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Oct 29th
Home Sections Entertainment Miss Manila Pageant Provokes Debate in the Filipino-Canadian Community in Toronto
Miss Manila Pageant Provokes Debate in the Filipino-Canadian Community in Toronto PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Entertainment
Wednesday, 02 June 2010 16:21


The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Wednesday, June 2, 2010 

T he story is provoking a debate in the Filipino community of Toronto, especially as it concerns young women being wrongly depicted and young men having a grand time in their uncontrolled, fun-filled boisterousness. One organizer likens a beauty pageant to a cockfight with all its literal and pejorative meanings. To a parent, a former beauty queen herself, the cockfight metaphor was humiliating as it cheapens the candidates. One exchange of words led to another, harsher and brimming with sarcasm, and still another in what may emerge as a healthy discussion focusing on the big number of beauty contests in the local community.


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A Cockfight of a Beauty Pageant




Member, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE)

and Asian-American Journalists Association (AAJA)


T ORONTO -- A matter of taste, or lack of it? Timidity versus rowdyism?


Two women, one advocating dignity and restraint; the other, encouraging effusive, if not impertinent, conduct among the youth.


Diiferences in age and perception, an immersion in Western culture, adherence to traditional Filipino values, upbringing – they all figure in the heated discussion that surfaced this week between two well-known media figures in Toronto.


The impassioned exchanges of emails were triggered by my coverage of the Miss Manila beauty contest held on Saturday (May 29, 2010). I was there on the invitation of Tess Cusipag, managing editor of Balita newspaper, and chair of the pageant committee.


Ms. Cusipag had reacted to my story, explaining why the judges (13 in all) outnumbered the contestants (11, originally 15, she said), and why, despite the unrestrained behaviour of the young audience, the organizers are satisfied with the whole show.


I reported the event as it unfolded.


Please click the link to read the full story at: I took pictures and did some interviews. Videographer Imelda O. Suzara covered the story too and provides fresh video at this link: Miss Manila 2010 in Toronto.


"It is always like a cockfight, noisy but for us organizers, we are happy that they enjoy it," she said in an email hours after my story hit online outlets in Canada, the United States and the Philippines. "They paid $25 to watch. For students that is a lot of money so we just let them have a good time."


T he mention of the word "cockfight" was too much of an aggravation, however, for Marlou Tiro, a print and broadcast journalist with Philippine Reporter and ABS-CBN's Balitang America, whose teenaged daughter was among the eleven candidates.


After all, a cockfight evokes images of an uproarious event, gambling and uncontrolled shouting. Whereas a beauty pageant conjures a quiet pompousness about it, regal and subdued.


"I felt humiliated," she said, loudly complaining about the way the male emcee roused the audience with what she calls "fishmarket way" to enjoin them to participate.


"He sounded as if he was selling candidates like they were fish," Ms. Tiro explained. To her, it reduced the candidates to cheap wannabes while exploiting them for the financial benefit of the organizers.


Ms. Tiro knew whereof she speaks, having been a candidate herself for the Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant in Manila some years back.


That experience has given her deep background to make comparisons, particularly in the treatment of candidates by officials of the sponsoring organization.


She wrote Ms. Cusipag: "Having been a beauty title holder once, I feel disappointed that your perception of a beauty pageant is a form of a 'cockfight' entertainment. And you literally produce a 'cockfight' competition.


She continued: "I'm sorry to say, once again, I am disappointed and I will never be proud that I have been a part of it."


Ms. Tiro said she knew she would be accused of sour-graping because her daughter lost but it was important for her to voice out her concerns as a parent raising children to behave and be respectful.


"Honestly," she told Ms. Cusipag, "I was shocked by your response. I could not imagine that you tolerate such a rowdy behavior to the extent of saying that you 'encourage them' to cheer like that. As adults, we should teach our children how to treat women with respect."


My story had detailed how the youth in the audience practically took control of the proceedings at the Korean Cultural Centre in the Don Mills neighborhood in midtown Toronto. At least two big groups competed in the shrieking and yelling, which had drowned out the candidates whenever they spoke.


 "Pageants are always noisy," Ms. Cusipag clarified in an email to this reporter.


"These (the boisterous supporters) are classmates and friends of the candidates and we encourage them. That is their way of enjoying themselves and how they support their candidates. We always advise candidates to invite more people to cheer for them," she explained.


In another email to Ms. Tiro that she shared with this reporter, Ms. Cusipag stated: "Like I said, the kids have their way of having fun, it may not be acceptable to us adults and we can always interpret it differently as we come from a traditional background."


The discussion could have ended on that note except that Ms. Cusipag raised other issues, namely, immersion in Canadian culture which essentially means "Canadian experience" and views about sex.


"Sorry you feel that way, you are still in the 18th century," she remarked to Ms. Tiro, her words oozing with sarcasm. 


"Obviously you have not adjusted yourself in the Canadian way," she continued. "I can also understand that you came from UAE which was more conservative so this rowdy behaviour that you perceived in this pageant becomes unacceptable."


Ms. Tiro personally felt uncomfortable and complained about it, when one of the candidates was asked about sex. The young lady was clearly piqued but she managed to muster enough courage to blurt out an answer. In the meantime, the audience exploded in a combination of hooting, clapping, yelling and whistling.


