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.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Manager - Global Leisure Business

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in their fiel...

    Investigo: Senior Finance Analyst - Global Leisure Business

    £45000 - £52000 per annum + bonus+bens : Investigo: My client, a global leader...

    Investigo: Financial reporting Accountant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: One of the fastest growing g...

    Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luton – £25k

    25,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luto...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?