The ratings are in and our episode on love, the Great Wall and kai siao garnered a whopping 1.8M views!
This was another increase from the previous week’s episode and continues CHiNOY TV’s continuing rise.
Next on the series:
“Mr. and Ms. Chinatown for me is more than a pageant…”
“…it’s really something that brings together the Chinoy community,” quips Director Paolo Valenciano, son of Mister Energy Gary V, who reprises his role as the stage and creative director of the annual Mr. and Ms. Chinatown Philippines event.
“It’s a movement,” exclaims pageant director Mikko Araneta.
“It serves as a unifying event for the Filipino-Chinese community to join together and to work together towards better business, philanthropy, cultural and artistic goals. And at the same time, we want to show the diversity of our Filipino-Chinese youth uh, to show their talents, skills, achievements in this project,” beams Wilson Agbayani, the creator of Mr. & Mr. Chinatown Philippines (MMCP).
While Mr. and Ms. Chinatown Philippines is one of the most coveted events now, it wasn’t the case in the beginning. Agbayani shares, “During our first year, way back 2013, we really found it hard to find candidates and even sponsors. That’s why we have to exert all our efforts to reach them, to tell them the real advocacy, the real objective of this pageant. As long as they are safe and they are happy to join us, then that’s it.”
That all changed in 2014.
“Our objectives was really clear for them. And because of that, they really convinced their children to join because the exposure is good, they develop their own personality and they have this capacity to tell the world, to tell the people that “Oh, I am a candidate of Ms. Chinatown” or “I’m joining Mr. and Ms. Chinatown Philippines.” In fact, some of the parents are also telling their kids that they should learn how to speak the language Fukien. So that if they want to join this pageant, then they could be easily accepted,” shares Agbayani.
Valenciano is quite candid about his beginnings as well. “I am not the pageant crowd. I mean, everyone in the team knows this. I only watch pageants so that I know how to improve Mr. and Ms. Chinatown. But the reason why I love doing it every year is because even when I do my concerts, even when I do a project launch, even when I do an activation or a corporate event, I always look for that key message. I’m always trying to look for what is the takeaway of the audience. Like even when I was a performer, I was always looking at that messaging of the play that I was gonna audition for. It always had to be something relevant. I wanted to make a statement and the only way that I was very effective in doing that was as a director. And that is why when we, try to empower the youth, or or try to inspire a generation, I feel like, like this really aligns with my calling in life.”
In contrast, Araneta is a pageant fan through and through. But being non-Chinoy, it was a challenge and opportunity, “The highlights of being a pageant director is that, you actually, put your creativity in action. So, you see everything at work. You actually transform and touch lives. So, usually, the candidates of Mr. and Ms. Chinatown Philippines are very raw. And the process of joining a contest, they go out of their comfort zone, they try new things which are very unfamiliar to them. So, they now have a newfound appreciation of themselves. There’s some sense of self discovery. So, with them, ending the contest, they become new or transformed people. It becomes a jump off point of whatever, whatever uh they want to take moving forward. So some of them enter entertainment, some of them enter modeling, some of them enter business, because it goes beyond what they’re comfortable and used to. The hardship, I think of of being a pageant director is that I am not Chinoy. So I am not as versed or familiar with the Chinoy culture. But being immersed for 3-4 years now, I have a newfound appreciation of the Filipino- Chinese culture and how things work, and how it is very similar to ours as Filipinos.”
All of these collaborations create the unique formula that behind MMCP’s success.
And being the closest to the contestants, Araneta has picked up on a peculiarity of Chinoys being all about family. He shares, “They are very very close to their families and joining a contest like this means that it’s a group effort. It’s an effort from, from the ayas, from the achis, even to the amas, so everyone is involved. So the whole family is involved. And that is what we have to deal with.”
