Dubai: A Science teacher, a barista and three sales executives. 

What do they have in common?

They were among the early birds who showed up for the screening of Filipino male pageant Man of the Philippines-Dubai, with Binibining Pilipinas International 2007 Nadia Lee Cien Shami sitting as one of the panel of judges. 

As the guys take a confident stride on stage, they hope to make the cut in the pageant that culminates in September finals in Dubai before the winner is sent to Manila, Philippines to represent the UAE in the grand finals where 60 finalists will vie for the title.

Are we close to finding the male counterpart of former Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach in the UAE?

We asked the male hopefuls why beauty pageants are a big thing among Filipinos. Here’s what they revealed:

Larry Glen Palejaro, 30, a Dubai-based primary school teacher, said it was his first time to join a beauty pageant after competing in modeling contests for so long.

With school out for the summer, Palejaro said he was able to prepare himself physically by going to the gym regularly. 

Appetite for beauty

Why are most Filipinos fixated with beauty pageants? Palejaro says it’s simply because Filipinos are innately artistic. “[We] can see a beauty pageant as a form of art,” Palejaro said.

Ric Galvez, founder of pageant website Missosology, told the media in a previous interview that it is because Filipinos are “unabashedly appreciative” of beauty, and that the liberal nation sees beauty as “empowering rather than a threat".

This is why beauty pageants are a staple among Filipinos.  Any community fiesta would be boring without it. 

Read more #Pinoy stories in UAE

Filipinos’ love for beauty pageants can be traced back to its colonial history. The Spanish introduced the Santacruzan festival where the most beautiful women, with the most handsome men as their escorts, parade through the streets in their most elaborate Filipiniana wear.

Are Filipinos obsessed with beauty?

“Obsession in a positive way, because we are proud that we are beautiful, not only physically but we also have inner beauty,” said Cristopher Valenzuela, 30, a beauty pageant regular. The Dubai-based salesman was crowned Mr. Glamour in April. 

Valenzuela said his supportive family gives him the boost he needs to join pageants. “They are always voting online. They are very proud [of me] and they always make sure people in our municipality of Navotas will vote for me,” Valenzuela said.

Filipinos are exposed to beauty contests at a young age because these pageants are simply everywhere, in every form and for every spectrum of the community: men, women, gays. There’s bound to be one in every town. International pageants are an even bigger deal. Just look at the outpouring of support for Pia Wurtzbach in the 2015 Miss Universe pageant.

The Wurtzbach effect

“Beauty pageants are very close to our heart because it’s everyone’s story. One best example is Pia Wurtzbach. She did not stop to bring the crown in three attempts. It’s a story of resilience; courage, that if you fail once, you don’t need to stop your dream. That’s why everybody loves beauty pageants,” said Ace Sagario, a Dubai-based make-up artist to pageant contestants.

Kevinson De Ocampo, a 24-year-old bartender who is a newbie to beauty contests, admits that taking a bit of the spotlight is just a bonus.

“I just want to enjoy it. I just want to be happy and have fun,” he said.

The same holds true for Chivas Regala, 26. The mobile phone salesman said he is hoping that a slice of the limelight will help him improve his confidence.

“Actually winning is not all about the money; it's not all about the prestige; it's not about the crown. Joining this competition is about attitude and personality development,” he said.

He is hoping that his participation can have a “big impact to Filipino men in Dubai; that we can lift up our kababayans”.

Casting call

Single Filipinos in the UAE, between the age of 20 to 30 with a height of at least 5’8” can join the final screening on July 27, 5pm, at Tantra Club, Fortune Hotel Karama.