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I sat the other night as chairman of the board of judges in a search for the five prettiest gays here in Puerto Princesa. It was my good friend Bianca (one of the prettiest gays I’ve ever set my eyes on so far) who called and invited me to be one, I can’t say no.

Bianca, when I was taking my oath as national vice president of the JCI Palawan Region last October in Cebu, was the one patient enough to stand up and take my pictures where some of my Peacock Jaycees friends have failed. How can I say no to her?

I’ve never sat as a judge in a gay pageant before, that’s why when I got to the Baywalk on the night of December 11, I was anxious to talk to someone to brief me on the criteria for judging. The call time was 7:30 p.m., but when I got there, the City Government was still showing Storm Chasers, a 1998 film about a widowed storm chaser sent to Chicago to investigate a destructive tornado.

I thought I was at the wrong place. Where did they say the pageant would be held? There were only a few people I saw at the Baywalk watching the film. I had to laugh at the thought. Had they shown a Fernando Poe or a Robin Padilla (famous Philippine action stars) film, there’d be more people standing and watching.

Since there’s still no one to help obliterate my anxiety, I just took out my camera and document scenes that captured my interest. I’m still mesmerized by the giant Christmas tree and its 10,000 lights so I got more pictures of it. I was just disappointed that when I downloaded the content of my camera, there’s only one shot that I like. The rest were all blurred.

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I had more than 20 shots in my camera, but this one’s the only picture worth posting. The rest can’t be anything but useless.

Deciding that I’ve been waiting a bit long enough, I moved my attention to my mobile phone supposedly to call Bianca and inquire if I went to the right venue. I never got to calling her because as if on cue, I saw Joel, another gay friend, who was too happy to inform me about what I was expected to do.

Joel and I haven’t bonded in a long time. He’s an entertainment radio host and writer for Bandillo ng Palawan, another weekly newspaper where I used to work before. Here in my town, if you want to know the juiciest details about the lives of popular personalities, you only have to look for him to know.

He co-manages too an art cafe called Lorq’s (pronounced as Lora’s), a fast-rising watering hole for the yuppies in Puerto Princesa, located near the airport. Some of Joel’s business partners are known media personalities in this city.

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Lorq’s at night. I took this picture during my first visit in the place, when I attended the meeting of the Oil Jaycees. It was rustic; perfect venue for small birthday celebrations and meetings.

The gay pageant started around 9:00 in the evening. The board of judges which I chaired was composed of Louie Oliva, owner of Kalui Restaurant; Yolly Parker-Dixon, my good friend who is married to China-based Brit Geoffrey; Jinky Peneyra, wife of lawyer Bobby Peneyra and also a former beauty queen; and two others whose names I missed getting.

There were 15 candidates; I must say all of them were pretty in their swimsuits and evening gowns and they’re pretty young. The youngest was 17, I think. They walked and did the ramp with the grace of real female models. Yolly, sitting beside me, commented that they’re even elegant and poised than her.

There was a crowd of people that has gathered behind me from where I was sitting. I can hear some of them making very, very unfriendly banters about the gay contestants, I was annoyed I almost retorted back that if they don’t have anything good to say, they should just go home and forget they went to the Baywalk.

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You’ll find this lovely corner at my friend Louie Oliva’s “Kalui Restaurant” located along Rizal Avenue, near the airport. This place used to have books, books, books, lots of books. Believe it or not, this started as a small crude shack of a place. But these days, it’s a must-go-to dining place in Puerto Princesa. It’s even popular than some of Palawan’s natural wonders.

I see nothing wrong in the gay pageant. They’re human beings too, they deserve respect. Not just “some” respect. I have many gay friends here in Puerto Princesa; most of them are really talented make-up artists, stage directors, dancers, singers, stand up comedians, owners of restaurants (like Louie who owns Kalui), beauty parlors, grocery stores, etcetera. Some of them live really simple and quietly lives, contrary to notions that they’re loud and they’re a disruption to the order of the community.

Some of our fundraising events in the Peacock Jaycees enjoyed the support of my gay friends, and for that, I am thankful and I respect them more than those whom I know have the capability and ability to help but still denied to give out of passing impulses.

I wish people will have more heart to accept them for who they are and what they can do to help; not hate them because of what they are.

Too bad I don’t have pictures from the pageant to show here. I have to ask for copies from Bianca because I forgot all about my camera when I was already on the table with the other judges.

It was fun — three cheers for Bianca for doing a good job! Although we were delayed, the moment the pageant started, it moved on and on without interruption. We ended before 12 midnight.

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