Saturday, August 31, 2013

Erimar Ortigas Wins $500 for LoveYourself Anglo in Mr. Gay World 2013

Twenty-five of the hottest and proudest gay men in the world converged in Antwerp, Belgium early this month to participate in the Mr. Gay World 2013.

LoveYourself member Erimar Ortigas represented the Philippines, placing 6th overall and also winning GuySpy’s People’s Choice online voting award.

The latter accolade came with a $500 donation for LoveYourself, Erimar’s chosen charity, and will go a long way to help build the advocacy’s second HIV testing community center, LoveYourself Anglo.

But so much is left out of these headlines – how Erimar rocked a neon-lighted National Costume, the camaraderie and combined hotness of the candidates, and all those sweet lessons one gobbles up while exploring a land of chocolates.

So we let Erimar tell his whole story. This is his weeklong diary as told to LoveYourself.

Day 1 – Hallo Belgium!

The competition started with us arriving in the city of Antwerp, and checking in at the Ramada Hotel in Belgium.

Ah, Belgium. The heart of Europe. A center for arts and culture, fashion and diamonds, history and gastronomy, diversity and LGBT life.

Now I see why the organizers fell in love with this country, and chose Mr. Gay World 2013 to be held here.

Day 2 – Boys Just Wanna Have Fun

This turned out to be an awesome and productive day. We held our press conference, a sports challenge, a tour of Antwerp and a fun Karaoke bonding session.

I tried Belgian food, and found their waffles and chocolates truly mouthwatering and yummy!

Almost everyone is friendly but I spent most of the time with fellow Filipino Benjie (but representing as Mr. Hong Kong), Ricardo (Namibia), Nolan (India), Sai (Myanmar), David (Mexico) and my roommate Conor (Northern Ireland).

We had lots of group activities, so we really bonded as friends. Which was great, because the spirit of Mr. Gay World is less about being competitive and more about solidarity. “Love United.” So we just had fun and focused on how to be an inspiration to each other and to others.

Day 3 – Time to Shine

In the morning we attended a Human Rights conference and I was so inspired by the guests and speakers because of their never-ending fight for equality, and love and support for the LGBT community.

Then we continued with the competition. The organizers held a written test to gauge our mental strength and a nautical-themed photo shoot where we showcased our manly physiques.

We then witnessed the opening of Rainbow Village, and during the event I even sang to Rihanna’s appropriately played Diamonds track: "Shine bright like a diamond…”

I also have to mention the sumptuous dinner served to us by the sponsors of Mr. Gay World 2014, which will be held next year in Rome. Overall, it was an amazing and unforgettable day!

Day 4 – Pinoy Pride

This day was a special one since I got to share with the world what Filipinos could offer. We had our Arts Challenge and I did my best to present the colorful and fun LGBT life in the Philippines.

Next was a panel interview with the judges and our first rehearsal for the pageant night the next day.

We then all took part in the opening ceremony for the World Outgames, which was also being held concurrently in Antwerp.

Different countries from around the world had come together for a celebration of sports and culture. Everyone was just so happy and had a blast during the event.

Day 5 – Topless and Owning It

We had our final rehearsal and dinner with VIP guest before starting the finale night wherein we showcased our National Costumes.

My National Costume was a futuristic costume depicting the colors of the Philippine Flag. This costume reflects the aspirations of the Filipino gay community towards a bright tomorrow filled with hope, respect, equality and gay empowerment.

We also had the chance to strut in Swimwear, Casual Wear-cum-dance dance performance and NOH8 campaign plug and, finally, in Formal Wear with a gay wedding theme.

Then after all that the special prizes were announced. I won the People’s Choice Award which came with a reward of $500 for LoveYourself -- woohoo!

I'd like to make a quick shoutout to GuySpy who sponsored the cash award. It's not only one of the coolest and most popular gay social networking sites around, it's also very active in helping the LGBT community. Thanks for your support!

I’m really thrilled that, in my own small way, I am able to help LoveYourself build a new HIV testing and community center near Ortigas called LoveYourself Anglo.

I made it to Top 10 and ranked 6th overall. (Christopher Olwage from New Zealand was crowned – a real swell guy!)

I am very happy and proud of what I have achieved. My success is also our country's success. I believe Mr. Gay World is just a label, and what matters most is what I can contribute to the society with or without a title. I was very proud of what I have achieved already because I know I did great during the competition and the experience I had was truly rewarding.

Day 6 and Beyond – European Paradise

Aside from the fantastic Belgium experience, I also grabbed the chance to travel to other parts of Europe like Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. I fell in love with each succeeding place.

Final Words – Thanks and Future Plans

I'd like to thank all of you who gave me strength, love and inspiration. Thank you so much for all the support and for all the overwhelming messages. I super appreciate it!

As for my future plans, I will continue what I started like involving myself to different LGBT projects and events, and staying active in LoveYourself and other HIV awareness work. I will also lend my support to the Mr. Gay World organization and the next representative of the Philippines for the competition next year.

And finally, I'll work harder to become an inspiration to other Filipino gay men.