WHAT is it with Filipinos and beauty pageants?
I experienced firsthand the Pinoys’ love affair with beauty pageants, when I was invited to be among the esteemed panel of judges in the first ever Binibining Pilipinas-USA. The pageant was held on July 27 at the Centinela Valley Performing Arts Auditorium in Lawndale, Los Angeles.
Nineteen young Fil-Ams from different parts of America competed for the crown in a very “bongga” pageant, made possible through the efforts of executive producers, Mildred Deang and Norberto Reyes of Insider Productions.
The Chairman of the Board of Judges was Fritz Friedman. He is currently the senior vice president of Worldwide Publicity for Sony Studios, and was also recently appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to the California Humanities Board.
The panel of judges included: Apl.de.ap, Grammy Award-winning musician, co-founder of The Black Eyed Peas and founder of the Apl.de.ap Foundation and also a member of the Executive Committee of the Apl.de.ap Foundation International; Tess Mauricio, America’s favorite dermatologist and host of her television show, The Dr. Tess Show; Marc Anthony Nicolas, Emmy–Award winning producer of the Hit CBS show, The Talk; Allen Hsiang, General Manager of Porsche Downtown Los Angeles; Benjamin Alves, actor/model/newest talents of Mercator Artist and Model Management; Annie Cuevas, Regional Director for the Philippine Department of Tourism; Glenn Dabatos, President of the Board of Directors for Mending Kids International; Eduardo Angeles, the 2nd highest-ranking deputy city attorney for the City of LA; and the very amiable Miss Universe 1978 Margaret Gardiner, who is also a Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s member and an author.
The judges scored each contestant in the swimsuit, long gown and question-and-answer competitions, in addition to the preliminary competition the night before, where contestants showcased their beauty, charm, talent and grace. The process was computerized all the way, making the tabulation process instantaneous!
Geramie Dizon was crowned Bb. Pilipinas-USA; Bb. Pilipinas USA- Global was Precious Martinez; and Bb. Pilipinas USA–Tourism was Melissa Jane Rodriguez. Arienne Calingo became first runner-up, while Kayla Nadres became the second runner-up to Bb. Pilipinas USA.
Supporters, who rooted ubiquitously for their candidate of choice, became a side show. They displayed big and colorful banners and posters. They played innovative musical instruments and sound effects, which boosted their deafening and tireless cheers for their bet.
While I announced via Facebook and Twitter that I was en route to LA to judge the beauty competition, I became too busy to live tweet and update my Facebook status to announce the winners.
What’s amusing was that my friends and followers in these social networking sites were sending me comments and private messages to ask about the results of the competition.
Even my co-workers in The Filipino Channel office, as well as many friends from different states were excited to know about the beauties who vied for the crown, as well as the juicy inside stories about the competition — on and off cam!
The audience was also delighted and star-struck by the presence of the very beautiful and regal 2010 Miss Universe 4th Runner-Up Maria Venus Raj, who co-emceed the event along with TFC Adobo nation’s host Lee Robin Salazar.
They were likewise thrilled to watch the video greetings of past Miss Universe title holders, Shamcey Supsup and Margie Moran.
This experience refreshed my memory of my own fascination about beauty contests when I was in grade school – especially during the 1974 Miss Universe beauty pageant that was held in Manila.
This also reminded me of those moments when Filipinos would put everything on hold, as they watched our Pinay beauty queens compete for world beauty titles. Tumitigil ang mundo! This would also happen during Manny Pacquiao’s fights and during the finale of our kababayans’ favorite teleseryes on TFC.
During these collective experiences, all of us are “Filipinos,” regardless of our political leanings or social standing. We root for our kababayan candidates, athletes or favorite lead character in the teleseryes. We laugh, cry and cheer together.
The unchanged 7.6 percent unemployment rate, rising gas prices, or another impending government shutdown do not seem to matter at all during that brief period.
However, some kababayans frown at this “beauty contest” mentality. They lament at how some parents groom their daughters to walk, glide, strut in the ramp and don skimpy bikinis and fancy evening gowns, just to win the much-coveted crown.
Some critics say that there are those who join pageants in the hopes of being noticed or discovered for TV/film stardom. Some also think that many parents use their daughters in order to be regarded with esteem in the community, asking what message this mentality sends to young girls.
Others are skeptical about the commercial nature of these competitions. Younger girls who are still in school are being pushed by their own parents to join beauty pageants, and would sell tickets or sponsorships to make their daughters win (some beauty contests are based on this rule — pretty much the “like” button on Facebook which is based on popularity).
These critics argue that this kind of competition does is not really based on the girls’ beauty, talent nor their achievements. Some wonder how this would boost their kids’ confidence, when they could only win the crown and have photo-ops because their parents shell out money or because they have the right connections.
Those who love beauty pageants are quick to defend the rationale behind these competitions. They say there is nothing wrong with celebrating beauty. Joining a beauty contest does not necessarily mean a woman does not have anything else to share other than her physical attributes.
They contend that these beauty contestants are just comfortable and confident in their own skin. Many of the contestants are smart, talented, intelligent women who have big goals in their lives. They just happen to be beautiful and sexy, too. What is wrong with flaunting all these extrinsic and intrinsic attributes that makes a woman even more alluring and successful?
Whatever we may feel and think about beauty pageants, one thing is for sure: for as long as people love to see beauty, are entertained by the thrill of competition, and are appreciative of a good pageant that showcases lovely gowns, dances, and songs – beauty pageants are here to stay.
The Bb. Pilipinas-USA beauty pageant will be shown on August 11, Sunday, on the The Filipino Channel, at 11pm.
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos