By Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondent

Significance of Mutya ng Davao questioned

Posted on March 08, 2016

DAVAO CITY -- Women advocates who consider the holding of beauty pageants where women are put on display as derogatory are challenging organizers and concerned groups to reveal the positive effects of these pageants to women.

Mutya ng Davao candidates during flag-raising rites at City Hall. -- Carmencita A. Carillo
“I am opposing it [local beauty pageants such as the Mutya ng Davao], even the international contests,” Mae Fe A. Templa, a known women’s rights advocate and co-convenor of FORWARD WOMEN, said in an interview.

Ms. Templa, who was lead consultant in the crafting of the Women’s Development Code of Davao, said she has not been participating in Araw ng Davao celebrations because the search for Mutya ng Dabaw is still a major part of its celebration.

“Activists I’m sure still advance this opposition. There may be mutya participants who claim to have been part of city’s growth. A chance then to investigate impact,” she said.

As lead consultant of the Code, Ms. Templa consolidated all inputs from various groups and communities of women in the city.

“Actually, the first draft of the code included the ban of beauty pageants [such as] Mutya Ng Dabaw,” Ms. Templa said.

However, she noted, too, that this was opposed by women from socio-civic clubs and even by women leaders from religious organizations because, for them, Mutya Ng Dabaw is a symbol of women’s desire to be involved in the life of the city. These groups, she said, also asserted that the Mutya has been part of the city’s tradition.

The consensus eventually was that the conduct of the Mutya Search be regulated.

“I am against all forms of Violence Against Women (VAW), commodification included,” Ms. Templa said. But the work to improve the status and position of women in Philippine society is a work in progress, she added.

Ms. Templa said women groups could best play a role in advancing the women’s movement and look into how electoral reforms could well define an agenda for women.

She said steps have been made in Davao City, in behalf of women, such as the passage of the first women code in the country in 1997 ahead of Magna Carta of Women -- a critical collaboration with the city government.

Lorna B. Mandin, officer-in-charge of the Integrated Gender and Development Division (IGDD) of the City Mayor’s Office, said organizers of the pageant are aware of the Code and have followed its guidelines.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan, for her part, said, “The beauty competition in Davao City has been handled differently. Avoiding the trap of making contestants commodities, the women must have advocacies and do not wear swimsuits.”