, he can be anyone.

To mention, he has been a Japanese spy, a monster captor and a monster himself, a winged creature, a mythological character and now, a Disney villainess. Indeed, he is his own act- imaginative, artistic, powerhouse.

Last weekend, Ban was part of one of the biggest cosplay gatherings in Western Visayas at the Central Philippine University campus. Cosplayers and Crossplayers engaged in dressup battles to take home another title.

So while others think that cosplaying is hiding and pretending to be somebody else, I say cosplay and the likes of Ban should be celebrated. They are performance artists, crowd drawers and genius. To be very keen in details in becoming a walking replica of someone from out of this world, should be appreciated.

Ban has been transforming to different characters. Apart from investing a chunk of his salary, he spends most of the time conceptualizing with his group of makeup artists, designers and cosplayers. During transformation, his team sees to it that everything is in place—hair color, nail polish, facial contours, costume palette and even what others perceived as less important like size of buttons, moles, among others.

"This has become my life," he said, adding that cosplay allows him to become any figure that he wants. Ban and the clan of cosplayers and performance artists in Bacolod are slowly building a reputation of top-class character impersonation acts.

As it is known, Cosplay is the art of becoming anyone. The collaboration of the likes of Ban has created a testament that instead of treating people his kind like school weirdos, they are, after all, one of a kind and yes, real head turners.