Wednesday, August 3, 2011

False Hope Becomes Real Hope

After many years of discontent, Joyce (Rolly) receives news from boyfriend in Korea he is willing to pay for airfare to leave the Philippines, however, there is one thing getting between Rolly and the actualized dream of leaving the Philippines and being reunited with her boyfriend once again.  It has been over seven years since Rolly last departed the Philippines; Rolly's passport is reaching the end of its validity and must be renewed.  The actuallized dream is postponed for yet another two weeks. After recovering from surgeries, Bunay will visit Joyce and new boyfriend in Korea marking the beginning of a new chapter in the story of the Amazing Azarcon Sisters.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Japan Quake Sends Shock Waves Throughout the Pacific Rim: Family Threatened

Chicano Family Picture
Rolly (Joyce) and family suffer from repercussions of the Japan earthquake. The recent catastrophe sends shock waves throughout the Pacific Rim as Bunay is stricken ill, and remains incapacitated in a Tokyo hospital. Bunay’s invalid condition causes concern in the Olongapo community.  The proprietor of an Olongapo City beauty salon, Bunay’s iconic status seemingly changes into one of martyrdom.  Their most reliable life line for survival begins to wane as one of the world’s most stable economies faces the aftermath of the worst tragedy in over sixty years.  A month has elapsed since the Chicano family last received aid from eldest sibling, Bunay.  Family members pool together limited resources to come to aide of Joyce’s ailing mother.   Joyce summons the assistance from a list of online contacts.  Via online messenger, Joyce simultaneously presses the keyboards control and G keys triggering a buzzing sound signifying a cry for help.   Discouraged, Joyce leaves the status, “I hate this world,” visible for everyone to see but  few online contacts offer assistance.

Problems mount exponentially. Past-due utility bills build. Joyce struggles to maintain contact with loved ones abroad as shut-off deadlines soon approach.  Joyce discovers black & blue marks scattered throughout the posterior of her silicon-implant-enhanced breasts.  Questions arise of the epistemology of Bunay and Joyce’s present condition.  Every opportunity comes at a premium.  Has the immortal aestheticism they strived for belied them?  Are they paying price in exchange for what they easily attained through the allure of beauty?

Joyce puts everything into perspective, pondering the future.  Twenty-six-year-old Joyce lingers muddled in self-doubt, fearing she may have reached the September Song of her illustrious career on the Philippine pageant circuit. After contemplating putting an end to her life, Joyce’s suicidal thoughts turn life affirming. Despite health concerns, Joyce begins to see what may be the twilight of his beauty-queen career not as an end, but start of a new career; potentially, past appearances in nationally-televised pageants such as the Amazing Philippine Beauties Pageant  render Joyce a ringing endorsement for various products in the Philippines thriving cosmetics industry. 

Surprisingly, much akin to professional sports in the west, the international pageant circuit receives much publicity from Philippine mainstream media and a cross section of society.  Texts with virtually real-time pageant updates flow across television screens during regularly- scheduled programing to keep viewers informed on recent developments of contestants such as 2010 Miss Universe contestant Venus Raj.   Joyce's local sports-star-like status as an Amazing Philippines Beauties contestant  may become invaluable asset in her future endeavors in the beauty and fashion industry.             

Friday, March 25, 2011

I'm Miss World: Olongapo City Beauty Queen Sisterhood

How far can someone advance in society based solely on looks? Traditionally, males value physical appearance above all.  Men, regardless of sexual orientation, search endlessly for the perfect mate.  Age, education, religion and social status are often important factors in choosing a mate, but men, overtaken by lust or love, in a lapse of reasoning, put physical appearance atop their list, while females wait pensively for men to adore them. Pictures of female figures printed in the pages of a magazine set unattainable beauty standards for most women. Wishfully, women perceive them as mirror images of themselves. 

