Pageant-crazy Philippines: Where fans worship the crown

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 27 2017 07:07 PM | Updated as of Jan 28 2017 02:27 AM

Miss Universe 2016 candidates got a warm welcome from fans when they visited Intramuros, Manila for a photo shoot. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Beauty pageants are all over the Philippines; some are for kids, gays, women of all sizes, even pets! But if you think that's enough fanaticism, wait till you meet these Pinoy pageant fans. 

FROM CHILDHOOD DREAMS TO IMITATING QUEENS

Dennis Lucem is a proud fan, going great lengths to watch pageants and imitate beauty queens. 

"I have been a pageant enthusiast since I was in grade school. My friends and I are always excited to watch Miss Gay in different barangays in our town during month of May," he shared.

From then on, Lucem and his friends would make it a point to watch and follow national and international pageants. 

He would later on took his fandom to another level after the historic win of Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach.

Dennis Lucem said it took him over 168 hours to create the crown and sash, which were carefully crafted with acrylic stones, plastic spoon, and metallic paper. Photo courtesy of the owner

"I was thinking what I can do to express my happiness and joy for Pia Wurtzbach’s victory for the Philippines. Then my artsy side pushed me to do a version of Miss Universe crown and sash," he said.

Lucem went to Wurtzbach's homecoming parade and became a sort-of star of the day as media noticed his Pia Wurtzbach getup. 

David Lucem at Pia Wurtzbach homecoming parade. Photo by Karl Cedrick Basco, ABS-CBN News

"Gusto ko lang makita ni Pia yung crown and sash ko para sa ganoong paraan, mapakita kong atin na talaga ang korona at walang makakapigil sa atin," he said.

For Lucem, Wurtzbach's win was a huge moment not only for fans like him, but for the Filipino people.

"The moment I saw Paulina Vega passing the crown to Pia Wurtzbach, nafeel ko din yung moment na kinokoronahan ako because after 42 years, Pia brought back the Miss Universe crown for the Philippines," he said. 

Meanwhile in another part of the world, the Pia Wurtzbach craze would bring back the childhood memories of another Filipino pageant fan.

Jeffrey Javellana said his pageant fascination started out as a game of make-believe, designing a makeshift stage with curtains, crafting crowns and sashes for a mini pageant of their own in a Bacolod City school.

“It was 1994, I was on third grade, and during that time siyempre sikat ang Miss Universe. Ako ‘yung super excited na talagang nag-o-organize kami ng pageant sa classroom,” Javellana shared. 

What started out as child’s play became passion, as Javellana, now working in Oslo, Norway as a nurse, went on to live his fandom dream a couple of decades later, following Wurtzbach's win.

“Dumating sa point na nagpagawa ako ng gown ni Pia, ‘yung Andrada, I asked permission para sa imitation,” he shared.

He would later on wear this gown proudly, complete with a sash and a crown, during a gay pride march in Oslo.

Jeffrey Javellana strikes a pose for a foreign photographer during a gay pride march in Oslo. Photo courtesy of the owner

“I was wearing the gown with the crown, walking on the streets of Oslo, with more than 10,000 people watching. Tapos… lahat, wow! Na-surprise sila kasi kuha ‘yung gown ni Pia with all the makeup. Natuwa sila. Napakagandang experience,” he recalled. 

Javellana also celebrated his 31st birthday with a Miss Universe-themed party, inviting his workmates from Peru, Iraq, Iran, China, Serbia, Poland, Lithuania, just to name a few.

The guests wore sashes of their respective countries and gamely answered pageant questions. 

“Hindi nila alam na there’s a competition between them during the party,” he shared. “There was an opening number and they had to introduce themselves.”

Javellana said he was very happy that his birthday celebration also made his coworkers and friends proud of their own countries which were well-represented in the party.

Edison Ballaho, meanwhile, can still remember the feeling when Steve Harvey corrected himself and announced Pia as the winner of the 2015 Miss Universe pageant.

