A few days before the finale of Mr. Gay World 2017 pageant that is in progress in Madrid and Maspalomas, Spain, the Philippines’ envoy John Fernandez Raspado still enjoys a wide lead over his 20 other co-candidates in the official voting page of the contest.
If this trend goes on until the competition’s closing stages on May 10 (midnight of May 11, Manila time), then Mr. Gay World Philippines would not only receive the Mr. Gay Popularity crystal trophy—he’s already assured of a top 10 spot in the semifinal round.
As of this writing, Raspado is still on top of the Mr. Gay World online polls, with a 10.5-centimeter “horizontal gridline lead.” His closest competition, incidentally, is his roommate, Belgium’s Raf Van Puymbroeck, who trailed far behind with 2 centimeters. Meanwhile, Andrzej Berg of Poland and “home court gay hunk” Candido Arteaga of Spain are statistically tied at third spot, who both garnered one centimeter.
Filipinos around the world can still help John Raspado keep up in the game by clicking HERE and voting once every 24 hours until 11:59 p.m. of May 10, Wednesday (Manila time).
The global pageant for gay men established in 2009 by Eric Butter, a philanthropist from Australia, and now co-managed by Dieter Sapper from Austria, chairman of the board of Mr. Gay World directors, is again looking for a gay leader who will serve as the ears and the voice of the Mr. Gay World Organization—somebody who can inspire and empower gay men worldwide.
The competition takes place for four consecutive days, and includes photo, sports, fashion show or runway and swimwear challenges. Butter, municipality of the San Bartolome de Tirajana’s Council of Equality member Amanda Cardenes, international photographer Joan Crisol, EDDY Fundacion president Manuel Rodenas, World Pride 2017 general coordinator Juan Carlos Alonso, Austrian Federal Finance Ministry officer Andrea Nägele, and Mr. Gay World 2016 Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain comprise this year’s lineup of judges.
In the past eight years that the Philippines participated in Mr. Gay World, only Christian Reyes Lacsamana was lucky enough to almost snatch the very elusive title: He won the Mister Gay Popularity, Mister Gay Social Media and Best in National Costume special awards, and finished second runner-up to Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain. Wilbert Ting Tolentino, Mr. Gay World Philippines of 2009, is the current national director and franchise holder of Mr. Gay World in Manila.
Raspado, a 36-year-old and 6-feet-2-inch-tall entrepreneur, is engaged in online selling of health supplements. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in marketing and then acquired units in post-graduate diploma in business administration at the Saint Louis University in Baguio City. He is the youngest and the fourth child of Romulo, a retired government employee and native of Isabela, and Ma. Dolores, a former migrant worker who hails from La Union.
To prepare for the “biggest fight of his life,” he studied the videos of Mr. Gay World where his predecessors competed. Professional pageant coach Rodgil Flores of the renowned “Kagandahang Flores” beauty camp trained him months before his international assignment.
Raspado will be wearing a national costume inspired by the combination of pre-colonial and Spanish influences in the Philippines. His gold-embellished metallic head piece symbolizes the indigenous mythical demigod “Sidapa,” a great warrior and deity of the homosexuals in the country. International celebrity designer Rocky Gathercole created his Spanish matador costume which reportedly costs US$5,000, while Leo Almodal provided his formal wear for the preliminaries and finals night.
“Thank you so much guys for the ‘warm Pinoy support’. Clearly, Filipinos are the best supporters you can have [as an international pageant contestant],” Raspado said, who first achieved popularity when he became grand winner of “I Am PoGay,” a contest for handsome gay men in a noontime variety show of a major TV network three years ago.
Although he’s deemed by the pageant fans and pundits as the “winner in waiting,” if not the strongest Filipino delegate ever to compete in Mr. Gay World after Randolph Val Palma who made it to the semis in Rome, Italy, in 2014, for Raspado, neither this is the time to get lazy nor be complacent about what he can still achieve.
“I shouldn’t feel like a hero this early. Success doesn’t just happen—you need to work hard to make it happen. [And] consistency will [always] be the key in getting the victory,” he said.
Mr. Gay World Philippines might be an easy pick—a favorite even before he’s stepped into the Spanish soil—but just like Raspado, there are 20 other contestants who are also dreaming to be the next Mr. Gay World.
Here they are, in alphabetical order.
- Australia’s David Francis, 29, property developer and ambassador for StartOut Australia, a mental health nonprofit organization which develops an online mentoring program for younger members of LGBT community. He has his own YouTube channel and about 40,000 Instagram followers.
- To recover from the embarrassment that Austria had in Mr. Gay World 2015—Klaus Burkart resigned 200 days after winning the title due to “personal changes” in his life—this country in Central Europe sent another strong delegate named Miguel Pedro Dal Piaz, a 34-year-old real estate agent during weekdays and professional dancer during weekends.