Valenciano even goes beyond and talks about how the annual competition bridges generations. He notes, When I first started with Mr. and Ms. Chinatown, they were telling me that they were looking for different ways to stage the pageant. And when I started studying different pageants, I was also studying the trends within the Chinoy community. I noticed that there was a disconnect between the generations—the younger generation and the older generations. And I think that’s what we always go back to in terms of the backbone of the messaging, the backbone of the styling, the look, we wanted to be able to connect the older generation with the younger generation. And for me, the, a creative way to do that was to mix tradition with technology. I keep telling the team if we can present tradition and culture in a way that is appealing to a younger generation then I think that’s a major achievement for the team and for the Chinoy TV. And I think we’ve been very successful in the past couple of years really just introducing, reintroducing these cultures and just stylizing it in a way that’s true to their tradition yet a lot of these kids, when they see the sets, when they hear the music, they hear the music, you know, it goes on Instagram right away.”
And who are they looking for? That is always a question asked in any pageant.
Araneta has this to say, “For me a good Mr. and Ms. Chinatown Philippines is someone who actually doesn’t take the title for granted. There has to be a sense of initiative. So, you have to actually be collaborative in the sense that you have so many plans that you want to take on, there are so many things that you want to do but by becoming Mr. and Ms. Chinatown Philippines, you actually amplify it. You actually make it bigger. So, you use your title not just for yourself or for you to actually be recognized as such. But for you to actually make an impact to the people around you and to the community that you are part of.
Valenciano is also after authenticity and breaking stereotypes. He advises, “Don’t try to impress. Of course, try to impress when it comes to the gowns, and all that. But when it comes to the answer, you have to be real. Because the moment you try to impress us, the audience will figure it out. They’ll know that you’re, that you’re lying to us. And so far, our candidates have been very very honest on stage. So, that’s also another accomplishment and something that we’re very proud of.
Last year, due to the pandemic, the pageant was held virtually. It created a lot of opportunities though, as for the very first time, the competition was able to open outside of the Philippines. Contestants were fielded even from the Middle East, Australia, the US, and China. Even locally, there were aspirants from Davao and Baguio, and the final winner came from Tacloban.
Valenciano is glad to have this reach. He shares, “The legacy of Mr. and Ms. Chinatown, I feel that is something that Chinoys were able to prove to themselves that they do deserve the world’s stage. The quality of the content in the last couple of years, it’s almost like they’re ushering in the Golden Age for Chinoys. And I think that when we look back at this time in our lives, I’m hoping that the next generation will look at this as that time they got the recognition they deserve, and you know, the stereotypes that they’ve been trying to fight against ended because of this. It’s something that will allow me to sleep well at night knowing that we were able to achieve something like that.”
Araneta is proud of how the pageant has evolved, “in 2020, because of the online platform we had to take out the swimsuit competition, it was replaced by the fitness uh segment. Because we wanted to give more emphasis on the healthy lifestyle that people are actually into right now. We were able to introduce no height requirements. We were able to remove boundaries, meaning we were able to tap contestants coming from outside Manila. I think it’s very healthy because you actually are becoming more inclusive. You actually engage more Chinoys to join. And from being a pageant we’ve positioned ourselves to be a movement. So we wanted to create more inspiration to other people. Involved more kids to actually take part in this movement and create some change. No matter how big or small it might be, create a lasting impact.”
And to this year’s batch of contestants, founder Agbayani recommends, “To the, modern Chinoy of Filipino-Chinese communities, I hope you will not forget our traditions, the heritage that was given by our grandparents and parents. I hope that the customs, the relationship between our two countries is always there. And remember, the words Chinese by blood, Filipino by heart. And also I hope, our advocacy will continue from generation to generation.”
This year’s pageant will also be virtual. Deadline for applications is on October 15, 2021. Find out more this Sunday on “Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart 1CH1NOY.” Catch it only on CNN Philippines via Free TV Channel 9, Sky Cable Channel 14, Cignal Channel 10. It will also simultaneously air on CNN Philippines’ webpage www.cnnphilippines.com.