The Philippines just crowned a new roster of beauty queens at arguably its most popular beauty pageant, the 2022 edition of Bb. Pilipinas (Miss Philippines).
But aside from the rows of stunning women who strutted down the runway in elegant attire, one man at the pageant stole plenty of notice with his attire as well.
That man was Cecilo “Cece” Asuncion, one of the competition’s judges as well as the founder of US-based exclusively transgender modeling agency Slay Model Management. He arrived at the prestigious pageant wearing a barong Tagalog — a traditional long-sleeve shirt considered the country’s national wear for men — and what appeared to be a pair of boxer shorts.
His ensemble, complete with Dr. Martens leather boots and knee-high socks, raised plenty of netizens’ eyebrows.
“Looks like sir forgot to wear pants,” one comment read.
“Is a Binibining Pilipinas (winner) only to be selected by someone disgracing our national Barong Tagalog paired with boxer shorts? Has not this man been briefed about decency, delicadeza, patriotism, pride, and respect?” asked another.
“This should have never been allowed by the (Binibining Pilipinas) organization,” one wrote. “Such a disrespect to our culture, social etiquette, and to decency itself!”
Meanwhile, Asuncion had a different take on the matter, arguing that his decision to wear shorts to the pageant was meant to show off his Filipino heritage and pride. He said the garment was designed by Filipino designer Avel Bacudio and used an indigenous textile from Mindanao.
“It has been an amazing homecoming after 22 years, thank you to Binibining Pilipinas for having me as a judge! Tama ka Herlene, ang sarap mangarap at walang imposible! (You are right Herlene, it feels good to dream and nothing is impossible!)” The judge wrote on Instagram, referring to Herlene Budol, the comedian-turned-pageant participant who finished as first runner-up in the competition.
“Matuto tayong mahalin ang Tagalog. Parte ito ng kultura natin at dapat hindi ikahiya, at sa lahat na nagtatanong bakit ako naka shorts, ito ay dahil pinili kong magsuot ng gawa ng pinoy na designer na si Avel Bacudio na mula sa tela na galing sa Mindanao at ang bag ko naman ay gawa ni Zarah Juan. Mabuhay ka, Herlene Hipon Budol at sa lahat ng kasali sa taong ito.”
(Let us all learn to love Tagalog. It is part of our culture and should not be ashamed of. To everyone asking why I wore shorts, it is because I chose to wear something made by a Pinoy, such as the designer Avel Bacudio, with the fabric sources from Mindanao. My bag was made by Zarah Juan. Long live, Herlene Budol and everyone who joined this year’s pageant.)
“I have lived in America for 22 years and derecho pa rin ako magtagalog dahil mahal ko ang bansa ko (and I can still speak straight Tagalog because I love my country),” he added. “Sa mga bumabatikos sa pagpili ko ng suot ko, sana magsumikap kayo at balang araw, ma-invite rin kayo mag judge. (For those criticizing what I chose to wear, I hope you work hard and in the future, you get invited to become a judge.)”