by Anna Gamboa

MANILA – Little lessons from handling Star Wars costumers –not cosplayers– who suit up for the love of the Force.

October 10, 2015 is Star Wars Reads Day, and this year, the 501st Philippine Garrison will be trooping at SM North EDSA to promote the love of reading and books. If you’re a rabid fanboy/girl who is looking forward to getting that photo op with Boba Fett, Darth Maul or a Stormtrooper, here’s a few things learned behind the scenes by handlers (often costumers-in-training in the ways of the Force):

1. Stormtroopers’ helmets do not afford great visibility, and it’s a one-size-fits all affair. In short, if you commit to wearing this armor, you adapt to the helmet by putting the appropriate amount of padding to get the best comfort/visibility you can. No wonder these guys couldn’t shoot straight. FYI for people who think it’s funny to knock on the helmet: it’s not cool. You’re just asking for a reprimand from a handler.

2. Anyone covered head to toe in a costume is basically walking around in a portable sauna, especially in tropical climes. Stormtrooper suits may be great to look at, but don’t really allow the wearer to sit down. The average maximum tolerance for members of the 501st who go trooping in a full suit: an hour. So please don’t begrudge them their breaks. Following protocol, if the troopers don’t have access to a bathroom from their break room or dressing area, they have to suit out and wear civilian clothing and then look for a comfort room.

3. Respect the suit. People put in hours, weeks, months and sometimes years into putting together a movie-accurate outfit certified by the 501st. For some, it involves sanding fiberglass, heating or cutting the stuff to conform to a certain limb length or proportion, and attaching them to achieve the desired look. So if a costumer’s handler tell you to please be gentle with the character, or keep your hands off, do it, because rough handling may undo all that hard work.

4. Don’t assume that all the costumers are guys. Yes, there are ladies who suit up too. (Hello, Captain Phasma is played by GoT’s Gwendoline Christie) So if you’ve always wanted to suit up as your favorite character, don’t be afraid to ask the Imperial Officer or handler nearest you about signing up –because only Vader is allowed to force choke the impertinent ones. (Kidding.)

5. If you still can’t tell the difference between a Biker Scout, Clone Trooper, or Stormtrooper, but love Star wars, it’s ok. Come join the Pinoy 501st, they have cookies and will only be too happy to educate you in the ways of the Force—no matter if you’re a Rebel, Sith or Jedi. Closet Ewoks, Jawas, and those with a secret desire to suit up as Chewbacca will also be entertained.

For more information about the Pinoy 501st and its activities, please log on to www.facebook.com/pinoy501st