If truth exists to a picture saying a thousand words, women typically read pictures of models in publications such as Vanity Fair, Vogue and Allure as detailed trade-book instructions on how to be “beautiful”.  They analyze each pixel – each article of clothing. They represent a puzzle piece – the missing link to the perfect ensemble ready to be bought, sold, worn, and tossed out as next season’s rags. “It is the clothes that make the man,” is a phrase more commonly uttered than clothing “making” the woman. Ironically, popular men’s magazines – Playboy, Esquire, and Maxim – sparsely feature male models promoting the latest fashions amid pages filled with text and femme fatale images imbued in glamour.  Male slaves of fashion represent a debutantes’ caricature. Men who believe that someone can never become too fashion conscious and define themselves by designer labels fall into the category of camp or the updated metrosexual.  “They appreciate the finer things,” cosmopolitan females comment. For women, they are seldom a lover, a husband, a boyfriend, but a best friend; they are “less threatening” with fashion plans for everyone, but none to rule the world.  In western society a man among common men is ostracized - or to lesser extent, affectionately teased for detail to style. Male’s outward preoccupation with the dress on a woman instead of the body it covers insights suspicion in many social circles.  His sexual orientation goes before a jury of peers. 

Functionality, mechanics, strength, and prowess are words synonymous with the male mystique. For men, boundaries for fashion are well-defined. Men who attempt to broaden fashion’s parameters often fail miserably. Fashion for men remains a bland black & white three-piece world allowing little variation. It is not inasmuch the clothing for men, but their ability to compete in one-style-fits-all attire. Men dressing out of the ordinary are rarely taken seriously for pushing styles’ envelop. Power-driven American males brought up with the American football philosophy, “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” would reluctantly accept an award honoring the “best dressed” or “best looking,” for taking such a title intimidates the male bravado.  Like winning a losing race, it is a trite, self-defeating distinction, lacking selfless heroism relegated to uniformed men.    

In regions in the world where there is limited opportunity for males to attain a much needed monetary surplus, many children are raised fatherless, left in their mother’s and immediate family member’s custody.  In the global economy of the twenty-first century, outsourcing of jobs has extended beyond the factories and into service-oriented call center settings. Males roles in traditionally patriarchal societies are compromised as foreign demand for female workers grow. Preconceptions women have better dexterity for manufacturing and data entry, or voices suitable for customer service positions of the world’s developing economies leave men disadvantaged in the workforce.  Unlike many western countries where the so-called glass ceiling is believed to exist for women, in underdeveloped countries, men remain disadvantaged.  Woman are empowered over males and given the opportunity to begin a small business or pursue a university education.

In countries such as the Philippines under constant rebuilding process following successions of natural disasters, establishing stable economic infrastructure remains a reoccurring struggle. Unstable socioeconomic foundation limits career paths.  A traditionally male-dominated society is turned upside down as female figures are not only admired for beauty and child rearing, but their ability to support family and workforce viability. Compared with Filipinos, Filipinas have an edge in the world’s mainstream and underground economy.  Filipinas of all socioeconomic and educational backgrounds have greater opportunity to emigrate in pursuit of more affluent lifestyles.  Several enter industrialized countries such as Canada, the United States and Great Britain backed with university degrees in nursing and vocational training as caregivers while others circumvent prerequisites, achieving residency and/or citizenship status through marriage. Although the opportunity exists for men of underdeveloped countries to gain citizenship abroad through marriage, immigrant males lacking a formal education and financial stability often face discrimination; often, they are viewed unmarriageable.

A decade after World War II former veteran George William Jorgensen became the world’s first renowned male-to-female transgender.  She received much notoriety for undergoing a seemingly unprecedented regimen of hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery.  Jorgensen’s metamorphosis led to instant success and international acclaim.  We who are Sexy (1962), a film released in the Philippines featured the most comprehensive footage of Jorgensen’s performances at a Manila nightclub. A former US GI, the fare-skinned, Scandinavian-American Jorgenson embodied American femininity. Jorgensen’s persona combined the contrasting feminine mystique of US popular culture with American post-WWII imperialism.    

