Only two countries achieved a back-to-back victory in Mr. Gay World pageant’s entire history: South Africa’s Charl van den Berg (2010) and Francois Nel (2011), as well as Andreas Derleth (2012) and Christopher Olwage (2013) of New Zealand. But these records might change soon, should lady luck smile on our very own Gleeko Esguerra Magpoc.
If his name doesn’t ring a bell among Filipino pageant aficionados, that’s because Magpoc was never a candidate of past Mr. Gay World Philippines editions. He volunteered to wear the country’s satin sash in this international contest established by Australia-based philanthropist Eric Butter. Now on its 10th year, Mr. Gay World “strives to be a mentor in grooming gay leaders that will advance LGBT human rights” in their respective nations and across the globe.
No local search or casting call was conducted this year as Wilbert Tolentino, Mr. Gay World Philippines of 2009, decided to let go the country’s exclusive license of Mr. Gay World in July last year. Under Tolentino’s helm, Christian Reyes Lacsamana became the first Filipino delegate to enter the top five round and emerged second runner-up to Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain in 2016; while John Fernandez Raspado became the country’s first-ever Mr. Gay World, and the first Asian to win the title.
“I learned that the Philippines didn’t have any representative, so I contacted the admin [of Mr. Gay World Ltd.] and followed the procedures. I thought of representing my country to continue supporting the LGBT community,” Magpoc said, in an online interview with Outrage Magazine before he left for South Africa for his much-awaited global mission. “This is my first pageant… I want to continue spreading awareness to show that we are here to support those who feel depressed and oppressed.” He is a 28-year-old restaurant service crew who migrated to Stockholm, Sweden after getting married to Amitabh Das, an Indian national, back in October 2015.
He is hoping that lightning will strike twice because Raspado conquered Spain last year. But tons of his kababayans in Manila believe otherwise: Gleeko Magpoc would probably go down in the annals of the pageant history as the most bashed Filipino candidate in Mr. Gay World.
As soon as his photos and profile video on You Tube were uploaded in the “Delegates 2018” subsection of Mr. Gay World’s official website, and after Tolentino made a public post via Facebook, reiterating his resignation as the country director and license holder of Mr. Gay World, saying “that the current representative volunteered to compete. He was not appointed and never involved with the MGWPO. He has never undergone pageant training with us. He was never connected with the organization or with me personally. The Mr. Gay World itself accepted him with open arms and we need to respect them. I hope I have answered all your queries,” Magpoc’s online ordeal began.
A multitude of Facebook users flooded the comments section of Tolentino’s post, expressing their disappointment with the Mr. Gay World Ltd., questioning Magpoc’s qualifications, suggesting that Mr. Gay World Philippines 2016 first runner-up Bench Ortiz should be the one sent to South Africa, etc. The cyber mob and the day-to-day bullying that remains under-reported, has reached pageant-related Facebook groups as of this writing.
Raspado already stepped up on cyberspace to defend Magpoc: “I admire this person, because he took responsibility when nobody else can… he qualified as an independent… and I feel for this person because of all the bashing and critics, same critics I received when I was still starting. He faces a big struggle ahead, but let us by any means support him… as a Filipino and as an LGBT advocate.”
Igor Scheurkogel, Mr. Gay World chairman of the board of directors, reaffirmed their stand that they made the decision to include Magpoc in this year’s lineup of candidates since there was no national competition held in the Philippines this year. “And after multiple and extensive outreach (sic) to the old directors of MGWPH to indicate a candidate or any leads, we had no options. [And] because I’m not from the Philippines I do not have the networks to select a person. [And] therefore, if there is a person willing to represent and paid all the license fees and other costs, we [as Mr. Gay World Organization], are willing to work with the person. Also, if a person is willing to represent our LGBT community, we all should consider that he possibly has a good motive and doesn’t need a lot of pageant ‘training’. For now, it’s up to the Philippines to support the delegate and show national pride. If he wins, he would need support.”
