The following text is just lifted from the backgrounder of the cinemusical titled ‘Simon’s Way’.
It all starts with two men, one a young seminarian called Arthur, the other an old priest about to die, conversing about a memory, the spirit of vocation and the freedom to dream.
The year is 1967. The Beatles have just started to take the world by storm with Rock Music, bell-bottomed pants are the craze and the hippies have just discovered ‘flower power’.
Simon Vergara, a young talented composer and a seminarian who has already spent five years in regency outside the seminary, accepts volunteer work in the Parish of Our Lady of Peñafrancia as a choir director. Due to indecision of whether or not to formally take his vocation as a priest, Simon remains a seminarian still searching for answers and direction for his faith.
Given with just a single page of Simon Vela’s life to expound in a musical, young Simon puts to work his skills and creates a happy musical that he thought would be best until his priest friend comes home from Rome, drunk and unhappy and infected Simon with his disillusionment with the Church.
While casting his musical, Eliza, a young rebellious socialite engaged to be married to a man out of duty, enters his life. Like Simon, she is in a quest, a quest for the freedom she can only dream of.
As music brings them together, fate pulls them apart with circumstances beyond their control. Take part in Eliza’s and Simon’s quests through Simon’s Way as you indulge in the rich music and performances of the top artists and musicians of the Philippines and Asia. Witness how faith and music strengthens a love destined to be undone survive the many challenges of life brought about by wealth, greed, confusion and, even, death.
This is not just another love story crafted to move us into tears, it is also a journey meant to teach us to have faith, to dream again and never lose hope in all things eternal and unseen.
Even if it was difficult for him to carry on the task of representing the country to the 2011 Mr. Gay World, Marc Ernest Biala willingly accepted the responsibility after the former title holder was stripped-off of his duties.
Biala said in an interview, “I was surprised because I never really expected that I would replace the former title holder.
“I am a little sad with what happened to him because I consider him as family but as the first runner-up, I have to accept the responsibility and it is definitely an honor to represent the country in such a prestigious event.”
The 5’8” tall, Biala, a registered nurse, an instructor and review lecturer in a Baguio university. He is an inspiring individual for young gay men and is determined to make a ‘difference’ and be an effective spokesperson for other Filipino gay men in the country. He is a magna cum laude graduate from St. Mary’s College in Tagum City, Davao del Norte. He is currently finishing his Masters of Science in Nursing and is writing his thesis focusing on family caregivers for the mentally-ill patients and is a candidate for another magna cum laude award. He also authored a nursing reference book titled ‘Psychiatric Nursing’ which is already distributed nationwide.
With barely two months to prepare, even if he felt that he was not physically prepared for the competition, he focused on the other aspects that he believed he can excel most and prepared himself holistically especially in the spiritual side.
In the earlier competitions, Biala was actually lagging behind other strong contenders for Mr. Gay World 2011, but he was never disheartened, he persisted and managed to make it to the top 10 semi-finalists instead, after he earned the judges’ nod for his uniquely created national costume by a collaboration of brothers Robert Joon Ku and Nere Ku as well as his formal wear by a young and notable fashion designer Odelon Simpao. He also won People Choice award.
His advice for gay men who want to compete in the upcoming national competition, “Follow your heart. If you feel that you have the passion to advocate for what the MGW organization is fighting for then start being a leader, hone yourself holistically, and ultimately everything will fall into its right places.
“Winning does not mean just getting the title; Winning is contributing to the growth of the org and having grown in the entire experience.”
Dennis Sebastian, Marc’s personal coach and creative director for Mr. Gay World organization sees so much positivity in Biala, “He’s an idealist and a go-getter. He sees an opportunity more than the setbacks in a situation. He grabs it and tries to be his best.
“This winning attitude is what makes him successful at his young age.”
USA’s delegate Michael Kevin Holtz and Spain’s Israel Acevedo were Nel’s first and second runners-up; while Australia’s Leigh Charles and New Zealand’s Aaron Comis were third and fourth runners-up. Philippines’ bet the 24-year old, an instructor and a review lecturer in a university in Baguio walked home with two special awards that evening – the People’s Choice award and Best in National Costume; and finished as one of the top 10 finalists.
Nel has a visual multimedia-creative writing degree and has other passions like working at a medical practice that dealt with HIV and TB under the direction of the renowned Dr. Paul Timp. He soon discovered that the medical field also interests him and he completed a course in HIV care and counseling. While completing his creative studies, it exposed him to many different art forms, and he also started a professional career in make-up artistry and hairstyling on the sideline, which allowed him to work as both an artist and a lecturer-educator.
