Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Pump It Up!

I've been procrastinating in downloading images from my camera, so this is a bit late. Let me take you back to November 22nd. That was a Thursday, for those who need to know. My friend Allan is big into bodybuilding and imported supplements right now. He texted me the week previous asking if I'd like to go to the Mr. & Ms. Philippines World & Universe Qualifier. "OK, sure," I texted in reply.

Not since my time living abroad in Japan in 1997-1998 had I met another who was so much into bodybuilding. I was working in Imabari, a small town in Ehime prefecture on the island of Shikoku when I met a woman by the name of Angela. She was an English expat who met and married a Japanese man. Kenji was his name if I remember correctly. She met him at her friend's wedding reception when he came over to the table where she was seated. The groom was a bodybuilder and had invited Kenji and some of his other bodybuilder friends to be guest posers at the reception. Angela was introduced to Kenji that night while he was busy flexing, wearing a Tarzan-like loincloth. He had participated in the Mr. Ehime contest and won and was busy trying to bulk up to a higher weight class when I met them.

I agreed to meet Allan at six at Robinson's Galleria (mall) and took a bus from there to The Music Museum at Greenhills Shopping Center. We figured since the event was scheduled to begin at six, if we arrived and took our seats by six-thirty we'd be on time in Filipino time. We were right.

Our celebrity hosts were actor/singer Carlos Agassi and Sports Unlimited host Dyan Castillejo.

Allan and I were quite convinced that neither were given much in the way of preparation or direction prior to walking on stage. Whatever was on the scripts in their hands seemed to be it. They were the hosts and it was up to them from there on. That's okay, they're in show business. Too bad nobody thought about rehearsals for the athletes though. The poor guys (and gals) hadn't eaten since eight in the morning. Time and again Dyan and Carlos would ask the athletes to come on stage or leave the stage and they'd all just stand there, as many as forty seven at a time. Just standing there looking at each other.

Marks were another problem for the athletes. You know, those little X marks made in tape on a stage so people know where to stand? You do. The athletes didn't. They'd be bumping elbows doing their poses because only two or three of five knew where their mark was.

I figure it must have been their hunger. After all, it couldn't be that they're all stupid or that steroids could impair their ability to comprehend simple instructions. Stage fright? Maybe. You would be too if you stood on a stage wearing so little. The attire of all forty-seven combined couldn't have weighed more than a pound.

Somewhere in that picture there are up to seven women. Two looked more like men than women, and received hoots from the audience members to that effect.

Sports of all sorts have long been dominated by men. Women have found it hard to break into sports and women's leagues of sports have often been challenged financially due to the difficulty in finding an audience, both at the events themselves as well as media coverage, whether that be live broadcasts or even a mention in the nightly news sports report. In an economically challenged Asian nation, this is no easier. The women received little enthusiasm from the audience and Carlos had to go above and beyond his script when it came to bestowing praise on them and encouraging audience attention and participation in applause.

One particularly interesting thing about the night was just in noticing the use of the bronzer on the athletes.

Filipino people, like all Asians, are extremely obsessed with lightening and whitening their skin. Women (and even an occasional man) are regularly seen carrying umbrellas over their heads. No rain. Sometimes even if it isn't sunny. It is such a habit to them they instinctively lift one over their head despite the time of day or weather conditions.

L-Glutathione use is also seemingly rampant in trend-obsessed metro Manila. Billboards, radio and television commercials encourage people to buy these whitening pills. The vitamin C and zinc in the pills also enable them to be marketed as health supplements. Let us not forget that only whitening pills can reveal the true beauty within.

Excuse me while I vomit.

So, it seems a bit odd that bronzer is applied to people who, for the most part, have a beautiful natural bronze to their skin to begin with (that they are unhappy with), only to cover up their new, lighter skin with bronzer.

Carlos really stood out that night. At one point Dyan was chanting to Carlos, Take it off! She encouraged the audience to join her, and all did. Carlos is also a fitness/bodybuilding buff it seems. And he has really light skin. Really light. It was blinding when he capitulated and removed his shirt to the delight of the audience and other bodybuilders. I believe he is only a shade or two darker than Michael Jackson, he's so white.

The evening wore on as athletes from one category after another came out to compete, each more starved than the previous. By nine-thirty we were also feeling starved ourselves. We had one luxury the athletes did not. We could get up, leave, and go do something about it, which we did.

We made it across the street to Teriyaki Boy where we indulged in a lot of tofu and tempura and teriyaki well before other audience members who bothered to stay for the final rounds, comparisons, and pose downs.

Days later, my fitness instructor Bryant, enjoyed the pictures from the event. He would point at each athlete and say "steroids, steroids, no steroids, steroids..." It was a good time. Fun. A new experience. And, with a theme titled The Gallant Filipino Warrior of the World and Universe, something I won't forget, especially now that I've put it here in the blog.


Edik said...

I wonder why Filipinos would love to have fairer skin. Is it because of colonial mentality? Media-induced culture? I can only wonder.

Thanks Jay for the updates.

Karla said...

I like how the contestant # is strategically pinned on their... speedos? Costumes? What ARE those things called, anyway?

Jay said...

Edik: Colonial mentality could have something to do with it, but as much as I'd like to blame it on the Spaniards I can't, since other Asian nations do the same! It really is the media, especially the power European high-fashion and US advertising holds in the world.

Karla: They look like a g-string, don't they? Haha! Those things have a technical term in the "sports" world: "posing briefs".