GETTING TO KNOW GLEEKO
But Magpoc is someone who chooses to let things bother him. “They are not so destructive,” he laughed. “I’m aware of some [criticisms], but not all. I don’t have time to read so many things which I personally believe are not worthy… Bashers are everywhere no matter who you are. You just have to accept the reality and then move on. I learned from Buddhism to let go.”
He added that “Mr. Gay World is not a beauty pageant. The main reason why it is held annually since its inception in 2009 is to identify leaders who will be speaking out for equal and human rights in a global stage. The acceptance of LGBTQI+ identities is one of its missions.”
Born on August 5, 1999 in Manila, Gleeko is the fourth among the five children of Celso de Guzman Magpoc Jr., a native of Bataan, and the former Charibell Gaon who hails from Pasay City. Both of his parents already passed away.
“I am not so sure about the origin of my name, but according to my mother she just changed the spelling [of Glico to Gleeko], whom she said is a friend of my father. However, I learned that glico in Greek means ‘sugar’ [which happened to be sweet],” he said.
He’s an undergraduate of Japanese studies program at the University of Manila. “For almost nine years, I have worked as a bilingual call center agent [Spanish/English] in the Philippines. “I easily learn languages… I love to learn languages. I tried learning Russian and recently, I started learning Arabic. I also love swimming. It’s my form of exercise and relaxation.”
To prepare, he studied YouTube videos of previous Mr. Gay World pageants. “I would love to meet him [John Raspado] in Knysna. He is [of course] an epitome of the LGBTQI+ community. I [just] watched the previous pageant in Maspalomas [via YouTube], so I could learn from him and the others. I also tried to see the other Mr. Gay World pageants from before.”
Magpoc admitted he is pressured to secure a consecutive win for the Philippines in Mr. Gay World. “I would be lying if I say I’m not. There is pressure but it’s a good one because it pushes me to do the very best I can.”
MEET THE FRONTRUNNERS
Gleeko will be facing a tough competition in becoming the third Mr. Gay World winner crowned by a compatriot. He and 20 other gay ambassadors will be judged in the following activities: sports challenge, photo shoot, written test, personal interview, social responsibility campaign, social media task, online vote, quality and content of video presentation, swimwear, formal wear and national costume.
Here are 12 delegates who will make him compete harder:
- Winning Australia’s first Mr. Gay Word title is the best birthday gift that Jordan Paul Bruno could ever receive. He will be turning 26 come finals night. The economics and finance alumnus at the Curtin University in Perth is a celebrity chef and he wants to grow his LGBTI cooking school and release a range of cookbooks, with all proceeds going to LGBTI charities.
- Jaimie Deblieck of Belgium, at 19 years old, is the youngest participant. A high school student blessed with an angelic face, he survived an anti-gay assault while going home from a night out in his hometown of Roeselare last February. He considers his young age an advantage in the competition, as he can reach out to teenagers. He’s collaborated with government agencies in coming up with a pro-diversity charter, signed and supported by some of the biggest companies and brands in his country.
- Chile’s René Alfredo Rivera Lizana, 30, pursued his bachelor’s degree in physical education at the University of the Sea. A staunch advocate of homo-parental adoption, he dreams of becoming a good father in the future. He believes that “having gay parents is better than having no parents at all—that a child’s greatest need is not necessarily to have two parents, but to be cared for in a godly, nurturing way and to have godly role models.”
- Miguel Ángel Rodríguez Castro of Costa Rica is a 30-year-old administrative officer for a private company. He obtained his diploma in business administration at the National Technical University. His goal of fighting for his community became a reality after earning the right to represent his country in Mr. Gay World, and he aspires to “be a leader of union, progress and equality, where there is a place for everybody.”
- India’s Samarpan Maiti, 30, works as a senior research fellow in the field of cancer drug discovery from a reputable institute in Kolkata. He is currently completing his PhD in biochemistry. He wants to help the underprivileged members of the LGBT community who are lagging behind, as well as the uneducated people who live in slums in urban areas. He is a rare combination of good looks and brains—an icon of social and sexual inclusiveness in a populous nation that is still struggling to legally accept homosexuality.
