Thursday, August 14, 2008


Today is the Birthday of Emman Labirua, the First Hari ng Negros. We are reposting his story.


It was back in the summer of 2003 when I was approached to screen for a new male pageant and represent the City of Canlaon. Back then the world was young and I was a naive 17 year old. I of course said my regrets to the talent scout but later on (because of consistent nagging from friends) I finally agreed. This is my pictorial review.

The morning of the screening I was scared. I did not know what to expect. I honestly thought I would be the joke of my friends and the town. I still remember looking out of the morning sun and contemplating how to get out of the situation. Should I tell the organizers that I'm sick? Should I just disappear into the forest? But something inside me told me to fight my fears and face my destiny.

During the screening we were asked questions from a panel consisting of the Who's Who in Negros society. Believe me, it was the most frightening situation. After the screening 14 out of 50 applicants passed and we became the first batch of Hari ng Negros - Ginoong Canlaon.

The week after screening the 14 of us traveled around the city and some even trekked the volcano for the promotional pics of the pageant. This is skinny me posing inside a balete tree. Yes, I said inside. I will talk more about this tree in another story. Here are some pics I was able to recover from the Hari ng Negros organization of my batchmates:

Jeffson Villanueva

Don Austria

Bernard Baguios

Franton Mendoza

Steve Serad

Ruel Peralta

Brian Montecarlo

As you can see the competition was tough. A lot of these guys were pageant veterans. I was actually the youngest in the batch. We started bonding after the pictorials. It was during this time that I realized even though some of us came from different backgrounds with shady pasts and indecent upbringings, none of that matter, we were just a bunch of young, crazy guys who just wanted to have fun!


One thing I noticed with the Hari ng Negros - Ginoong Canlaon pageant is that there always has to be a major production number or two and a "more than the usual" set design. During my year, the organizers decided to depict Canlaon City with a nature background complete with waterfalls and exotic plants.

Mr. Garry Bascones became the first Director of the pageant. Every year the organizers change directors. It is to give opportunity to talents from all over Negros. It is also to keep the pageant from being too monotonous. According to the organizers, "to breath in new life into the production every year." So expect to see a different style if you decide to watch.

Here is Garry Bascones (in red) during our technical rehearsals.

Practicing for the streetwear portion.

After the rehearsals I was really scared. Reality started to sink in. I couldn't believe in my wildest nightmares that I would be part of a male pageant. The worst part is that I had to walk in a bikini fronting my family, friends, classmates, neighbors and thousands of total strangers. I not only had butterflies in my stomach, but also bumblebees, dragonflies and killer wasps.


The Canlaon City Sports and Cultural Center was filled to the rim. I remember backstage praying for a miracle. Also this time, Mt. Kanlaon was very active and restless. Days before pageant night, the volcano alert level has gone up. You can see steam and smoke rising out of the its crater. "Please have a major eruption, so it will be an act of nature that will cancel the show, please, please please!!" I kept praying to no avail.

Well, here goes...

The first portion of the show was the Tribal wear where we introduced what place we were representing.

Coming out from backstage in our tribal wear.

After the tribal introductions came the streetwear and what you have probably been waiting for - the swimwear.

Brian Montecarlo enticing the judges. Notice the full packed audience.

Ruel Peralta striking a pose.

Armil Ganza showing off his winning form.

Steve Serad

Don Austria

and me trying to escape from this nightmare.

First group showdown.

Here is me (far left) asking myself, "What the hell am I doing here?"

Now come the formal wear competition. This is actually my favorite portion (no major steps or exposure) While modeling our barongs (Philppine men's formal attire), we were serenaded by Ms. Grace Mahinay (who happened to marry my elder brother a couple of years later). She sang a medley of OPM (Original Pilipino Music) from Regine Velasquez to Sharon Cuneta.

Gai Ono looking sharp.

Jeffson Villanueva

Bernard Baguios

And me still as shy as ever.

Here's Ate Grace taking a bow for the audience. She was stunning and amazing. Then came a surpise number by Mystica.

After Mystica brought the house done. The Top 5 finalists were announced. From left to right Grizaldy Gamboa of Bacolod City, Don Austria of Victorias City, yours truly of Canlaon City, Steve Serad of San Carlos City and Joeden Espinosa of La Carlota City.

