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Please help with grasping the signficance and place of beauty contests in the Philippines culture

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Posted on March 06,2014

Hello all.  Please do not take this the wrong way.  It it meant just as it sounds.  As one trying to better understand the Philippines and Filipinos (and the culture of life there), I raise this topic and ask that Filipinas here clarify this for us Kanos.   By the way, "Kano" is just any guy who looks non Filipino, right?  A "Kano" could be British, Irish, Scots, an Aussie, a Kiwi, or yes an American, right?

I think just a little examination of the Philippines soon shows (through the news, photographs in news journals, etc.) a heavy interest and importance placed on women and young women's beauty contests both inside the Philippines and in places outside the Philippines where there are many Filipinos living.  Some of these beauty contests involve very young girls.

I have even heard and read of Filipinas who think to themselves, "Oh how wonderful it might be to have a good looking Western man (of various types, not just one) combined with my Filipina genes when we make babies.  Think about how a little girl might look! One day she will compete and win beauty contest(s)!"   I smile a bit at this.   As, it is, in some ways, a compliment to the husband-to-be.  But I also smile and chuckle because this is not the first thing I think of when I think of the joys of children with a future wife.  In fact, I would not want the soap opera (much too often) like surroudings and dealings that seem to always come with beauty contests.    They can be ruthless.

If you would like to respond to this and help non Filipinos like me better understand this, thank you.   But I ask this:  If you are one who has over 100 posts here already in the Forum, hold back.  Wait.  Hold off for a bit and let those who are either newer here in the Forum or who contribute less -- give them a chance to respond first.  Let's here a bit from everyone.   Okay?

Thank you.

I do note that beauty contests held abroad for Miss Philippines are also very popular and receive notice back in the Philippines.   So these obviously have a very high cultural interest and place in societal happening.


Again, thank you.


Hi Andrew, my opinion is that beauty contests are not really in the grass roots of real Philippine culture. It might have become a mad tradition lately due to the recent titles won by Filipinas . Don’t get me wrong on this. I watch beauty pageants and rejoice when a Filipina wins.

But I don’t want to think that beauty queens are a reflection of Filipino culture. ( They are being judged based on superficial beauty and few questions). Though we are proud of them, these beauty pageants and beauty queens does not represent a way of life of the real beautiful Filipino women. Deep within a beautiful Filipina is the capacity to give and receive love, God fearing and family oriented, has wit and humor and has quality dreams.

It’s true that beauty contests are just about everywhere in the Philippines, or anywhere where Filipinos have settled in the world. I guess Filipinos just enjoy doing things where they have a chance to excel and be recognized. We tend to claim that these international “wins” gives us and our country “respect”. Again, I don’t want to think that we are just seeking attention but maybe we do.

Just because these beauty contests are held left and right, does not mean they are a Filipino tradition that we can transmit from one generation to the next, and thus develop as a vital part of our culture.

And yes, a mixture of “kano” and Filipina is an undeniably cute mestiza baby. Whatever reasons behind this is another long topic LOL...


This is just my opinion.

Hi Andrew, it's very apparent to me that you are obviously keen to learn our culture. I guess, somehow, that's a strong point of one "Kano",  knowing and understanding of our grass roots gives us the feeling of elevation. And I must first say thank you, coz in one way or another, you never fail to comprehend what's in us, that gives you a clearer and better perspective of a woman you're praying someday you'll gonna meet and hopefully end up in marriage. 

To answer your queries, YES, Filipinas are fond of beauty, because they are beautiful ladies in their own magnificent and stunning personalities.  YES, they want wonderful and perfectly beautiful baby/babies with a handsome looking Western man coz in one way or another they believe genes of Filipina and Western man are perfectly match...

But NO, these are not all the  rational that embodies the heart of a Filipina. We, as considered as the one of most gorgeous women in the world, are also epitome of PATIENCE, GENTLE CHARACTER, STRENGTH, EXCEPTIONAL and WORLD CLASS TALENTS and  of course the self sacrificial LOVE, LOYALTY and COMMITMENT...

To name a few we have Charice Pempengco whose brilliance in singing wowed Americans and even the world. Of course we have Jessica Sanchez, finalist of an American Idol, and the most recent champion in X Factor Israel Rose Fostanos whose her song "My Way" gave her the most standing ovation from judges and audience that paved her way into shining success. And of course, don't forget we have also our very own Ms. Lea Salonga who is very phenomenal as Miss Saigon and printed a mark on world's history as one of the most empowered women. 

In athletics, we also have Amanda Evora Filipino-American pair skater who became two-time (2010, 2011) U.S. silver medalists, 2012 U.S. bronze medalists and two-time (2007, 2009) U.S. pewter medalists. Note also Kyla Briana Ross an American artistic gymnast who was a member of the gold medal-winning US women's gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2013 World all-around silver medalist.Her father is of black and Japanese ancestry, and her mother is of Filipino and Puerto Rican.