Being the new Mr. Gay World 2011, he will be enjoying a US$25,000-worth of trips to visit five continents that he will be promoting goodwill to the world about the gay community. He will also be wearing a dog tag designed by the internationally-renowned South African jewelry designer Chris Winspear. His four runners-up take the rest of the ‘puzzle pieces’ of the bespoke dog tag.
Nel’s Winning Answer
In the preliminaries, Nel was simply one of the favorites to win the title, but was closely pitting against USA’s delegate, Michael Kevin Holtz. However, at the grand finale night, he simply delivered a well-meaning answer that wowed both the judges and the audience.
Nel picked the former South African President, Nelson Mandela when he was asked by Philippine King of Talk, Boy Abunda, if who among the world leaders he most likely to meet and why.
He smiled with confidence, with no hesitation he replied in spontaneity, “This man, I think stands for everything that love means, this man came out of prison [in the history that South Africa had] without any resentment. We had a feeling of togetherness in the way he ran our country, [and] he certainly inspired all of us to be the rainbow nation…
“I am incredibly proud to be a South African. I think Mandela completely encompasses everything that humanity and human rights stand for.”
That particular answer made him snatched the title from Holtz and will be the year-long ambassador of world’s gay men, carrying the ideals of MGW organization.
In an interview after the grand finale competition, he expressed his excitement not just for his victory, but because his own country will play host to the 2012 Mr. Gay World in Johannesburg.
Also, he looks forward to creating more meaningful experiences for the gay community during his reign, “I would like to organize events in sports and arts, which educate on our natural inherent sexuality, our multi-faceted characters and broad talents as human beings.
“Meeting like-minded individuals that are interested in being outspoken on human rights, gay equality and education are just some the things I would actively be involved with.”
Other Awards presented
The Philippines’ representative earned the People’s Choice award and Best in National Costume, respectively. Another Philippine delegate, Wilbert Tolentino was also given with the same recognition back in Whistler Canada, 2009.
The rest of the four finalists who completed the Top 10 [in random order] were Mischa Germeraad (Netherlands), Barry Gouldsbury (Ireland), Rupert Arrindell (Curacao), and Juan Manuel Lopez (Mexico).
Boy Abunda, an advocate for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders and a popular Filipino TV host personality was also given the Eric Butter Philanthropy Award. The said recognition aims to bring public recognition to dynamic individuals from around the world, whose values infuse humanitarian accomplishments, and provide inspiration to the next generations specifically in diversity issues with the LGBT and/or HIV and AIDS community.
Truly World-Class Show
‘Club Mwah!’, known to be the most outstanding theater-club in Asia, located in the Tiger City of Mandaluyong provided a world-class, spectacular Broadway-like production that left its guests (both locals and foreign) in awe.
The audience was composed of dignitaries, respected personalities in the entertainment circuit, fashion and politics; it was more of an elite and snooty crowd.
The openly-gay partnership of Pocholo Malillin and Cris Nicolas, owners of Club Mwah did an excellent show, which the rest of the world must see due to its éclat costumes and unforgettable moves performed by its resident all-gay men Follies de Mwah.
Malillin beamed with pride when he said, “It is our privilege to give a great show with Filipino gay performers that Filipinos can be proud of. We gave not just our best, we even outdid what we thought was already our best. We are happy that the crowd loved it.
“Also, we believe that the organization of Mr. Gay World deserves only the best for its relevant contribution in uplifting the gay communities around the world.”
That evening, Philippines’ member of the board Noemi Alberto, known for being a gay advocate herself made the customary turnover to South African’s national producer Coenie Kukkuk, which will be the next host and producer of Mr. Gay World 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa from April 4-8.
Members of the panel judges were Binibining Pilipinas-Universe 2002 Karen Loren Agustin, editor-in-chief and founder of an Australian-based DNA magazine Andrew Creagh, Swedish international makeup artist Jorgen Landby, co-founder and co-publisher of a Holland-based gay publications – Winq and Mate magazines Remco Teppema, Mr. Gay World 2010 Charl Van Den Berg, Philippines’ first Miss Universe Gloria Diaz, and MGW president and founder Eric Butter.
MGW’s director for rules and policy and MGW’s director for Africa and Europe Brian Merriman along with MGW’s director of North America and Media Relations Dean Nelson verified the results in a closely contested week of challenges, public appearances and ambassadorial opportunities.
Philippine King of Talk, Boy Abunda hosted the finale show with Miss International 2005, Precious Lara Quigaman; and the model-comedienne Wilma Doesn’t.