Miss Philippines Earth: Veiled in controversy

Carousel Productions’ preliminary swimsuit judging for Miss Philippines Earth 2017 was held on June 22 at the Oakwood Premier Joy-Nostalg Center. During the preliminaries, the candidates’ faces were covered with black veils, which drew mixed reactions from fans. Below is contributor Voltaire Tayag’s opinion on the issue.

I was able to watch the competition through their official Facebook page, where a video entitled “Preliminary Judging: Figure and Form” was posted. It was very creepy and disturbing to watch the 40 contestants parading in identical 2-piece swimsuits with their faces covered with black veils.

The black veil was totally inappropriate and sends the wrong message about women. The pageant justified their gimmick by alluding to the fact that only “figure and form” was being judged. Unfortunately, this gimmick objectified women by emphasizing to the viewing public to simply look at the body of the candidate.

It was totally degrading to women. It disregarded the women’s confidence and their personalites, as they couldn’t interact with the audience and the camera. That’s where a woman’s strength lies. Her ability to command attention because she is a confident woman who is proud of her body, and the hard work and discipline it took to get that body.

Certainly, no one from Carousel Productions meant to offend anyone with this or to have the pageant involved in another controversy. But the fact is, it did. It boggles my mind that such an idea was approved, meaning that many people thought it was proper. 

The pageant probably felt that this was a harmless gimmick that would create buzz and set itself apart from other pageants. But that’s where the problem lies, it was a gimmick that had nothing to do with the pageant’s core identity. It disregarded the good that the pageant possessed – its amazing candidates.

What do you tell young children when they see these images of a woman’s face covered while she was wearing a swimsuit? Do you say, “Oh honey, we covered her face so we can judge her body?” What if the candidates’ little sisters or brothers were watching this? Doesn’t it tell them it is all right to outrightly objectify women’s bodies and ignore their charming personalities and beautiful smiles?

What message are you giving the audience and the judges? That they aren’t capable of judging a swimsuit competition so they took the liberty of covering the women’s faces to make it easier?

Sure, there will be other competitions in the pageant that will highlight the other aspects of the candidates. If we follow the logic (if we can even call it that) of isolating the part that is being judged, then wouldn’t it be appropriate to put the candidates behind a curtain with a microphone during the question and answer portion?

If their intelligence is being judged, judges completely disregard their demeanor – how their faces light up when they giggle or smile, how they gracefully move their heads to flip their hair, how they clasp their hands in prayer to express sincerity, how they open up their arms to the audience as if to welcome them or thank them.

Just as most other pageants are moving away from the stereotypical, myopic, outdated relics of pageant norms by crowning nuclear scientists, women of change, and being diverse and inclusive of all types, Miss Philippines Earth has unknowingly taken several steps back.

Maybe it’s a good thing that this happened as early as now and that it was not introduced at the international pageant, Miss Earth. This certainly would have caused national embarrassment and humiliation if delegates from other nations were made to cover their faces for the swimsuit competition.

It is my hope that this will be the first and final attempt at a damaging gimmick. I believe that the best way to bring the spark to Miss Philippines Earth and Miss Earth, is to have a competition format that pageant aficionados of the 1980s came to love. The eloborate opening numbers with candidates wearing identical dresses, candidates introducing themselves wearing costumes, and the semifinalists having a lot of screentime. That isn’t done by other international pageants and it is something that pageant fans are looking for.

With the multitude of pageants around the world, Carousel has been able to differentiate itself through its advocacy. The past winners have served as ambassadors of environmental protection campaigns in the country. Miss Philippines Earth winners have consistently placed in Miss Earth since its inception in 2001. We have 3 amazing and beautiful Miss Earth winners: Karla Henry in 2008, Jamie Herrell in 2014, and Angelia Ong in 2015.

I have always rooted for the success of the Miss Earth and Miss Philippines Earth pageants, as they are homegrown pageants. But the pageant’s integrity is in question when they resort to cheap gimmicks. To build a reputable, respectable, and well-loved beauty pageant, Miss Philippines Earth must stay true to its core advocacy and continue crowning outstanding women.

This article originally appeared in Rappler.
All photos courtesy of Rappler unless otherwise indicated.

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