Philippine women join contests in hopes of better life

Philippine women join contests in hopes of better life
BEAUTIFUL: Pageant contestant Janicel Lubina was talent spotted by a make-up artist and now earns enough to support her family and father’s medical treatment.

As a child, she waded in muddy rice paddies in the Philippine.

Now, teenager Janicel Lubina struts down runways for the country's top designers and is hoping to be crowned one of the world's most beautiful women.

Miss Lubina, 19, is a star recruit in one of Manila's beauty pageant boot camps, where shy, lanky teenage girls from remote farming provinces are transformed into poised Barbie dolls who can preach about world peace in six-inch heels.

Beauty pageants are very popular with women in the Philippines, with many taking part in the hopes that it will lead to luxury living, success in high fashion and movie stardom.

"My mother was a maid. I can't be a maid forever and get stuck in the province," Miss Lubina told AFP before she auditioned for this year's Binibining Pilipinas (Miss Philippines) contest.

Miss Lubina mastered what is dubbed the "duck walk" at the Kagandahang Flores (Beauty of the Flower) training camp in Manila, where students are taught to perfect their beauty queen strut by swinging their hips from side to side like ducks.

Towering at 1.83m in heels, the raven-haired woman hopes to represent the country at the Miss Universe pageant, which has a huge following in the Philippines.

But Miss Lubina's camera-ready smile fades when she talks about her struggles back home in Palawan province, where she worked as a maid like her mother, while her father was recovering from a mild stroke.

"One time, I mopped floors for an entire day and my boss made me do it all over again because she didn't like my work," she said.

Miss Lubina was discovered by a local make-up artist while she was out on an errand, walking on a dirt road. The beautician was amazed by her towering frame, she said.

She won 3,000 pesos (S$95) in her first pageant three years ago and has never looked back. Her earnings have been enough to support her family and pay for stroke treatment for her father.

1985 Miss Philippines Joyce Burton-Titular felt that pageants are huge in the country because Filipinos love to ogle and criticise glamorous women.

Pageants could also present an opportunity to escape from poverty.

She said: "Pageants these days are a great equaliser because you can come from the poorest of the poor and still win. In our country, pageants are empowering."

This article was first published on March 13, 2015.
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