Goldmine Entertainment Productions
When, in January (2009), Goldmine Entertainment Productions won for the Philippines the right to host Mr. Gay International, an annual beauty competition for, yes, gay men (more akin to Manhunt International than the pervasive Miss Gay in the Philippines), it was, says Robby Tarroza, “an awakening process for me.”
“This is the first time I have come to realize that the Philippines is not so much a gay friendly country, especially when it comes to getting financial or sponsors’ support. Many companies were approached to help sponsor this event, and most have declined. We were told straight to our faces that they won’t sponsor due to the nature of the event, (and they choose not) to be associated with it,” Tarroza says. “This is very, very sad, especially since the pink spending power is very strong in our country. And yet we have no choice but to continue using their (discriminatory companies’) products or patronizing their services because we have no choice. “
Understandably, Tarroza adds, “it makes one wonder if gays should have their own brands, like cellular networks, softdrinks, beers, hard alcoholic beverages, hotels, airlines, et cetera, so then maybe one day, we will have a choice (on) what companies we should patronize and which one we shouldn’t. Sadly, until then, we simply just live with the stigma (that most companies have on our community, despite their earning from us, since) most companies in the Philippines still do not appreciate our community.”
Tarroza, incidentally, was the first Mr. Gay Philippines, and represented the country in the Mr. Gay International 2007 competition held in Palm Springs, California in the US (Tarroza, carrying the name Robert Tarroza Stewart, then 36, won Mr. Congeniality).
“This type of a pageant (showcases the) diversity in our community. We are all so used to seeing the typical Miss Gay (pageants), but this event will show that there is also a ‘masculine’ type of gay man. Not all are feminine or transgendered (no offense intended),” Tarroza says, adding that GLBTQIAs come in all shapes and sizes, and this is “one way to celebrate that diversity.”
The past winners of Mr. Gay International, which was started in 2006, became spokesmen of the gay community, “spreading the message that being gay is not a stereotype,” Tarroza says. “We are a very colorful community, (as symbolized by the rainbow flag).”
While, in a way, groundbreaking in its pushing for a newer representation of a sector of the GLBTQIA community – the gays, in particular – Mr. Gay International, says Tarroza, is in no way a social stance. “We simply just want to celebrate being gay and enjoy the festivities (of that celebration with the pageant,” he says.
Thus, even if/when it does usher in some changes at least in the concept of gay expression, change, per se, for the Filipino gay community “will happen over time. One person’s will to change is always the first step. If we all make those steps, they eventually become a mass march, a march to fight for equality,” Tarroza says.
For Tarroza, if there is one disappointing thing about the GLBTQIA community, it is that “many have a problem in just uniting. They have all divided into groups and go against each other,” he notes, adding that “the community is small and should stay together and be very supportive towards each other. Dito kasi sa Pilipinas, parang nagpapatayan. Para lang sumikat o mamuno sa community. Dapat talaga walang inggitan at magtulungan na lang.”
Still, Tarroza is inspired seeing “young gay men and women grow up to be fine, successful individuals in (our) society,” he says.
And it is this, too, that keeps Tarroza proud, aiming to “remain a proud gay Filipino man, and to just enjoy life.”
And pride is what is shown by the Philippines hosting Mr. Gay International – something the Philippines actually won over Brazil (“It was a toss between Brazil and the Philippines, and I suppose it was my convincing power and the wonderful WOW Philippine videos we have on the Internet, which probably played a key role in awarding the event to the Philippines”). “(It is a chance) to show the world that if we had the opportunity to produce it in Manila, it would clearly show that Filipinos do it best,” Tarroza says. “I want to show the gay community in the Philippines that even we can do it. So be proud to be a gay Filipino.”