The final question that was asked to all 5 finalists was. "What makes you cry?" Most of the guys answered when they see a family member get hurt. When it came for me to answer, I played with the audience a little (knowing there were lots of teeny bopper girls rooting for me) and answered, "When I miss someone so much, knowing I wouldn't find her no matter how hard I look (thunderous screams from girls), but seriously crying does not make me less of a man, it just shows that I am in touch with my emotions, thank you."

The 4th Runner up is La Carlota City, the 3rd Runner up is Victorias City, the 2nd Runner-up is San Carlos City, the 1st Runner-up is Bacolod City and yours truly became the 1st Hari ng Negros - Ginoong Canlaon.

This is only the beginning.


Soon after the pageant I went into deep contemplation and did some soul-searching. Intrigues started to spruce up regarding my victory because I was from Canlaon City and it was a hometown decision (even though none of the judges were from Canlaon). This only added to my insecurities.

I admit I do not have an Adonis body nor was I great on the catwalk like the other guys I competed with. Canlaon City at this time had no body-building gyms so I had to improvise. Having no barbels around was no excuse. I would secretly frequent places (junk shops, construction sites, river beds) where I could get a grasp of things and lift objects that would start building definition to my muscles. After a while I started noticing a difference.

My body started to get toned which helped me gain some self-esteem. Nevertheless, I felt the title needed a purpose. Being the first winner, I had to work hard to set the standard for all future Haris to come. I did not want this event to be used as a venue for male exploitation, but rather an avenue for excellence and unity among Negrenses.

You see, Negros Island is divided. You have the Occidental side which speak Hiligaynon and the Oriental side which speak Cebuano. I guess I was lucky coming from Canlaon because I could speak both dialects. Canlaon City sits on the crossroads of the two very distinct cultures.

Realistically, I cannot solve society's problems like drug addiction, truancy, poverty, hunger etc. Which Negros has more than its fair share of. The greatest power I have is to help influence my generation into reaching out for the greater good.

For this, Negros needed a King, and I for one will give her one.

Proud to be a Negrense. Forever, Hari ng Negros.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


My one week stay in Manila was an incredible experience. While there, Emman and I stayed at the Royal Mansion Towers in Wack Wack, Mandaluyong City. We had a great view of the Ortigas Center and also of the Wack Wack Golf Course. Paulo Mirasol stayed at the same place last summer when he was filming a movie there. It has already become the official residence of the Haris while in Manila compliments of Jojo Victorio.

The pool is on the rooftop. But we did not get a chance to swim because the weather and our schedule was not cooperating.

One thing I will surely miss in Manila is the great food and restaurants.

And the new friends we met. Byron Baleda is one of the supporters of Hari that we met online through Friendster. He's a very cool guy to hang out with. Here we are having dinner at Gilligans Glorietta in Makati with his pretty officemate.

Any opportunity we had, Emman and I would pig out like there was no tomorrow. Here we are at Mrs. Fields Cookies.

Yellow Cab Pizza, United Nations Ave., Malate

Triple V, SM Megamall

It does not show in this pic, but I'm very sad here. Final call for boarding has been announced for our flight going to Dumaguete at the new NAIA 3 terminal.

Boarding the Air Philippines flight that will take me back to Negros.

Hiding my emotions on the camera again.

Joking around with the pretty flight attendants.

Manila, I will surely miss you.

Up, up and away!

Flying over Mt. Makiling in Laguna.

Taal Volcano facing Tagaytay Ridge.


Quick! Where are the parachutes? I want to get off here in Boracay!

Bacolod City with the new airport in Silay City at the far left.

Bago City and Pulupandan

San Enrique, Pontevedra and La Carlota City


Kabankalan City

The sandbars of Manjuyod

Bais City

Tanjay City

Judyville Subdivision in Sibulan

Touchdown, Dumaguete!

I wanted to be last to get off the plane. Maybe to cling on to whatever memories I have of Manila.

Negros, your King has returned.

Looking back, I can still remember the bright lights and the city skyline. Rekindling of old friendships and opening new chapters. But above all, the chance to be able to find my heart again.

"So kiss me, and smile for me. Tell me that you'll wait for me. Hold me like you'll never let me go. Cuz I'm leaving on a jetplane. Don't know when I'll be back again. Oh babe, I hate to go."

Proud to be a Negrense. Forever Hari ng Negros.