By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A progressive women’s group parodied the Miss Universe pageant to show the real condition of Filipino women, which they said sharply contrasts against the glitter and glitz of the upcoming beauty contest to be held in Manila on Jan. 30.
In a press conference on Monday, Jan. 23, Gabriela presented Miss ENDOnasya, Miss Demolition Republic, Miss No Land, Miss Eskwela Lumpoor and Miss Saudi ArabYaya — the contestants of “Miss Neolibers Reality Pageant.”
Joms Salvador, Gabriela Alliance of Women secretary general, said it is saddening that the pageant hides the real condition women, majority of whom continue to suffer from neoliberal policies, such as contractualization, landlessness, forced labor migration among others.
Unlike the glamorous evening gowns of Miss Universe contestants, Miss Neolibers “contestants” were dressed in simple clothes.
Miss Saudi ArabYaya (“Yaya” or nanny) wears and apron and carries a big travelling bag, as she represents the thousands of Filipino women leaving the country to work abroad as a nanny or house maid. Gabriela described her as “an international beauty queen who toils in the toilet bowls of royal households at palaging na ta-traffic, or a victim of human trafficking.”
Miss ENDOnasya (She is already “endo”) wears the uniform of a saleslady in one of the biggest department stores in the Philippines, as she slams the continuing contractualization of labor and the failure of the Department of Labor to abolish “endo” (short for “end of contract”).
Miss No Land represents landless women farmers, and decries land grabbing. Miss Escuela Lumpoor depicts poor students who struggle with the rising cost of commercialized education. Miss Demolition Republic depicts mothers in urban poor communities who are being driven out of their homes by demolition.
The Miss Neolibers also wore sashes with their calls to “junk neoliberal policies,” implement genuine agrarian reform, observe housing as social service, and education as a right.
“While the Miss Universe corporate sponsors continue to rake in profits from behind a beauty contest, we call attention to the reality of neoliberal economy, an even larger global competition that renders billions of women and children slaves to hunger, suffering, and war in the Philippines and other exploited countries,” said Salvador.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus, meanwhile, said that women are still being victimized by sexist bullying, rape, harassment, gendered wage inequality, and deprived of proper health services.
“Despite the pomp and supposed celebration of women power surrounding the 65th Miss Universe pageant, women here and abroad remain in their unglamorous and exploited state,” she said in a statement.
De Jesus cited that 22 women and children are raped every day in the Philippines, while women migrant workers continue to suffer in slave-like jobs abroad, with some dying in mysterious circumstances.
Millions of funds for the beauty pageant does not benefit poor
Salvador questioned the funds used for the events being held in different parts of the country prior to the pageant itself on Jan. 30. She said they received reports that millions of funds are used by the local governments to fund the event covering the expenses, such as for laborers, cleaners, food.
She said such funds could have been allocated for services for women and children.
“In a poor country where there are many poor families, local governments are spending millions in this kind of event which does not benefit the poor majority,” she told Bulatlat in an interview.
Challenge to Duterte
Salvador challenged President Rodrigo Duterte to sign the Comprehensive Agreement for Social and Economic Reform (CASER) being tackled now in the third round of peace talks between government and the National Democratic Front. She said this agreement will benefit the majority of the Filipino people and will address landlessness, contractualization, forced labor migration and others.
“The agreement is our only blueprint to build our own independent economy that can negate the poverty-generating influences of neoliberalism,” she said.
“If Duterte will insist in maintaining neoliberal policies that are friendly either to the US or China, women will be sure to lose whatever remains of already insecure livelihood and development opportunities,” Salvador added.