Shoved away into obscurity, the 1962 limited release features male figures posing in the guise of entities with feminine attributes in the absence of an American paternal figure. A household of young males fill the void of their father’s masculine role of provider through becoming feminine solely through appearance to lure paternalistic American imperial interests. Working as sex workers and/or in other female-dominated positions, the sons support their mother through suppressing male characteristics, accentuating feminine attributes. The film suggests America’s pervading socioeconomic influence on Filipino culture. 

Placing highly in the Philippines’ most prestigious beauty pageants, Joyce Azarcon is Olongapo City’s most fabulous beauty queen. Reminiscent of Hollywood starlets from bygone eras, Joyce walks along the city’s poverty-stricken streets dressed in the sharpest fashions, representing a stark contrast to surrounding canvass-and-scrap-metal-draped tenements. Joyce’s surreal femininity baffles westerners.  On a crowded city street, Joyce’s presence seldom goes undetected. 

Like most boys, Rolly grew up playing volleyball and other sports on the Subic Bay shores where he established fraternal ties that would forever shape the rest of his life. Demonstrating his athletic prowess, Rolly assimilated with male peers. On the beach Rolly first met Maccoy.  Although they played on the same turf, the two were worlds apart. While Rolly attended private school, Maccoy attended a nearby public school. Over time, they became close friends.  He enjoyed typical afterschool “boy” activities, however, he identified with his sisters and older brother, a female impersonator.  At home, Rolly and family gathered around  the television for an internationally-televised broadcast of the Miss Universe pageant hoping Miss Philippines would be crowned the next Miss Universe. The pageantry of the event inspired Rolly as much as any sporting event. Neighborhood boys aspired to become championship boxers or star basketball players; Rolly aspired to become Joyce Azarcon: Beauty Queen.

As most teens, Rolly underwent drastic changes.  With his sponsor’s help, Joyce’s metamorphous to burgeoning beauty took place. Rolly started his hormone regimen, combining regularly-prescribed birth control medication Diane-35 with Tusia and pigment lightening medications for fairer complexion.  Unlike most woman blessed with femininity from birth, she faced potential health risks. Macko’s obsession for femininity caused her hormonal intake to reach uncontrollable levels, causing rapid liver deterioration. Hormones combined with habitual drinking led to her subsequent death.  Her premature death was a grim reminder of the extreme price of beauty.   

Rolly sought guidance from older brother, “Bunay”.   From sibling to sibling, Bunay handed down the art of female impersonation.  As a child, Rolly observed Bunay’s nightly male-to-female transformation.  Bunay took Rolly backstage, demonstrating his labor-intensive beauty techniques. Bunay’s assistants would gather around, making finishing touches, measuring him from head to toe, preparing Bunay to be fitted and adorned in elegant couture. Before show time, club lights dissipated to pitch black. Bunay would wait patiently on stage, virtually lifeless, until a constant beam of light from above showered down. The distant light shining past the audience encircled her.  With arms extended as if to embrace it, he bloomed under the photosynthetic energy that radiated through his pores, as if he lived for the spotlight.  Seeing Bunay under the lights dazzled Rolly. From Monroe to Madonna, Rolly watched his brother’s renditions of standards made famous by renowned divas of the stage and screen. Transfixed by the club’s ambiance, Rolly’s mind drifted from hardships of daily life to a door opened to limitless opportunities. Watching Bunay’s  breathtaking performances, Rolly believed if she could live up to her older sibling, she would someday escape the impoverished life his family led.

