2018 Ilocoslovakla pageant advocates for HIV-AIDS, STI awarenessMar 22, 2018
"It's already bad enough that people die from this disease. What makes it even worse is that people die because of ignorance," Tourism Officer Mr. Aianree Raquel remarked as the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN) campaigns for awareness of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and sexually transmitted infections (STI) through the 2018 instalment of "Miss Ilocoslovakla 2018."
"Miss Ilocoslovakla" or "i-Vakla" is an event organized by the PGIN to gather the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual (LGBT) community, providing them with a platform for their creativity and skills in entertainment, while also advocating certain causes. On its third year, "i-Vakla" campaigns for HIV-AIDS and STI awareness.
At least 50 cases of HIV-AIDS were officially recorded in Ilocos Norte between 1984 and 2016, based on data from the Department of Health (DOH). Thus, the pageant featured HIV screening and community-based testing with at most 20 participants last March 19.
Raquel shared, "It's basically putting it out there. It's important to start the conversation about it. Let's provide them the opportunity to be present, to be seen, and do what they want creatively."
"Ilocoslovakla:" beauty with a twist
Trailing on the usual beauty contest pattern with a sportswear portion as well as evening wear and festival costume competitions, "Miss Ilocoslovakla" is a non-conventional pageant with its official tagline "Confidently Beautiful with a Twist."
Last March 16, the 30 "i-Vakla" contestants had training in basketball as an additional fitness component of the competition, and in March 19 they held a canvassing for "Miss Balikbayan Charity," a fundraising event inspired by the Ilocano balikbayans.
Candidates raised funds for the benefit of LGBT inmates at the Ilocos Norte Provincial Jail (INPJ), thereafter holding a gift-giving activity last March 21.
"I M Superhero"
The pre-pageant on March 22 and grand coronation on March 24 at the Provincial Capitol lawn will showcase the contestants' creativity as they will portray superhero characters in the "I M Superhero" segment, with costumes made of household items, recyclable materials, and other non-clothing items.
In addition, the contestants will pay homage to Ilocos Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos as they will also wear outfits inspired by her.
"She [Governor Marcos] is such a trooper when it comes to the LGBT community. She greatly identifies with this sector because she's coming from a very creative background and she has worked with a lot of people with diverse experiences," Raquel said.
The pageant will intensify the support of PGIN for HIV-AIDS and STI awareness, as well as gender empowerment through promoting the acceptance of the diverse gender identities in the province.
"In Ilocos Norte, we feel that Ilocano gay people are pioneering in the sense of asserting their position in the community... we are given the chance to hold positions of influence at the same time be productive for whatever career we venture into," Raquel ended.