The Miss Universe Philippines Organization crowned its inaugural court on Sunday in a strictly physical distancing ceremony. Minted during the pandemic, the Gen Z queens put their personal struggles front and center, hoping that by working on themselves first, they will be able to inspire a new generation of pageant fans.
The queens of the 2020s talked about depression, gender violence, and in the case of the winner, Iloilo's Rabiya Mateo, how she was raised by her single parent mother without thinking of their situation as a handicap. There was no mention of world peace.
Pageants will always have critics who will see it as objectifying women. But there have been steps towards political correctness, however slow. Some contests have ditched the swimsuit round and Miss Universe has put a premium on public speaking over catwalk skills. And in the Philippines, it is an escape from poverty for the contestants and a spectacle for the public on the same level as basketball and boxing.
FROM THE SUMMIT NETWORK:
PREVIEW.PH: Here's Why Miss Cavite Billie Hakenson Is Trending on the Internet
PEP.PH: Rabiya Mateo of Iloilo City crowned as Miss Universe Philippines 2020
Cavite's Billie Hakenson, who placed fifth (fourth runner up), stated matter of factly that in her panel interview that she is bisexual. That's it. It did not define her journey.
"I was a survivor of gender-based abuse and without knowing it, maybe so are you. I am not here to just be a voice, I am here to amplify voices because we will not be silenced by fear anymore. We are here to be empowered by truth," said the flight attendant, the only candidate with short hair.
Hakenson trended on Twitter for speaking out about politics during the final question round. She was asked to give advice to a first time voter. "We have fought long and hard for our right to suffrage, and this is not something that we should waste. For us to be able to complain, and be able to appreciate the things that we have as Filipino citizens, we have to vote, we have to participate in selecting our leaders," she said.
When beauty queens quoted from Mother Teresa and Indira Gandhi, Paranaque's Bela Ysmael, said she was inspired by the cult reality TV show "Ru Paul's Drag Race."
"When I discovered the show Ru Paul's Drag Race, I actually took a lot of inspiration in finding who I am and being proud of exactly who I am," said Ysmael, a ballerina and niece of the Philippines' second Miss Universe, 1973 titleholder Margie Moran Floirendo.
"What I see in the drag queens, they find their story from their experiences, they take it and they just make it the most interesting way they can," said Ysmael, who placed second (first runner up).
Like Ru Paul's Drag Race, multiple endings of the show were taped on Saturday before they were streamed and broadcast on TV the following day. There were leaks that showed the crown worn by Hakenson, second runner-up Michele Gumabao and third runner-up Pauline Amelincx.