Even as a kid, in primary school, Norbz, 23, was already into pageantry – “escort-escort sa intramurals (I was a male escort during our school’s intramural),” he said. It was during college (in Oriental Mindoro) that he became a “competitor”. “Nilaban ako sa Mr. Acquaintance, and then sa Mr. Foundation sa school (They made me compete in our school’s Mr. Acquaintance, and then Mr. Foundation pageants),” he said. He placed second runner up in the former, while failing to place in the latter. But it was at that moment that he realized he is into pageants. “Tumaas confidence ko sa aking sarili. Na kahit guwapo ang aking kalaban, kaya pala (My confidence got a boost. That even if my competitors are better looking, I can compete with them).’
Norbz eventually ended in Manila. His mother, who’s in Antipolo, promised to send him to school should he move from Oriental Mindoro to where she was. But “nung andito na ako sa Manila, yung pinangako niya, di natupad. So yung ginawa ko na lang, nag-start na ako mag-work (when I was already in Manila, she broke her promise. So what I did was just to start working),” Norbz said.
At that time, when he was already working, “galing ako work (coming from work)”, he came across people with costumes, assumed to be on the way to some beauty contests/competitions/pageants. His curiosity was piqued, and “naisip ko, gusto ko maging ganun – maging kilala, maging sikat sa pamamagitan ng pageants (I thought, I want to be like them – to be famous, to be known through pageants).”
The first relatively big pageant he joined was “I am PoGay Pilipinas” in Pasay City in February 2016. He had a GC (group chat – or an informal group formed via Facebook) that encouraged him to join after he became that group’s title holder; they encouraged him to join a barangay level competition. He placed fifth runner-up. “Sobrang saya. First time ko sumali sa malakihan (I was so happy. It was the first time I joined a big competition).”
Joining didn’t cost Norbz any. He had a friend who makes costumes. “Ang nangyari lang, sa prize, hati kami (What happened was we divided the prize between us).”
Since then, he has joined “a lot of pageants.” He knows of these pageants from Facebook, or from friends who update him about pageants. Some are big (P15,000 prize), while others are small (P3,000 prize). Some with 18 contestants; others with up to 8.
And even now, the costs remains low. “Siguro sa transportation at registration lang; pero sa gamit, wala (Maybe just for transportation and registration; but not in the costs for costumes).”
The biggest prize thus far reached P3,000, which – he said – isn’t all that bad considering he had minimal costs and just “modeled anyway”.
An even bigger “prize” is the “addiction” with pageantry. “Nakakasalamuha mo ang ibang tao, marami ka nakikilala (You encounter other people, you get to know others),” he said. “Masaya siya (It is joyous).”
Competing is challenging when there are candidates “na mas may itsura sa iyo, mas matalino sa iyo (who look better than you, or are more intelligent than you).” To face these, “lakas lang ng loob. Huwag pairalin ang takot (you just have to have a strong resolve. Don’t let fear paralyze you).”
His family doesn’t know he joins pageants; for that matter, “hindi nila alam na ganito ako (they don’t know I’m a member of the LGBT community),” he said. “Natatakot din ako na malaman nila pero hinahanda ko na ang sarili ko sa mga maaring mangyari (I also worry that they’ll find out but I’ve been preparing myself to what may happen).”
Norbz is in a relationship now, and his partner isn’t all that supportive with his joining pageants. Or – more aptly – the partner doesn’t want Norbz to be “under” any handlers; he wants to handle Norbz himself. Norbz doesn’t mind this, as it could mean him being “independent” from these handlers.
Norbz recognizes that not everyone is pro-beauty pageant. But he said he respects their opinion.
But one thing is sure: Norbz isn’t stopping joining pageants “until manawa ako (until I get fed up with joining pageants),” he said. “Siguro pag nandoon na ako sa stage na ang gusto mangyari ay focus na lang sa buhay, di na iisipin ang puro gala/lakwatsa (Maybe when I reach that stage when I want to just want to focus on life, I won’t think of moving around).”
To those who are considering becoming “beauconera”, “huwag paapekto sa negative things na sinasabi ng tao. Magkaroon ng confidence na kaya mong sabayan ang ibang contesera para makuha nila ang dream nilang maging pageantera (don’t get affected by the negative things that people say. Be confident that you can be at par with other contestants to reach your dream of becoming a pageant regular),” Norbz ended.