Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Testimonials are needed to remind of us of the great bonding and friendship we share. Through the triumphs, success, heart aches and pains, this gathering is a venue to renew our strength and conviction towards each other and everything Hari ng Negros stands for.

Hari ng Negros Mark Xander Fabillar's valedictory speech during the Hari ng Negros testimonial dinner 2007:

The concept of the modern-day male “beauty pageant” only came about in the 1990s. Originally, contests for men – like Mr. Universe, were more likely to be "body building" competitions—quite unlike the traditional "beauty contests" in which women are judged upon. In the 1990s male "beauty contests" began to shift focus. Instead of only considering muscle mass, these pageants began to judge contestants on their facial beauty, along with their personalities and stage presence. These competitions include Mr. World and Manhunt International.

In these pageants, substance and poise hold weight in determining the winners. It is a worthwhile venture as there never seems to be a lack of interest: in Venezuela alone, over 300 men audition each year for the opportunity to become Mr. Venezuela. The Mr. World pageant on the other hand, is being participated by over one hundred countries. This leads me to the question: why do we young gentlemen, willfully submit ourselves to these pageants?

The connotation that contestants join pageants for “world peace” makes no sense to me. And every time somebody tells me that the reason why he is joining a pageant is because he wants to gain self-confidence, I roll my eyes because truth is: a pageant cannot ever give you self-esteem. Why do we do it though? Reasons are diverse: some compete in pageants because they are naturally competitive; others do it because they want to know whether they are ugly or not. Some do it for the money and the opportunities that come along with it; and others, like myself, do it for more personal reasons.

Growing up, I was always sure of what I wanted to do in my life: and that was to become a news anchor and a diplomat; and pageants and modeling were just not my thing. But being someone who never backs out on a challenge - I decided to take a brave step and took a bus ride to Canlaon City on May of 2006. I had no manager, no make-up artist, and no talent scout. I went to the Canlaon City Pension House thinking, “Well, if I make it – fine and if I don’t – I’ll make sure none of my friends will hear about it.”

During the screening, Hari ng Negros Chairman Michael Ocampo grilled me with questions ranging from issues of morality to anecdotes of local history. It was weird because I noticed that the other guys who screened were only interviewed for 5 minutes or less. My interview took 30 minutes.

On that same day, I passed the screening process and was assigned the title “Mr. Jimalalud.” I was going to be the first ever representative of the small coastal town beside La Libertad. I also asked Ericka Barraquias to be my manager and automatically, she said yes. People who worked around the pageant started hyping contestants as well: there was Michael Magbanua - a student nurse whose fighting spirit was one in a million; and there was Chris Chiong – a former Mr. Bacolod who is a registered nurse and clinical instructor; and then there was Leviger Laxina – who could pout like no one has ever pouted before, and who could walk the runway like no one has ever done before. In the beginning, I never really quite took the pageant seriously because as a person, a beauty title will never ever define me. I live my life each day as an animal rights crusader and a passionate vegan, and my compassion for animals is what I’d rather be known but being Hari ng Negros certainly changed my life.

When I won, I became careful not to leave the house with my hair messed up or my shirt missing a button. I felt the need to bring dignity to the title since the first three winners who came before me all carried the title with so much class and breeding.

One thing I’ve noticed is that winners of other male pageants usually gain weight and lose interest in maintaining their looks once their reigns are over, but Hari ng Negros is different. We’re approaching our sixth year now and the first Hari still looks like a movie star. Luck certainly plays a part in winning the title and I consider myself lucky because within my reign, I was able to meet all the Hari’s in history. I was also able to work with Catherine Untalan, Miss Philippines Earth 2006 and Genebelle Raagas, Miss Philippines Earth 2005 in the earlier part of my reign as a part of a beauty campaign for Renew Placenta, one of last year’s major sponsors. I also met Jullian Savard, Miss Teen Philippines 2006 at the Miss Teen Philippines Oriental Negros pageant which I hosted. As Hari ng Negros, I was invited by Mr. Jeffrey Jetturian to attend his movie premiere for Kubrador at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila. It was there where I got reacquainted with Mr. Robert Malengreau of Brussels Film Festival, who was also one of the judges during my year. During my reign, I traveled to Laguna, and met interesting people like Tita Dolly Aspillera – Ms. Gloria Diaz’s first cousin, who also happens to be a rather interesting personality. She gave me words of wisdom and told tall tales of her house in Vegas. It was during that trip where I met former Hari ng Negros Mr. Rey Anthony Bulado who had just finished an international film. He too gave me words of advice but probably my proudest achievement during my reign was when I co-hosted an episode on Living Asia with Flexy Sarte and the award-winning Patricia Evangelista. I proudly talked about Negros and its rich history. I look back and give myself a pat on the back for a job well done. I am proud that I was actually able to do something during my reign. I am not going to wish Paulo luck because I know that he will be able to do much better.

To me, Hari ng Negros is more than just a title, it’s a brotherhood, and in this pageant, there is no such thing as a “former.” As Michael Ocampo puts it, "Once a Hari always a Hari." Perhaps one thing all five winners have in common is that we are all sure of ourselves. Paulo won because he knew he could do it. Giving a testimonial about my reign is awkward, I think, because my experience does not speak of Hari ng Negros as a whole. I am only one of five winners, after all. I will, however, say this about Hari ng Negros – it is the best thing that happened in my life. I’ve won debates and oratorical competitions in the past, but this one is my favorite. I am honored to be in the same boat as Emman, Reiven, Paul, and now, Paulo, and I will definitely have memories to last a lifetime. While it is still true that the title will never define who I am – it has certainly changed me: mellowed me, made me socially-aware, and matured me.

If I had to thank anyone at this point, I would like to express my gratitude to Hari ng Negros 2004 Rey Anthony Bulado for being the brother I never had. The day after I had won, I was surprised to get a call from Reiven – who I did not yet know at that time, congratulating me and telling me to carry the title of Hari ng Negros with dignity and honor. I still have to meet anyone who has encountered so much success and yet remained so grounded as Reiven. I am honored to be a Hari ng Negros – just like him.

And to my successor, Mr. Paulo Mirasol: The title you have is the commemoration of 5 years of hard work and loyalty. I hope you do not take your title for granted. Emman, Reiven, Paul, and I have devoted sweat and tears to maintain the prestige of the title so that you can carry it with pride and dignity. Be proud, Paulo, because Hari ng Negros is the only pageant whose former winners are all college graduates. Every time you see your sword, remember that you share it with people like Jonathan Kalaw who has given us his loyalty since the very beginning; Mr. Michael Ocampo who has never given up amidst intrigues and gossip; all the runners-up and contestants of the pageant for still loving the pageant even if they came so close and ended up not winning; and everyone who has shared their talents - for giving their contribution to the success of the pageant. Your sword represents a family that is half a decade old.

I end this testimonial by saying that one thing I realized onstage while giving the sword to Paulo is that the King of Negros is not one person. He is a network of people who, altogether, live up to ideals that are centuries old. The King of Negros does not have a name. He has in fact, many names. Sometimes he is Michael, Geri, Ding Dong, Emman, Ina, Erica, Reiven, Paulo, Gary, Manolet, and a lot more. Sometimes he is tall; sometimes he is short, fat or thin. In the past he has been involved in farming, movies, computer programming, has worked in a call center, and this year, Hari ng Negros is an 18-year-old pre-med student.

This year's testimonial dinner is scheduled on Saturday, July 12 at El Camino Blanco, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

Hari ng Negros 2007 Paulo Mirasol will be giving his testimonial while Hari ng Negros 2008 Ralph Jadraque will be roasted.

Forever, Hari ng Negros.