- Belgium’s Raf Van Puymbroeck, 22, teaches sports education and dance at Thomas More University. He established many LGBT-related campaigns in the Belgian sports arena such as “Rainbow Laces for college students.” He even wrote a guidebook for the National Sports Organization on how to deal with transgenders, and now works with a European project called “Heroes of Football” alongside six national federations to end “football homophobia.” Raf is also the reigning Mr. Gay Europe.
- Vitor Trindade de Castro, a 27-year-old entrepreneur and self-confessed fitness fanatic from São Paulo, Brazil. Spain will always have a special place in his heart: He met his husband while vacationing in Madrid three years ago.
- Chile’s Juan Pedro Pavez Böhle, 29, an accountant and professional ballroom dancer. For him, joining Mr. Gay World is more of a commitment—something that transforms promise into a reality.
- František Pešek of Czech Republic, a 31-year-old deputy chief sales officer in a shopping and retail store in Pilsen, a city in western Bohemia. He believes that winning the Mr. Gay World title will allow him to help young gays “to come out safely.”
- Ecuador’s Flavio Romero Valdez, 27, arts major in a university, professional dancer and member of the National Ballet of Ecuador. He encourages everyone to remove barriers between people of different sexual orientations through his campaign, “My Best Friend is LGBT.”
- Joonas Nilsson of Finland, 29, obtained his restaurant degree qualification at the Turku Vocational Institute and presently works as a restaurant manager in a spa hotel.
- India’s Darshan Mandhana is a 31-year-old painter and human resource professional from Mumbai. A graduate of University of Pune, Darshan won the Mr. Gay India title on his third attempt.
- Budi Alamsyah, 29, financial services professional from Jakarta, Indonesia. He describes himself as “not perfect, but being gay is not a flaw.” Through his passion for traveling and distance running, he’s completed 37 marathons in four continents.
- Mexico’s Jorge Gonzales, also known as George Glezz, 24, is a chemical engineering senior at the Zacatecas Autonomy University. He works as a map engineer, stylist, professional makeup artist and franchise manager of French cosmetics.
- Charlie Tredway of New Zealand is a 33-year-old community outreach staffer for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. After making the courageous decision to publicly disclose his positive status on World AIDS Day in 2014, he has since dedicated his life to HIV advocacy and awareness. He even received a scholarship to attend the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.
- Poland’s Andrzej Berg, 28, a licensed chemist and works at the Faculty of Pharmacy of Gdansk Medical University.
- Jaromír Dominik Schoffer, a 40-year-old castellan or rescuer and restorer of castles and fortresses from the Slovak Republic. He considers being the eldest candidate as an asset than a liability, defining it as “youth forward.”
- South Africa’s Alexander Steyn, 35, is definitely a multifaceted person: He’s a qualified architect, actor, singer, songwriter, dancer, director, choreographer, voice over artist, painter and teacher. He’s joined Mister Gay South Africa pageant in 2011 but only emerged as first runner-up to Lance Weyer. His #loveALL advocacy addresses a range of issues, among them bullying and homophobia.
- Candido Arteaga, a 27-year-old nurse, must be hoping that lightning strikes twice for Spain. His predecessor Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga is the reigning king. If this scenario happens, this would be the second back-to-back victory in Mr. Gay World’s history—the first one was achieved by South Africans Charl van den Berg (2010) and Francois Nel (2011).
- Switzerland’s Marco Tornese, 32, team leader in a Swiss bank who can speak five different languages. It is interesting to note that his boyfriend, Mr. Gay World 2016 first runner-up Chris Krauel from Austria, served as his pageant coach-cum-mentor, and prepared him perfectly to hurdle all of the upcoming fast-track competitions.
- Touya Xia is a 22-year-old student-nurse from Taiwan. His proclamation as Mr. Gay Taiwan was held during Taipei Pride in October of last year, witnessed by 82,000 people. His country is on the verge of becoming the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage, and he wants to help in the process.
- Thailand’s Pattanajuk Vipadakul, 30, is an aesthetic doctor at a private hospital in Bangkok. Although his country’s been sending representatives to the international competition, Pattanajuk is the first-ever official Mr. Gay World Thailand titleholder.
- Alberto Jose Rodriguez Engifo, is a 31-year-old professional model and international missionary doctor from Caracas, Venezuela. When not treating acute and chronic illnesses or providing preventive care and health education to his patients, he struts high-fashion outfits on the runways.
Raspado already made an impression among his countrymen as well as pageant devotees across the globe. But will the judges make that a lasting impression by giving him the satin sash embroidered with Mr. Gay World title, which they all came to claim?