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‘Miss Universe gives us a breather from our mundane lives’

By BṺM TENORIO JR., The Philippine STAR Published May 21, 2021 4:00 am

Many imaginary false eyelashes went up and down when Rabiya Mateo made it to the Top 21 of Miss Universe beauty pageant last Monday. Moments later, the same false eyelashes withered when she did not make it to the Top 10.

In a country with an obsession for beauty pageants, such was the disappointment felt by many Filipinos.

Social media ran amuck with emotions. Some lost their appetite that day. Others lost their cool.

Some, even if they work from home, filed for a leave of absence so they could watch the Miss U coronation night uninterrupted — and wallow in disappointment thereafter.

In national beauty pageants, some mothers went berserk when their daughters did not bag the title. One mother broke the trophy of her runner-up daughter after the contest.

For people who are used to watching beauty contests in every nook and cranny of the country, overnight beauty contest analysts also emerged when Rabiya did not bag the crown.

 Miss Universe Philippines Rabiya Mateo. Photo from The Miss Universe PH Facebook page

“It’s her hair.”

“She lacked confidence in the swimsuit round.”

“There was no fire in her eyes.”

But at the end of the day, the same people congratulated Rabiya for representing the country with pride and honor.

“Thank you for making us proud.”

“You’re still our winner.”

Such is the “obsession” of many Pinoys with international beauty tilts.

“Obsession” may be a negative word to describe the feelings of many Filipinos when it comes to the penchant of many for beauty contests,” says Clifford Sorita, a sociologist for Radio Veritas. “It’s more of a passion.”

 Bro. Clifford Sorita

International beauty pageants, Miss Universe for instance, are a cohesive exercise for many Filipinos.

Miss Universe, like the boxing bouts of Manny Pacquiao, gels enemies and, to a greater extent, unites a nation. Now, that is passion.

“This kind of support for our candidates, this kind of passion comes from that sense of nationalism. It’s love for our country. That’s why many are affected by such competition,” says Sorita.

“We care for Miss Universe because it gives us a breather from our mundane lives. And for us, our candidates represent us, and our values as Filipinos, on the world stage,” says Louie Jon Sanchez, a popular culture/cultural studies scholar from the Ateneo de Manila University.

 Louie Jon Sanchez

Pamboy Pastor, a beauty queen connoisseur whose encyclopedic knowledge of beauty queens, both local and international, including their quips in the Q&A rounds and their whereabouts now, was also disappointed with the result of the 69th Miss Universe.

 Pamboy Pastor

“We are a people who love beauty. And the Filipino women are beautiful women. We are a beautiful people with dignity and honor. That’s the reason why we love beauty tilts and titles,” he says.

Sorita adds that the penchant for beauty pageants comes from a specific subsection of society.

In terms of demographics, he says, it’s women and members of the LGBTQ who are “very passionate about Miss Universe.”

“To be a beauty queen is aspirational. That passion is more about mirroring. In their hearts, they also want to be like them,” explains Sorita.  

Ang mga barakong lalake, they will be there to watch beauty pageants, to admire women, not to objectify them. The pageants have evolved because the beauty contests now are more purpose-driven. We don’t’ objectify women anymore in beauty pageants,” adds Sorita.

Pinoys are pikon?

When our bets lose in a contest, it is unavoidable for Filipinos to be pikon (sore).

I don’t think being pikon is exclusive to Filipinos. We just take our pageants seriously. We root for our candidates, we care for the pageant. It’s such an important event for many of us.

When Rabiya became an apparent TYG (Thank You, Girl or a contestant who did not advance to the semi-finals) in the tilt, many of the people I know turned sour and directed their being pikon on someone else.

Olivia Culpo, who co-hosted the Miss Universe coronation night on Monday, was an easy target.

Old wounds became fresh again when some people reprised Culpo’s upstaging of our very own Janine Tugonon in the 2012 Miss Universe.

Sorita explains the disappointment of Pinoys over Rabiya’s fate. “Sino bang hindi napipikon (Who does not get sore and onion-skinned)? Panghihinayang or disappointment is the right word. Disappointed. After all the effort you will really get disappointed. When you give your all-out support — financial, emotional — you will really get disappointed. The Filipino people even voted for Rabiya in an online poll. Yung iba nga bumibili pa sila ng voting package from Lazada.”  

Kung ikaw ay isang taong makabayan, you will be disappointed,” Sorita adds.

Pastor recalls that even contestants themselves can get pikon in the competition.

“In the ‘70s, in an international beauty pageant, the Philippine representative came home in the middle of the competition because she felt she had no chance. She came home angry also because she was asked to dive for some watches in the pool as part of a publicity blitz for the sponsor.”

“Also, in national beauty pageants, some mothers went berserk when their daughters did not bag the title. One mother broke the trophy of her runner-up daughter after the contest. Another mom dissuaded her daughter from attending the after-party after the latter did not get the plum. I tell you, some can be pikon as pikon can be,” Pastor adds.   

For his part, Sanchez explains, “I don’t think being pikon is exclusive to Filipinos. We just take our pageants seriously. We root for our candidates, we care for the pageant. It’s such an important event for many of us.”

Babawi tayo

Many Filipinos may be sore losers when it comes to the Miss Universe contest, but they eventually come to accept that not all contests are won.

In time — overnight for many, maybe a week for some — the wounds are licked until they are healed.

“We get over our losses easily because there are other concerns to confront,” says Sanchez.

Babawi tayo. Isang araw o isang lingo lamang yang disappointment. Malapit na ang Miss Universe 2021. It’s not the number of times that we fall that matters but the number of times that we rise when we fall that matters,” says Sorita.

I agree. Ready your false eyelashes. Babawi tayo.