Ms. Cusipag responded to Ms. Tiro's complaint. She said: "About the sex questions. These kids are so familiar with it now. Just notice that the government is trying to integrate sex education in the elementary level of the schooling here. What is that telling you? These kids were born here, their rowdy behaviour is their way of making fun as long as they are not hurting and not doing it in a demeaning way." # # #


PHILIPPINE VILLAGE VOICE - Redefining Community News
Currents & Breaking News

Volume 4, Issue No. 10 / News That Fears None, Views That Favor Nobody /

. . . A community service of Philippine Village Voice ( for the information and understanding of Filipinos and the diverse communities in North America . . .

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 June 2010 16:29
Comments (7)
1 Wednesday, 02 June 2010 16:37
Hello Romy,

How are you? As always, wherever you are, you never fail to come with thought provoking and insightful pieces that represent how we have evolved in the Filipino diaspora worldwide.

Can I share this story in my Facebook page? I am curious how my friends who are all over the world as well, will react to this "cockfight" of a pageant.

Have a great day.

Best regards, Jacqui
2 Wednesday, 02 June 2010 16:39
Pareng Romy,

Good story. Thanks for sharing it.

I enjoyed reading the two different views that came from Tess Cusipag and Marlou Tiro that you presented. That beauty pageant seemingly sounds like a "cockfight." to me.

But then in any kind of event of that nature where young people are the majority in the audience, it's always boisterous, lively and noisy ... well, like a cockfight. Like for instance in high school or college basketball games, or in rock concerts, or in homecoming queen events. The energy coming from those young people can be overwhelming, especially to "old people" like us. You know what I mean?

Beauty pageants are not exactly church services, where everybody, young and old alike, must behave in a "traditional way."

Jesse Jose
Seattle, WA
3 Wednesday, 02 June 2010 16:55
Pareng Jesse,

Thanks for your response. I could have interviewed you if I knew your views would add more spice to the story in the tradition, well, of the acerbic Kapeng Barako. I'm forwarding a copy of this email to our friends Tess and Marlou for their information. Best regards,

Romy Marquez
Hi Romy:

I could not restraint myself from laughing in reading your article wherein Ms. Cusipag and Ms Tiro debated about the way and the spectacle of a "cockfight" atmosphere of the recent Filipina beauty pageant in Toronto. The respective views are so opposite that maybe it would be good to put up a healthy debate on raising children in North America. Thanks a lot Romy for reporting and entertaining us down here. I expect to hear from you in the next months.

5 Wednesday, 02 June 2010 17:06
The question here is not the cheering and energetic response of the crowd.

To cheer in this kind of contest is understandable. I agree that it is not a church service.

But to incite a rowdy behavior is another thing - which the male host was doing.

In between intermission, this male host was shouting, "who will vote for no 7?" then followed by wild cheers... whistling, stomping, etc....adding, "who will vote for no 8?" I considered his behavior totally disrespectful.

What made it more disgusting was the chairman saying she even gave an extra $100.00 to the male host (who happens to be her son) "for a job well done and for entertaining the crowd". If she wants to entertain the crowd, why didn't she let her singers or dancers perform once again?

And by the way, the cheers for a rock-&-roll concert is highly different from a beauty pageant.

The main issue here is NOT to compare a beauty pageant to a cockfight entertainment because these young girls were not there to entertain the crowd. They were not there to serve as entertainers. The organizers hired entertainers and that was their job - not the job of the contestants.

The essence of a beauty pageant is a selection of a beautiful lady that embodies grace, beauty and intelligence. Having these qualities in mind, then they are looking for a respectable lady; a princess and a "dalagang Filipina" as per their website. Don't you think these ladies deserve due respect? If these young boys need to see only ladies for entertainment then there are numerous bars in town.
6 Wednesday, 02 June 2010 17:10
Dear Ms. Tiro,

All women, young and old, especially the true "Dalagang Pilipina," deserve utmost respect and admiration. BUT, in beauty contests, those Filipina BEAUTIES become "entertainment" when they show off their beauties and their bodies. That's what beauty contests are for, isn't it? The showing off how beautiful a woman is, and that includes showing off their bodies, right? To me, Ms. Tiro, that's entertainment at its best.

Now, to "incite rowdy behavior" as you said, "is another thing." I agree with that. But was the host really inciting "rowdy behavior"? What is a rowdy behavior to you in an event like this one? Whistling? Stamping their feet? Loud cheering? It seems to me, Ms. Tiro, that that was a happy, successful, joyous, fun-filled event.

Cockfight-like, perhaps, to you and many others like you. But to those people there, the young people who attended, it was clean, exhilarating fun. Their "rowdy" exuberant display of appreciation proved that.

Jesse Jose
Seattle, WA
7 Monday, 07 June 2010 09:31
All in all the pageant should've been better.
The candidates did their best, but the Emcees of the night were Horrible!
The female host was Miss Manila 2008 and while the male emcee was a nobody.
They couldn't read properly! Bad stage presents, and the "How is everyone feeling!?" line, very 2005!
These pageants are getting really bad. Please either coach or screen your candidates and rehearse. Remember practice does make perfect.
Please start a new standard.

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