Hard work was necessary for Bunay to make his dreams become reality.  After countless auditions, Bunay was selected out of several performers for a spot at one of Manila’s premier night clubs.  After countless rehearsals and many sleepless nights, Bunay began to receive notoriety.   Bunay had enough money for visa and airfare to Japan.  Bunay called regularly, telling his family of his new-found life.  Fascinated by stories of metropolitan life in Tokyo, Rolly was determined to see for himself, and make the voyage northward.  Rolly accepted Bunay’s invitation to Japan.  Finally, with his brother’s assistance, teen-aged Rolly experienced a slice of life within the economic superpower. 

After traveling many miles, Rolly realized brother and mentor Bunay had achieved financial success since leaving the Philippines over a decade ago. He was married and became the proprietor of a Shinjuku area nightclub.  Bunay introduced Rolly to his new Japanese spouse. Born female, her appearance and demeanor starkly contrasted Bunay’s femininity. Bunay and his spouse spent days together as man and woman, as woman and man. In a purely aesthetic sense, images of them represented a snapshot of a picture-perfect marriage, but under the surface there was an unexposed negative.  Bunay lived a life hardly a housewife’s dream.  Despite his matronly appearance, he lifted the heavy burden, assuming the traditionally male role of bread winner for his spouse, for family members abroad; inescapably, Bunay was the patriarch husband and his Japanese partner was his matriarch wife.      

Returning to the Philippines, Rolly continued entering beauty pageants. In Samaal Battan what once was nothing more than a boyhood friendship turned into an improbable romance.  For the first time in Rolly’s young life, she believed true love was possible. After nearly a decade apart, unexpectedly, Maccoy entered her life once again. At Rolly’s twentieth birthday party Maccoy joined Rolly’s circle of friends. His elusive soulmate quest seemed to have ended. Rolly dreamed of the day Maccoy introduced Rolly as “future daughter in-law.” Every night Rolly depended on Maccoy beside him. 

"Adam is for Eve; Adam is not for Steve."

During the year and three months spent living together, Rolly suspected Maccoy’s inability to consummate their relationship. Though Maccoy’s family accepted Joyce with open arms, inevitably, their relationship ended within a year. Occasionally, she sees Maccoy with his wife carrying their child.  When she sees them together, vicariously, she lives the life she envisioned from afar. Disenchanted, Rolly recites lyrics from a popular song with a twist: “I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough,” Rolly reflects, “why, because I am not a girl; man-to-man relationship will not last because man is for woman, and woman is for man. Adam is for Eve; Adam is not for Steve.”

Despite the hardships of isolation, Rolly finds solace earning respect from the Olongapo community through placing highly in contests, such as the 2007 Amazing Philippines Beauties Pageant, a nationally-televised event.  Recent success has allowed Rolly to form a “sisterhood” known in the Olongapo community as "the Azarcons".

Raymond “Rain” Chicano trails in Bunay and Rolly's  footsteps. Like his eldest siblings, he participates in the pageant circuit behind - and in the forefront - of the scenes.  Even though Raymond’s ties are distant, Rolly’s role remains strongly influential. Raymond remembers watching the beginning of Rolly’s beauty queen career. Since seeing thirteen-year-old Rolly walk the stage as an up-and-coming beauty queen, Raymond idolized his on-stage presence. “She is very nice but sometimes very moody.” Raymond says of his elder sibling. “Even though we are not that close she always helps me in my problems especially when I’m joining beauty pageants,” Raymond says of Rolly’s ardent support. According to Raymond, success in competitions affords many opportunities abroad. “We have many competitions here – especially for young gays - that is to train young gays so that they can join another [other] pageant[s] in other countries like Thailand [and] Japan.” 

