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Are pageants truly empowering ofws in HK?

05 April 2019

By Angeline Bastawan

The Philippine Consulate in Hongkong recently issued a statement to stop organizers from conducting beauty pageants after photos of nearly naked ramping DHs circulating on social media caught the attention of concerned netizens.

This statement resulted to speculations, disputes and heated arguments between organizers and commenters, surveys, and even silent protests.

We can see however, that the trend is still going on despite strong opposition of the Philippine Consulate and some Women’s right advocates. As a matter of fact, there were more than five pageants already conducted within the first two weeks of January this year.

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The question on whether these pageants truly make a difference in one woman’s life remains to be answered.

To explain why these back to back events raised that question, we need to elaborate the factors involved in this matter.

Firstly, anyone, with or without a registered organization can conduct such event, be it a fun event, a ramp for a cause, or simply fundraising. They come up with many different titles which are not reflective of their theme, style and purposes. Only a few organizers understand the true essence of a beauty pageant.


Some of the judges are OFWs alike whose only qualification is winning or joining a pageant, the organizers themselves, or sometimes friends of organizers who happen to be friends of the candidates as well.

There is no screening on the candidates. Anyone can join. Smokers and drunkards are no exception. Women, married or single with western boyfriends are the favorites.

In most cases, joining these pageants come with a price. Candidates rely on ticket selling, sponsorship, allowance cutting, or the worst, bank loans to finance their material needs for the contest.

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The most anticipated parts of every pageant which is the Q@A as well as the talent portion are being dropped off the categories for the fear of organizers to dissuade candidates from joining.

Some may ask why are these such a big issue when we are only OFWs and the events are just for limited audiences.

In this time where technology is at it0’s peak, nothing can escape the eyes of an observer.


We probably have heard questions from spectators or we ourselves may ask; What will these women do after the pageant? Will it change their lives significantly? Does the title they are competing for reflect their moral characters? Do they portray the kind of women we believe as good examples? Do they inspire us? Do they serve as role models?

As history progresses, world pageants are no longer made to showcase just the physical attributes of women but also their talent, intelligence, and social contributions or awareness. These are also good as fundraising events. In fact one of the prestigious world pageants recently concluded raised millions of money for a Cancer Charity Mission and Educational programs for the less fortunate. In the Filipino community in HK, however, this becomes an income generating industry for many.

Winners are expected to become an ambassador of goodwill, therefore one must possess a charitable heart to begin with. They are also perceived as women of dignity and high moral standards. They become advocates of women empowerment instead of degradation and disgrace.

To our dismay, these expectations are not in the minds of some of the organizers. After and even during the events, some candidates can be seen smoking and drinking alcohol at the backstage or on the corners of the events ground. The organizers, the judges and the candidates will later on come together for a victory party and the highlights will be food, drinks and more drinks. Moral norms do not see this as a beautiful sight especially in events that’s claimed to be for charitable purposes.

The Philippine Consulate also do not have any concrete plan or move to check whether the claimed causes are real or just made up. One can easily run away with the funds because no external auditors are getting involved in this matter. As a personal opinion, we may as well adapt the policies in the Philippines concerning events organisation, because these women are
not to be used as a source of income for others while they gain nothing from it.

The aim to boost self confidence is in question. As we see more women believing that they are beautiful regardless of their size, height, skin color, and facial appearance, some of these women in the pageantry world will develop arrogance instead.

Winners only have the crown and title but not the promise that comes with it to withhold the duty of a beauty queen to become an inspiration and a role model. After the events, these women will go back to their own normal OFW life not with a single plan to carry out any social obligation to help the community because organizers fail to include their duties and the possibilities to recommend the winners to some institutions. They just wait for their time to turn the crown over to the next winner.

Some will end up in debt as they struggle to stay beautiful and acceptable in their newfound society, to the extent of setting aside their obligations for their family.

Women empowerment on the other hand generally means to positively influence others to develop their hidden talents, expand their knowledge and learn new skills, believe in their own beauty and uniqueness, enhance their personal traits and use all of these in an acceptable manner to improve their own lives and to contribute to the betterment of a community.


This article was written by Angeline Bastawan, who aspires to become a regular contributor to The SUN. She is 38 years old and  has been in HK for 10 years. Angeline studied Mass Communications at the University of the Cordilleras(formerly known as Baguio Colleges Foundation). She is now joining EmpowerU for knowledge enhancement.


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