A peek inside gay beauty pageants in the Philippines

Joel Pedrigal (C) alias 'Angel Locsin' poses for pictures with Rolando Picazo (L) alias 'Chamcey Supot' and Ariel Bacierra (R) alias 'Bea Bunda' after winning the Miss Gay Chararat 2019, a gay beauty contest in Makati, south of Manila, Philippines, early Jun. 11 2019. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO

MANILA.- ‘Ang nde pumalakpak pangit!’ (Those who will not clap are ugly!) the crowd claps and roars with laughter. These were the opening lines of the first contestant, Joel Pedrigal alias ‘Angel Locsin’ during the ‘Miss Gay Chararat 2019’, (chararat, is gay lingo meaning ugly) a gay beauty pageant held Monday at a local village in Makati, south of Manila, Philippines.

Pedrigal made a good first impression as he bested ten others to claim the 5,000 Philippine peso (roughly $96) cash prize. Ariel Bacierra alias ‘Bea Bunda’ and Rolando Picazo alias ‘Chamcey Supot’ came in second and third, respectively.

The beauty pageant is a joint project of the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Barangay Council in San Antonio, Makati as part of their one week festival honoring Saint Anthony of Padua and in celebration of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) pride month.

Gay beauty pageants have been organized in the Philippines since the late ’70s. Contestants come from different backgrounds and professions with ages ranging from fourteen to more than sixty years old.

Sixteen-year-old, Yuki Altamirano alias ‘Janine Tugonan’ joined the pageant for fun and experience, but was one of the more serious candidates during the talent portion. Yuki and his friend Yuna Acebuche alias ‘Gabbi Garcia’, 15-year-old, were the youngest out of the eleven pageants.

In recent years, the country saw how gay pageants evolved from being part of local festivities to mainstream social spectacles at the national and even international level.

Beyond the entertainment value, gay people also regard pageants as opportunities to express their creativity, to create awareness against discrimination and to advocate for the recognition of their legal rights.

Rolando Picazo alias ‘Chamcey Supot’, who placed third, told epa how he defied his parents at a young age, left his home and ended up living in the streets surviving off food which he scavenged from garbage bins.

Despite the strides made to break gender stereotypes, the LGBT community in the Philippines still feels that much has to be done to achieve acceptance and equality in a conservative and religiously-biased society. LGBT groups have continuously called for equal rights including legalization of same-sex marriage and the passage of the anti-discrimination bill.

On Jun. 30 thousands of members and supporters of the LGBT community are expected to join the LGBT Pride March in Manila.

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