Bunay funded Raymond’s education at a leading Manila fashion institute.  He contributes to Rolly’s success as Rolly’s tailor and fashion consultant.  Raymond shows a sketch book displaying  etchings of evening gowns and other creations.  Raymond pulls out a set of filipinatas custom-made for Rolly. “For you to know filipinatas is [are] the famous costume for women here in the Philippines,” Raymond says of the elaborate brightly-colored shoulder sleeves he designed, accessorizing Rolly’s evening gown.  
Gerald, Rolly’s long-time friend worked together as models. As with Rolly countless men from all over the world from a distance had an insatiable fascination with Gerald’s aura of femininity glowing brightly, from server to server onto their computer screen.  Powder Gerald applied strategically to his skin gave a soft-white irradiating effect from the dimensions of his on-screen image under the lighting of an undisclosed room he worked in regularly.  His candescent-white complexion entranced viewers.    Hypnotized by his radiance, men overzealously mistook infatuation for love. Words such as love and marry turned meaningless.  Bold words used loosely desensitized Gerald, diminishing his hopes of finding a man as bold as his words.

A close friend of Rolly, Gerald “Gheng” Perigrino “Azarcon,” age 22, started entering beauty pageants at the age of 14. “I entered my first beauty pageant and won,” Garald says of his instant success. Through internet correspondence Gerald met a Japanese national. After two years together, Gerald’s boyfriend decided to fund Gerald’s business venture. When asked about where Gerald saw himself ten years from now, he laughingly replies, “a successful business woman."     

The Filipino economy relies heavily on remittance from abroad. Families depend on emigrant workers to send money from countries such as Japan. Often, remittance from abroad makes the nation’s economy flow. Many gather at Western Union branches for benefits unemployment offices cannot provide. Many reap the rewards the internet has to offer. Many benefit from remittance payments from overseas, making beauty a shortcut to economic stability.  The slightest imperfection could cost their livelihood. 

"It's not about winning or losing; it's how you play the game."
“Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. It’s not about winning or losing; it’s how you play the game,” Athena says.  “My real name is Xavier, but people call me Athena, goddess of wisdom and war.”  He sits beside a computer in a home outside Olongapo. 22 years old, she takes a break from corresponding over the computer to share her feelings about life and relationships. Early in life she had to make the decision if he wanted to remain a crossdresser or full-fledged transgender. She saw the effects of her family living in poverty and figured she would be the one to save them.  She’s been “played in the past” Athena admits, however, she is confident she will find a lasting relationship. She’s been living with a man under the same roof for over two years. Xavier has undergone a series of collagen for breast augmentation and other parts of her body but has yet to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. 

Christopher “Kit” Flores grew up in the Subic Bay area. He has known Joyce since attending university. Chistopher contends she and Joyce are part of an exclusive clan which includes Rolly, Gerald and a host of others.  Christopher attended University on a tennis scholarship. She studied Social Science and passed with “flying colors" . In the past, Christopher worked as a tennis instructor but online.  He aspires to become a teacher and presently works as at Subic Bay-area call center.

 It has been over eight years since Maynard (Dada) first met Rolly. He earned the distinction of Olongopo’s Five Most-pretties Gays. As a preadolescent Maynard began taking hormones to counteract the effects of puberty.  He aspires to enter the world’s most prestigious pageants held in Thailand and the Philippines.  “Unfortunately, I don't have the money to enter these pageants," Maynard says.

"The want us to do what we can't do to do.”
Maynard (Dada) resides with immediate family and spends most his time working as a model. “They want us to do what we can’t do; they want me to poo and pee,” Meynard states. Constant sitting and contortions in front of the camera remain straining on Meynard’s back.  Maynard’s internet exposure has drawn attention from admirers abroad. “I have my fiance for almost three years,” Maynard says of her ongoing relationship started through text exchanges via the internet. According to Maynard, London’s civil partnership laws will permit marriage in the United Kingdom, making him eligible for visa status. Maynard’s fiance visited for two weeks, spending one week in Manila and an additional week with his family... 

 These are some of the individuals involved in the ambitious I'm Miss World  multimedia project.  Presently, many of the people's family and loved ones interviewed have  been adversely effected by the recent catastrophe which took place in Japan.  Intellectual and monetary contributions are welcomed for the support of those involved and project completion.