Well, what am trying to say is, the crowning beauties of Filipina women all over the world, are just one side of a coin. There are many certain traits that encompasses Filipina beauty. One thing is for sure, we don't have only face value, but more than that, we have GOLDEN HEART that only true "Kano" can surpass.

Hey Andrew! I found the third paragraph of your post amusing because you took time to provide Filipino women a dialogue on how an interracial offspring is deemed in light of your subject which is the relevance of beauty contests in our culture. So I felt compelled to give my take on your post.

Whether Filipinos would admit to this or not, our culture is obsessed with the light skin color. This is evidenced by the massive variety of whitening products in the market today. If you will visit a supermarket and go to the women’s beauty products section, you will find whitening products ranging from soaps to toners to creams, etc. We always have this idea that to be fair skinned is beautiful. I really don’t know where this concept emanated but I guess it was influenced by the Spaniards who once occupied the Philippines. We call Spanish and Filipino interracial progeny “Mestizo or Mestiza”, nowadays “Tisoy or Tisay”.

Personally, irrespective if I marry a Filipino or a Foreigner, I would like to have good looking children. No matter how superficial, no one regardless of race would want fugly looking kids. The reason why Filipino women would prefer a “Kano” is because this increases the chance of having good looking offspring thus achieving our objective in that aspect as there may be other underlying factors relative to this choice.

We do take pride when Filipinas win beauty contests especially in the international arena but our society is not consumed by these contests  to make it a basis as to why Filipina’s would want to marry a Foreigner. Also, if you will notice, Filipinas who join beauty contests these days and succeed look more Asian and brown-skinned as opposed to the fair-skinned beauties we Filipinos adore.

To sum it up, our concern is just to have good looking children. It’s that simple. Should these kids eventually pursue joining a beauty contest is their decision and I believe is just coincidental if they happen to be “Tisay”. With respect to the mixture of Filipino and Foreigner genes would produce a pretty child as you’ve mentioned, it is true, proven by the numerous number of kids generated by interracial relations, married or not.

Hi Andrew,

Hmmmm your post made me think something about the old tradition in our place when I was still a child. The search for "Maria Elena" during the "Santacruzan" or "Flores de Mayo" in honor of the Virgin Mary. This usually happens during "Fiesta" of a certain town or barangay. But now a days, this practice is no longer being observed in our place, but still, during fiestas, there is this what we call search for "Miss Barangay", sometimes they call it "Muse of the Night", and the search is base on money and popularity contest. Money collected during the contest is intended for a specific project to develop the place while a part of it is given also to  the candidates.

Unlike the traditional "Maria Elena" search which is based on a "float contest I think" because each candidate would ride on a vehicle decorated with beautiful flowers, the ladies wearing beautiful Filipiñana dress. :) I don't know if this pageant contest which is always a practice in almost in every locality of our country has its origin from that traditional "Maria Elena". Even in schools and universities the search for "Miss Beauty and Brain" is the most awaited part of every school activity during intramurals and School Foundations. The winning candicate will be recommended sooner for a higher division of the search, and if they are lucky enough, they would even reach upto the national level. 

So partly, for me,  I can say, yes. Beauty contest is  an integral part of our culture already. 

Ladies, thank you for the replies so far.  If there is one aspect of this Forum that I would immediately seek to improve it would be the ability to visually see the thread replies as one types a reply.   So please bear with me; I am trying to recall the good points that you all have made above, respond to some of them, and offer a few more of my observations and thoughts.  You've actually said it all in your replies, but, reading what you wrote now, triggers in me these thoughts below.

Yes, I am trying in many ways to understand the Philippines, the history, the various regions, and of course, most importantly, the people themselves. As I do this, scanning the various online news feeds from the Philippines and in communities of Filipinos abroad, yes, it just jumps out after only a few months of reading and skimming the available media:  In no other culture that I have witnessed to date (Warning:  My full knowledge of the world is still very limited), I see no other culture that places such emphasis and frequency on beauty contests.

One such huge beauty contest nationwide in Scandinavia is Miss Phillpines Norway, held every year now in Oslo I do believe. This event gets a lot of media splash. I think it is the same for the one in Copenhagen.   Stockholm too?   (How do Filipina ladies do that?  Living way up north like that with the long, long winters and so very little light and sunshine?)  These places are their homes now.  They are not just longer stay visitors.

Now, on the one hand, yes, in my (yes) biased opinion, it is easy to see that Filipino women are truly beautiful ;)    (Alas, I wish I had grown up there...I would already be happily married for sure ;)   But, on the other hand as I see these "contests," I will immediately say that the most frequent pop culture versions of beauty contests rarely seem to be much of a fit for our Christian lives.  I am appalled that the world now has no qualms about the bikini and skimpy dress (hardly garments at all) phases of these elaborate multi-event presentations at the provincial, regional, national, inernational and, I guess, galactical levels.