- Erick Jafeth López Pérez of Mexico spearheads a campaign, entitled “We Are The Same,” focused on “struggle for equality and equity of human rights.” At 39, he is the eldest Mr. Gay World candidate. He’s an industrial engineer, entrepreneur and professional model who believes, “There are no reasons and justifications that should prevent us from being who we are.”
- Nepal’s Manindra Singh Danuwar, 29, completed his degrees in social work and psychology at the Triton International College in Kathmandu. He works as a field supervisor and management information system officer for Blue Diamond Society. He helps the organization in coming up with activities that strengthen communities such as promoting good sexual health, psycho-social counseling, raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, documenting human rights violations, etc., among cultural minorities.
- Ricky Devine White is a 36-year-old certified life coach, registered personal trainer and group fitness instructor. If he becomes New Zealand’s third Mr. Gay World winner, he would take his tenure to a new direction by encouraging the LGBT international community to live a healthier lifestyle, get into sports and other regular physical activities that are good for the mind, body and spirit.
- Portugal’s first envoy to Mr. Gay World is João Pedro Carvalho Goncalves de Oliveira. He is a 38-year-old reporter and editor for Enlacegay, an LGBT media company based in Madrid. He obtained his diploma in languages and Portuguese literature at the Escola Secundária José Afonso Loures. He is also the presenter of “Star Chef Gay,” a TV and Internet program that revolutionizes cooking contests.
- Being first runner-up isn’t bad at all. Take the case of Karabo Morake, who placed second to Juan Pinnick in the Mr. Gay World Southern Africa contest last September. Fast forward to April, the latter was forced to withdraw because he underwent a knee operation and was deemed unfit to participate in the rigorous challenges that have been lined up for the candidates. Morake, 27, completed his practical legal training at the University of Cape Town and works as an international relations legal executive manager for a law firm.
- Ricardo Tacoronto Castro, 28, might give Spain its second harvest of a Mr. Gay World crown. Deemed as the “most handsome homosexual” in his country at the moment, he owes his sculpted physique to his work as a soldier in Cartagena. This Navy corporal confessed that his co-workers were the first ones to know he was gay before his family, and that “the army is much more open than people think.” He would like to win in order to “continue fighting for rights and achieve the normalization of homosexuality.”
- Pakkarapong Khuaikoen of Thailand, 22, is a junior art communications major at the Nation University. “Toy,” his nickname, enjoys being in front of the camera. He is a budding actor, runway model and an advocate for bullying prevention policies in academic institutions. He encourages school administrators to facilitate discussions or after-school activities about gay prejudice.
Completing Mr. Gay World 2018’s roster are Canada’s Philippe Laurin, Lukáš Grečko of Czech and Slovak Republic, Finland’s Rami Joel Kiiskinen, Enrique Doleschy of Germany, Japan’s Shogo Kemmoku, Mduduzi Dlamini of Swaziland, Taiwan’s Po-Hung Chen, and Kyle Haggerty of the United States.
Gleeko Magpoc’s haters and critics still have enough time to convert their protests into online votes so he can possibly make the cut, by registering at http://www.mrgayworld.com/register-2/ and voting once every 24 hours until 6 p.m. of May 26 (Manila time).
It takes a lot of courage on his part to endure the pain of cyber bullying. He can hide the tears of sorrow in his eyes, but not in his heart. We just don’t know how many times he’s cried before sleeping at night whenever he reminisces how his countrymen humiliate him online, as the global search draws near. It may really sound cliché, but Magpoc’s bashers will never feel any better if the only thing they know is make him suffer. He doesn’t deserve to feel worthless at this point.
The 10th Mr. Gay World pageant will take place at the Villa Castolini Hotel in Knysna, South Africa, and will be streamed live through the organization’s official Facebook page and YouTube channel on May 27, 12 a.m. (Manila time).