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How Filipinos became known as among the best pageant fans in the world

Filipinos are known to be among the best pageant fans in the world.

From cheering for their candidates, getting beauty queens to trend, as well as creating incredible fan art, it’s no doubt Filipinos will give and have given their all every time pageant season rolls by.

But how exactly did this love and support for beauty pageants start?

Our fandom began way before the Miss Universe competition was organized. In fact, there already existed a Miss Philippines pageant in the early 1900s, which the Americans hosted.

According to popular culture scholar Prof. Jose Wendell Capili, this was where the Filipinos first became interested in beauty contests.

“Marami sa mga dating naging Miss Philippines ay naging ehemplo sa mas nakakalaking lipunan at nagkaroon sila ng fan base in other words,” Capili said.

Soon beauty pageants for all ages, gender and advocacies popped up across the country, paving the way for Pinoys to conquer the international stage.

International pageant titles

When Megan Young became the first Filipina to win Miss World in 2013, the Philippines has been recognized as one of the “powerhouse countries,” having won the big four: Miss Universe, Miss International, Miss Earth and finally Miss World.

“Biglang taas yung standing natin pagdating sa mundo ng beauty pageant," said Tita Lavinia of Titas of Pageanty. "Apart from that, the other [local] winners ended up as runners-up [internationally],” she continued.

According to Tita, 2013 was a banner year "because it was not only Megan [who won]. Nasungkit natin yung Supranational for the very first time, nasungkit pa natin ang International, na hindi natin akalain masusunkit din natin, nung year na yun."

“Ang ganda-ganda ng track record natin and as with others things, kung saan maganda ang record mo, ‘yon talaga ang susundan ng mga tao,” she added.

The country first won in an international pageant in 1964 — Gemma Cruz-Araneta winning for the Philippines the Miss International — and was followed by Gloria Diaz becoming the first Filipina to win the Miss Universe in 1969.

Margie Moran soon gave us a second Miss Universe crown in 1973, and by then, Filipinos were hooked. 

Beauty pageant fans

Apart from the obvious merits of the country’s representatives to international beauty pageants, the Filipinos’ overwhelming support makes the Philippines a strong contender internationally.

With the continuous wins came more fans who, in turn became more aggressive in their support.

“Nakuha natin yung momentum na even if we [don't] win this year, there is a strong possibility that we can win next year and then the year after,” Tita Lavinia said.

“Nakikita mo yung transition lalo na yung pag-angat ng training technique. Medyo scientific at athletic itong pag-atake natin sa mga beauty pageant,” she added.

Because the Philippines’ huge number of fans, pageant camps have also been formed to help more Filipinas to gain knowledge on how to be “pageant perfect.”

According to Prof. Capili, the beauty pageant culture can come close to a “Pacquiao fight” in terms of its victory or loss. The reward is “more psychic than material.”

“Ang joke diba ‘pag hindi pumasok si Philippines o hindi nanalo, ‘wag ka magpapagupit kasi sa parlor, pangit yung gupit nung mga stylist sa 'yo. Massive yung support,” he said.

“Ang mga Pilipino, very emotional when they support their candidate,” he continued. “When a Filipino wins a pageant, dala-dala niya yung pangalan ng bansa.”

Tita Lavinia added that when it comes to Miss Universe, the ladies become “household names” who have a great amount of influence to their followers.

Beauty queen standard

Apart from their faces, beauty queens are now also judged based on their body and brand. Because of this obsession, beauty pageants have faced a huge amount of controversy.

For some, it’s a form of sexism and not a means to advocate for women empowerment. According to Prof. Capili, though, such exists anywhere and it depends on who you’re with.

“It exists in every possible arena but ikaw yung may katawan, dapat kapag ikaw ay sumali ng contest, siguraduhin mo na yung mga organizers ay poprotektahan ka,” he said.

“Hindi mo pwedeng sabihining pageant is the only source of sexism kasi even among gendered organizations, mayroong inggitan diyan,” he added.

Fans have also been focused on always getting the “total package,” resulting in a series of harassment and bullying for some candidates vying for the crown.

Just before the 69th Miss Universe pageant, Miss Universe Canada 2020 expressed dismay over hateful comments from Filipinos who were making racist remarks.

Referencing Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, Prof. Capili reminded that it is not okay to spread hateful comments on social media and “think before you click.”

“You gauge into someone’s beauty in terms of being maputi? If somebody is dark, she is not pretty enough? That’s politically — that’s really wrong,” he said.

“Hindi nakakabuti sa physical and emotional developmental health ng ating kandidata and we should be supporting people in a more positive way,” he added. 

Thankfully, beauty standards have also started changing. 

Before becoming Miss Universe Philippines 2020, Rabiya Mateo was among those obsessed with skin whitening in the hopes of eventually meeting the standards of a beauty queen. She revealed receiving comments about her morena skin that made her hate herself.

It was only when Venus Raj became Bb. Pilipinas in 2010 that Rabiya realized, it was possible to become a beauty queen in the skin that she's in.  

Earlier Monday, the Ilongga beauty queen made the Philippines proud by earning a spot at the 69th Miss Universe pageant’s Top 21.

As a true Filipina, Rabiya did all that with her beautiful morena skin that she’s learned to embrace and flaunt whole-heartedly to the world and oh,  how the Philippines loves it. — Franchesca Viernes/LA, GMA News