I wish it was simply Miss Barangay or Miss _______ (fill in nice town name) where it is a young woman who simply is a nice, bright, smiling, cheerful face and representative of all the good aspects of a town or district.  Perhaps all of these "contests" started out that way, more innocent, less emphasis on the raw sex appeal that now seems to be the gorilla dominating all aspects of all things pop culture.

I once stopped in a town that did it this way.  It was a cold autum day, a Saturday. All of the contestants were outside on a modified town park stage. All were wearing long coats, ladylike gloves and some form of boots. Stylish boots, I suppose, but boots nonetheless. The only part of their bodies not covered were their heads though the wind gusts might have made headwear prudent. The winner's title?  Something like "Miss Harvest Festival Princess."  Her role, once winning the title, was to aid the town and region's efforts at showcasing the many agricultural products, promoting literacy for at-risk children, aiding sign-up for volunteer workers at the town's hospital, promoting the monthly blood donor and clothing drives, and helping light the town Christmas tree as the final act in her four month short reign.


Unlike this very quaint but delightful rural small town late August beauty contest, what I find most bothersome about the beauty contests that dominate the media, the web, and get the focus:

1.  How young these contests start. Tiny girls with mothers, older sisters, aunts, neighbors, and fathers? egging them on, going to great troubles to make the outfits, get the shoes, and start these little girls and young teens in gobs of makeup and other chemicals for hair, etc. For me this is grotesque in the extreme.

2. The commerical aspects of it all. Sex sells.  (And "sexy" is a world offered as a descriptive compliment by even older women in the Philppines when describing these young girls?  I am asking.  I have read this several times and heard it on the homemade YouTube-like videos that these "proud mothers and aunts" post to share with total strangers.)  The obvious commercial angle is just all about the money.  If big money can be made, then moral thoughts are wholly unwelcome.

3. No shame.  It used to be that everyone wouldn't openly speak their thoughts.  Today?  Nothing verbally is off limits. So TV presenters, commentators, famous athletes, writers, viewers, celebrities, mayors, policiticians and the common man all have no shame in saying "Oh! She's hot.... I'd really like to....."   These beauty contest both feed this and are a manifestation of it.   Openly and so audibly lusting is okay? This is our modern day norm of adult behavior?

4. The unmistakeable (and tough to fight) message to everyone that hair, skin, body tone, muscles, no fat, good cheekbones, only the in-style clothes, absolutely necessary boogie dance step poise, eyebrows trimmed just right, the right sized feet, and whatever else are what life is all about.  Are we as Christians losing this fight?  (Don't even Christian "pop artists" now look just the same in their fame as their worldly music counterparts?)

5. As one like Lovely points out above and in her well written profile on this site, these contests never focus on the real, the genuine beauty.  As Christians know beauty reflects on the outside when the soul belongs to Jesus.  Real beauty does not need a hairstylist, a cosmetics counselor, lots of money for the makeovers &  maintenace, and 9+ hours in the fitness studio or gym each week.   Real beauty only comes from walking with Jesus and doing His will in our lives.


Real beauty can only come from real joy.  The only real joy is living for Him.

Where I am Christians just don't much think about, know about, recognize and certainly don't think to participate in anything like a beauty (or handsome, I suppose) contest.  It is not because the Christians here are wholly withdrawn from the world and society, it is just that these secular glam events celebrating all the wrong things are the antithesis of who we believe we are to be as God's children.  They are now perverted celebrations of lust, envy, just all the wrong elements.


Please, I am not picking on the Philippines or Filipino ways.  Trust me, all I have to do is pass by a magazine stand or watch the endless 24/7 gossip TV (I don't) to see the mirey pit my culture wallows in.  Here we have allegedly Christian women  as both current and former contestants now shamelessly admitting to undergoing plastic surgeries, enhancements, taking drugs, dangerous diet pills, using the tanning beds and everything else from A-Z to win at all costs.  I raise this topic here in the Forum as I  want to understand your world, your thoughts, the Philippines and how Christian Filipinos see all of this.  As I say, here Christians have backed away from all of this as it is the antithesis of who we are.  

But there in the Philippines?  I want to know, to understand.  Because truthfully I see true things to admire there in those many islands - as I slowly try to get acquainted with it all.  I hope that the so heavy-handed worldly aspects and tactics of unashamed secular humanism (Satan's evil) as evidenced by events like the modern day beauty contests cannot continue to invade and trash what appears to me to be a more wholesome, traditional, less wordly culture in the Philippines outside the big cities.

So maybe the media picture of the emphasis on beauty contests in the Philippines is a bit distorted?  Distorted in that it is something that the big cites like Cebu, Davao, and Manila glamorize, while the bulk of the people away from these cities are, yes, aware of these happenings, but, don't much engage or like them?

Or is it a bit like here where beauty contests are the realm of the non Christians, with Christians keeping their distance and wondering how we can better try to influence those lost to these worldly pursuits?

Sorry that I have written too much above. I offer these as my thoughts.  I wish to thank you who have responded and, I hope, welcome more as each here shares perspectives and insights.   Again, thank you.

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