Feature: Not your ordinary beauty pageant

Maica Rose Panelo

Do you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to beauty pageants? Think again.

The Regional Association of Women with Disabilities (RAWWD) in Region 1 staged an unconventional pageant on August 25 participated in by women with different disabilities from various cities and provinces in the region to promote the concept of inclusion.

Nine young ladies with disabilities competed in the Search for Miss Inclusion Philippines held at the Robinsons Place in Calasiao, Pangasinan to show that despite having disabilities, they have the potential to show their beauty, talent, and wit.

Maica Rose Panelo, with speech impairment from Rosario, La Union won the title, becoming an advocate of their sector’s right to be included in policy or decision-making in the country.

She will represent the Ilocos Region in the Search for Miss Inclusion Philippines, national level.

On the other hand, Cynthia Ann Gadiano of Candon City, Ilocos Sur, who has systemic lupus erythematosus, bagged the first runner up.

Mary Jane Paz of Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, with an orthopedic disability, was crowned as the second runner-up.

In a message, Executive Director Carmen Zubiaga of the National Council on Disability Affairs explained what inclusion is saying, “Ibig sabihin hindi ka lang isinasama kundi ikaw ay talagang kasama, at bibigyan ka ng suporta upang ikaw ay makasabay sa ordinaryong daloy ng buhay sa isang komunidad.”

Zubiaga added that inclusion entails the active cooperation of all persons with disabilities to open doors of opportunities for them by informing all government agencies of what they need, not the government telling them of what persons with disabilities (PWDs) need.

“We want to eliminate the barriers so that PWDs will be given the necessary support for them to access all of the services of the government,” she said.

She added that women, despite of their disabilities, have the “charm” as their asset to show service providers that they are not fit to beg for alms or to serve as masseur but they deserve something where they could utilize their abilities.

Search for Miss Inclusion Philippines is an activity of the RAWWD in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Offfice 1 and Robinsons Place Pangasinan.

It is part of the observance of the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week every July 17-23. However, due to inclement weather, the conduct of the pageant was moved this month.

Ms. Jennifer Garcia, president of RAWWD, hopes that the event has opened the minds of people that PWDs should be accepted as an integral part of the community.  (PIA-1, Pangasinan)