Filipinos’ obsession with beauty contests seems to be at a zenith nowadays with this year’s Miss Universe contestant Rabiya Mateo put up as a national hero by legions of fawning fans. Mateo seems to have been a particular favourite of “thought leaders” of the Philippine Opposition, specifically the Yellowtard bloc (rabid supporters of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan) within it. As with most things, the Yellowtards have their eye out for any social or cultural artefact that could be politicised to further their agenda. Back in February this year, Mateo revealed some of her views on Philippine politics in an interview with beauty pageant “analyst” group Missosology (transcript follows).
If there’s going to be one aspect of being a leader that I would like to highlight, that is being honest, because all the good things will go after that. An honest leader is somebody who is just, who is humane, but most importantly he or she is accountable [for] what is happening in his or her country. So we need to look at the background of these leaders and we really need to use our minds and our hearts in doing so. Because this is going to give opportunities to our children to build a better society for their future. I hope that this 2022, Filipinos will be smarter and they will choose the best possible leaders for our country.
In the same interview, Mateo also expressed her disagreement with a statement that women are “unfit” to be president made by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. She asserted that “women are as capable as men in handling a nation”. It seems to be this statement that turned overzealous supporters of Duterte against her which, in turn, made her a postergirl for the Yellowtards. Leading the pro-Duterte camp’s campaign against Mateo was “influencer” Jam Magno who, shortly after the Missosology interview, “clapped back” at Mateo for disagreeing with the president. This didn’t help either because it further made a mountain of what wasn’t even a molehill and further polarised people over a person who will otherwise have been seen as a representative of all Filipinos.
Even then, one wonders what the big deal is. If it is a political message people want to bring to the fore — particularly one that could be spun as critical of Duterte and, as such, could be used as a point to which the Opposition could rally behind — why rely on a beauty contestant to be the messenger and on an entertainment event such as this Miss Universe contest as the sounding board? It speaks of the lack of a voice in the Opposition coming from a more average face (and body) that could appeal just as strongly but more to the intelligent head and less to the less-intelligent one. Indeed, it is interesting that the main thing the Yellowtards lament is Mateo’s failing to make it into the rounds where contestants would be subject to a question-and-answer portion — as if they were counting on this section of the contest for the chance for another anti-Duterte slogan from the Philippines to ripple across the world.
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The fact that the “competition’s infamous bikini round” (as the Daily Mail describes it) is the most-awaited part of the show reminds us of what beauty contests are really all about. The Yellowtards’ seeming inability to see the irony in their politicisation of a beauty contest points to the core from which their incoherence and confusion as a political movement emanates.
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