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Pageant pioneer



A Filipino, Janjep Carlos, is the reigning Mr. Gay World. Let us look back at the first Filipino Mr. Gay World winner, who raised the Philippine flag in the international pageant for gay men and inspired many.

With the gay purge in Chechnya, transgender murders all over the United States and the flip-flopping stance of the Philippine government on LGBTQ+ issues (much like the frustrating political stance of the only transgender lawmaker in the land, Geraldine Roman), the triumph in Spain of John Fernandez Raspado as Mr. Gay World came as welcome, refreshing news in 2017.

A Baguio City businessman, Raspado is the first Filipino — and non-Caucasian — to win the Mr. Gay World title. The finals were held at the Yumbo Centrum in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, with pit stops in Madrid. This event was the opening salvo of World Pride 2017, which attracted three million visitors to Madrid from 23 June to 2 July 2017.

On the Mr. Gay World Philippines Facebook page, Raspado wrote after his victory: “Maraming salamat sa mga bumubuo ng MGWP, lalong lalo na kay Wilbert Tolentino, sa laging paggabay sa aking paglalakbay sa tagumpay at sa mga tumulong sa akin sa backstage at mga kapwa ko kalahok. Lalong lalo na kay Belgium at Venezuela na aking naging kasama sa kuwarto.

(Thank you very much to MGWP, especially to Wilbert Tolentino for his constant guidance in journey to victory and for the assistance at backstage, and to my fellow contestants, especially to [Mr.] Belgium and [Mr.] Venezuela, who were my roommates)
“Sa mga kumonidad ng mga Filipino sa Espanya, sa LoveYourself Org., sa mga bumabati sa akin, kaibigan at sa [pageant camp] Kagandahang Flores. (To the Filipino community in Spain, to LoveYourself Org., to those who greeted me, friends and to the [pageant camp] Kagandahang Flores)

“Itong pagkapanalo ko ay hindi lamang sa aking pamilya at mahal sa buhay, ngunit para sa mga baklang katulad ko na may prinsipyo at layunin na pinaglalaban (My victory is not only for my family and loved ones but also for gays like me who have principles and goals they struggle for).”

IN national costume by Rocky Gathercole. Ahleks Fusilero

Heavy favorite

Days prior to the gala night, Raspado, thanks to Filipino keyboard warriors, was leading in the online vote race. He won that special award handily. He also bagged the special prizes for swimwear, formal wear, interview and social media.

Like all of our pageant reps, Raspado came fully prepared. He was mentored by Wilbert Tolentino, Mr. Gay World Philippines (MGWP) national director and our bet in 2009, and brought a wardrobe from top designers.

For his formal wear, the towering Raspado wore a classic tuxedo encrusted with jet-black Swarovski crystals, onyx stones and rich embroidery designed by pageant powerhouse favorite, Leo Almodal.

Hollywood designer Rocky Gathercole created Raspado’s national costume. It was inspired by a combination of the pre-colonial motifs and Spanish influences in the Philippines. The gold metallic headpiece symbolized the indigenous mythical demigod Sidapa, a great warrior and patron deity of homosexuals in the country. The head gear was the head of the bull (or a carabao), symbolizing a Spanish matador and the Taurus sign.

Mr. Gay Spain, Cándido Arteaga, the first runner-up, was Mr. Photogenic and Best in National Costume. Mr. Gay Belgium Raf van Puymbroeck was second runner-up. Juan Pedro Pavez, Mr. Gay Chile, won the Sports Challenge and Fashion Show. Mr. Gay New Zealand, Charley Tredway, was Mr. Friendship, while Mr. Gay Indonesia, Budi Alamsyah, won the written test.

Raspado is the ninth individual to hold the distinction of being Mr. Gay World, after Roger Gosalbez of Spain (2016), Mass Luciano of Hong Kong (replacing Klaus Burkart of Germany, 2015), Stuart Hatton of United Kingdom (2014), Christopher Michael Olwage of New Zealand (2013), Andreas Derleth of New Zealand (2012), Francois Nel of South Africa (2011), Charl Van Den Berg of South Africa (2010) and Max Krzyzanowski of Ireland (2009).

Vision, mission, mandate

On its Facebook page, Mr. Gay World Philippines states that its mission is “to modernize the image towards gay men and eradicate the stereotypes from public perception. This will bridge the gap within the people of the LGBTQI community.”

Its vision is “to continue the efforts for HIV/AIDS Early Detection Program and erase the stigma of testing and the disease. In the future, by this pageant, will use its influence to the immediate advancement of HIV/AIDS treatment and research, and use its winners to be the voice of any medical breakthrough.”

Mr. Gay World, on its website, explains that it “is an annual international competition for gay men.” It is a “twenty-first century public performance where the delegates represent their nation as the best spokesperson and embody the spirit of their nation.” It also aims to find “a worldwide ambassador and spokesperson for LGBTI rights and a role model for LGBTI youth.”

Raspado, 36, is a vocal advocate of Love Yourself Inc. (for the Youth and LGBT-MSM), a “community of volunteers that aim to reach out to others to propagate ideas, attitudes, and practices that encourage loving oneself — to dare to be oneself, to care for oneself, and to share oneself as a way to multiplying joy.”

The group, a model community of men who have sex with men (MSM), has an ongoing pioneer effort called the Love Yourself Project, which “aims to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among the youth and key affected population through awareness, counseling and education.”

The global goal

“We are very lucky to live in a city and a country where we have reached liberty and freedom with gay rights but there are many may places in the world where people are executed and punished for their sexual orientation so there is still a lot of work to be done,” Juan Carlos Alonso, the head of World Pride, said as quoted by during his welcome remarks to the delegates. “Each one of you that steps forward becomes a beacon for gay rights and for the visibility of gays and lesbians and the LGBT community, it takes a lot of guts and we thank you.”

It must be noted that unlike in Mister International or Manhunt International, which the Philippines have won in recent years, Mr. Gay World only attracts an average of 20 contestants a year. The disturbing reason, of course, is that too many countries still criminalize being gay.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association have reported that, even in this modern age, about 77 countries still practice state-sponsored homophobia.

“Mr. Gay World is an event whose purpose is the visibility of LGBT groups making inroads in those countries where there is punishment or nonacceptance,” quoted co-founder and Mr. Gay World president Eric Butter Butter at the opening ceremony. “Our job is to get these brave men (Mr. Gay World delegates) to represent their countries and normalize LGBT rights in the world.”