Making our marks in the world

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak - The Philippine Star

It’s been said that Filipinos are world class. I take this to mean that we are the type of people with enough skills and know-how and talent to be able to make it no matter what part of the world we find ourselves in and no matter who surrounds us. It’s something we tell our children and something we hope to instill in them so that they know they are not bound by the sunny shores of the Philippines in which to set their dreams.

Over the past few years, I’ve come to fully see the statement truly fulfilled. Not only do Filipinos succeed in almost all avenues they choose to pursue abroad, but we have made the world a much smaller place by going out and conquering all sorts of industries abroad including medicine, nursing, entertainment, media, and so much more. We’ve proven time and again that our citizens are not only good on our soil but are truly world class.

This last weekend, we’ve only added yet another feather to our cap with the win of our best to Miss World 2013 — Megan Young, the Filipina-American from Olongapo who bagged the coveted crown and title at the Miss World 2013 pageant held in Bali, Indonesia over the weekend. Exciting times, indeed. This is the first time the Philippines has won the Miss World title having won Miss Universe twice, the Miss International four times, Miss Earth once and Miss Supranational once. This title has seen the Philippines win in every beauty pageant across the board.

While we should be proud and happy for the new Miss World, it’s also interesting to note the tumultuous road she took to get there. First of all, the Miss World 2013 pageant itself was not without it’s share of problems this year. Well, let’s face it, beauty pageants in general have had their fair share of criticism. Miss World is no exception. Since it began in 1951 there have been those who say it is a sexist contest and has faced criticisms from women’s rights movements. This is just par for the course.

This year, however, there was exceptionally more protesting coming in from the very country where the organizers chose to hold the pageant itself. Indonesia, and specifically, Jakarta where the pageant was first slated to be held, is a predominantly Muslim city and they immediately took offense to all the skin the contestants showed while in the pageant. The event had to deal with protests from day one and security threats as well plus something that came to be known as ‘World Muslimah,’ which was dubbed ‘Islam’s answer to Miss World.’

Personally, I think Julia Morley has handled all her criticisms with grace and patience. The grace, I dare say, she might expect from any of her pageant participants. In this “modern world” more and more people tend to say these beauty pageants focus on the wrong aspects of a woman – namely how she looks. Plus the age-old love-it-or-hate-it bikini/bathing suit competition that was seen as just another way for women to be objectified. Morley has known she has to adjust to the times and has since removed the bikini competition since she took over the pageant, making it an optional “beach wear” segment instead. In the end, she says the importance of these pageants lay in their philanthropic side. They are a venue for women from all over the world to let their voices be heard and to share their concerns on how to make the world a better place.

As for the continued protests in Jakarta about the pageant, the team handled all the bad press in stride and was not fazed. However, when security threats heightened they realized they need not push the issue and opted to transfer the event to Hindu-dominated Bali instead. This was a good call because in Bali the event was able to go off without a hitch.

That was not the only obstacle our Miss World faced on her road to the crown though. The talented Megan Young has appeared as a television actress and host in the entertainment industry and is no stranger to most of the younger Filipino set. She was born to an American dad in the United States but moved to the Philippines when she was ten years old and, has since, made a name for herself in the country. According to the news, she has had a passion for pageants and therefore it came as no surprise when she competed in the Miss World pageant here to earn the right to represent the Philippines. When she won, many were excited because we knew we had a good strong chance of winning it all.

However, not everyone was happy with the outcome. While Miss World the organization dealt with drama in Indonesia, we also had our share of drama over Young’s win. There was news of detractors trying to get her disqualified from the competition simply because they did not like her or thought she did not deserve to win. There were detractors here who sent letters to the pageant organizers saying that Young should be disqualified because she broke the pageant rules of not appearing nude in any publication, movie, photos. Photos of her shoot for men’s magazine Rogue were soon online and people were questioning whether or not she would be disqualified.

I find this very sad. Granted, others may have had their own bets in the pageant held in Manila to find our Miss World, at the end of the day, Young worked hard and won fair and square and instead of trying to get her disqualified, we should have all supported her as she went on to represent the Philippines. Though it has not been confirmed, sources say that those who sent in those photos and complaints were from the Philippines.

Fortunately, the pageant organizers were not swayed and she was not disqualified. Young did exceptionally well in the pre-pageant contests bagging Top Model, fourth place in the Multimedia challenge, and fifth place in the Beach Beauty contest. She was a clear contender for the title and Filipinos watched with anticipation and cheered when they announced her name at the end of the night.

But of course, winning was not even enough to end the speed bumps on this beauty queen’s journey. Unconfirmed reports state the US is not happy with Young’s win claiming she is an American-born beauty queen and essentially “taking credit” for her. A satirical news site on the Internet has joked that the US wants her to be considered a US entry as well since her father is American and she was born in the States. I’m sure the US’s official entry was quite insulted at these news pieces. And regardless of whether they are true or not, Young was entered as Miss Philippines and it’s the Philippines that should celebrate the win.

Who knew winning a beauty pageant could be so complicated. I suppose that it’s a good microcosm of many things in life. Nothing worth having comes easily, but as they say — all’s well that ends well. Congratulations to the new Miss World 2013 and to Filipinos all over the country, for showing once again that we are indeed world-class. Once we set our minds to achieve something, there is nothing that can stand in our way. Let’s enjoy this good news for a few moments and not let it get overshadowed by negativity. 


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