Manila ready to dazzle for historic gay beauty pageant

Fifteen muscular gay men strut the stage in a whirlwind of sequins, feathers, gold and glitter while a transvestite dressed as Lady Gaga performs the American pop-star's latest hit.

The scantily clad men are vying for the crown of "Mr Gay World Philippines" and Filipino-Arab fashion designer Sherwin Abuel wins the title in a crowded suburban Manila nightclub after wowing the judges on the catwalk.

The contestants were required to compete in traditional pageant categories such as "Best in swimwear", "Best in formalwear" and "Mr Congeniality".

But the contest was also about promoting equal rights, and Abuel started his reign as Mr Gay with an expression of pride.

"Being gay is not my choice. I was born with it and I love it," said Abuel, 34, who will represent the Philippines when it becomes the first Asian country to host the annual Mr Gay World contest next year.

The Philippines is a devoutly Catholic country but Abuel said he had never faced discrimination.

Organisers of the Mr Gay World contest said this was one of the main reasons why the Philippines was chosen to host the global contest in March next year, after the first two events were held in Canada and Norway.

The vice chairman of Mr Gay World Philippines, Mac Bordallo, pointed to conservative Muslim religious values in countries such as Malaysia as reasons for not hosting the event there.

He said efforts to establish a presence in China also failed last year when police stopped them from hosting a national Mr Gay contest.

And while Bangkok may have a reputation for being Asia's most gay-friendly metropolis, Bordallo said Manila was increasingly attracting the pink tourist dollar.

"Foreigners have only known Thailand as a gay tourist destination, but this is changing", Bordallo said.

He said the Mr Gay World event was expected to bring in many more gay tourists, and organisers were already preparing packages to some of the country's best destinations such as the tropical island of Borocay.

In Manila, the gay entertainment scene has exploded over the past decade, according to Glenn Maboloc, president of the non-government organisation KRYSS, which promotes gender equality, human rights, and sexual health for the youth.

"The gay nightlife took off in the late '90s," Maboloc said.

"These days, the daily haunts have extended to massage parlors and gay bars, the type that feature men dancing half-nude on the stage.

"Comedy bars where most of the entertainers are gay or transgender have also become hugely in demand of late."

Manila also boasts a range of drag-shows, with the Moulin-Rouge-style cabaret at Club Mwah, which opened in 2004, one of the top attractions.

At Club Mwah, transexual performers in flamboyant costumes regale a mainly local audience with song and dance numbers from gay icons such as Liza Minnelli and Diana Ross.

Of the nightclubs, Bed has remained one of the most popular since opening its doors in 2003.

On a national level, there are many examples of acceptance for gay men despite opposition from the Catholic church and a macho culture in which boxing and cock-fighting are two of the male population's favourite pastimes.

The Philippines made headlines when it held the first gay pride march in Asia in 1994 and it recently became the first country in Southeast Asia to have an official gay political party.

That party - Ang Ladlad (Out of the Closet) - said it attracted more than 120,000 votes in the May national elections.

The Philippines also allows gays to serve in its armed forces.

But gay rights advocates say much more work lies ahead.

There are no anti-discrimination laws in the Philippines and same-sex relationships are not officially recognised.

An anti-discrimination bill that seeks to "prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity" was first submitted to parliament in 1999, but has never been passed.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

    £17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

    £12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

    Day In a Page

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works