His joy, caught on video, made him a Youtube star for a day. His footage gained over 90,000 views after he posted it on the video-sharing site.

“It was the craziest time of that year and I will never ever forget that,” he said. “Kasi hindi ko na-witness ‘yung winning moment ni Gloria Diaz, ni Margie Moran.”

Ballaho’s shared that he started watching beauty pageants because of his mother. 

He recalled seeing his mom scribbling on a notebook the names of winners of every national and international pageant, something he’d also do later on.

“Ngayon, meron na rin akong notebook na punong-puno ng pageant [details]. Be it local or international,” he said sharing the craziest things he’s done as a pageant fan.

Meanwhile, in the Queen City of the South a pageant-crazy group of friends and workmates would star in their own viral video of a Miss Universe parody.

 

Janzy Castillo, who was doing the parody’s voice over, told ABS-CBN News that they never expected the video to go viral as they were just doing it for fun and fandom.

“Random lang. We were at a hotel that time and we got bored kasi walang magawa masyado doon,” said the pageant super fan.Dixon Boncales, who is seen in the video doing a Miss Venezuela parody, admits he is the craziest fan among them.

He said he would always do catwalks wearing a Philippine sash whenever there’s an opportunity and even change his last name on Facebook for every Filipina Miss Universe candidate each year.

Dixon Boncales proudly wears his Philippine sash as he strikes a pose during the Sinulog Festival in Cebu. Photo courtesy of the owner

Boncales, Castillo and the whole group agreed that their first Miss Universe fan moment was in 1999, when Miriam Quiambao ended as the pageant’s first runner-up.

Since then, watching Miss Universe as a group has been a tradition. They are now preparing new sashes and crowns they’d wear for another group viewing on January 30.

The group believes that we have a good chance of winning this year, with our own candidate, Miss Universe-Philippines Maxine Medina.

Asked what they think sets the Filipina beauty apart, Boncales said: “We’re fighters. We fight for what we want, and we work hard for it. And we’re fierce… like Gabriela Silang!”

Sashes prepared by Janzy Castillo and his friends for their group watching of the Miss Universe pageant. Photo courtesy of Janzy Castillo

Beyond fandom, there’s inspiration

Like boxing and basketball, Prof. Jose Wendel Capili of the University of the Philippines, said beauty pageants have captured the hearts of Filipinos across social classes.

"When you go to Araneta Coliseum let's say you watch Binibining Pilipinas, makikita mo 'yung elites... Pero meron ding people who may not be necessarily comfortable in life pero bumibili sila ng tickets sa bleachers," said Capili who wrote a book on pageants entitled, “Mabuhay to Beauty!”

He explained that while pageants are for entertainment, they also serve as inspiration for fans, noting that a lot of Pinoy beauty queens went on to become successful in their respective careers.

“It's a show. But at the same time, you see the blossoming of a person from the time she becomes a contestant, she wins and later on she relinquishes the title. Many of them evolved into significant figures in their respective fields,” he said.

Boncales and his friends in Cebu agrees to this point, saying that pageant winners give Filipinos a sense of national pride.

“At least it gives us something to be proud of, and we show the world—the universe rather—what we can and what we have,” said Boncales.

This much is true for Javellana, who said that Wurtzbach’s win boosted his confidence and pride as a Filipino working with people of different nationalities.

“Despite minsan negative ang tingin nila sa ating mga Pinoy, especially abroad, akala nila porke ang Pilipinas, mahirap, third world,” he said.

“Nasabi ko ‘yun kasi ‘yun ang na-feel ko while travelling abroad and talking to people. But for me, as a Filipino, I will always be proud of it. I usually talk to them educate and promote the Philippines the best way I can,” he added.

Meanwhile, Lucem said that pageants personally inspired him to be more confident with himself and to become more charitable to others.

"I think what sets Filipina beauty apart from the rest of the world is their genuine heart. Filipina women have a heart that has a passion to help others and always ready to take responsibilities," he added.

-- With reports from Ana Margarita Palma, ABS-CBN News