Binibining Pilipinas

Controversy arises as Binibining Pilipinas bet dons Santo Niño costume

John Sitchon

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Controversy arises as Binibining Pilipinas bet dons Santo Niño costume

CONTROVERSY. The controversial photo of Binibining Pilipinas contestant Joy Dacoron.

'The Church was not consulted that she would wear that for her national costume… but the Binibining Pilipinas does not have to ask for permission,' says Cebu Archdiocese spokesperson Monsignor Joseph Tan

CEBU, Philippines – Mixed reactions greeted a Binibining Pilipinas contestant from Cebu province for wearing a costume that resembled the religious garments of the image of the Santo Nińo.

The controversial costume of contestant Joy Dacoron first caught criticism when it was posted on the official Facebook page of Binibining Pilipinas on Tuesday, May 16.

Monsignor Joseph Tan, the spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Cebu, told Rappler that no permission was needed to be given to the team of Dacoron to use the vestments of the Santo Nińo or the Child Jesus as a pageant costume.

“The Church was not consulted that she would wear that for her national costume… but the Binibining Pilipinas does not have to ask for permission, especially regarding how they conduct their affairs ordinarily,” Tan said.

Sunstar-Cebu quoted Auxiliary Bishop Ruben Labajo as saying that neither the Archdiocese of Cebu nor the Augustinian friars knew that Dacoron’s team would use the holy vestments for her costume.

“Ang pananghid ni Joy nga magpakodak siya diin ang background mao ang mga simbahan dinhi sa Sugbo (What Joy asked permission for was to get photographed with the churches as the background here in Cebu),” Labajo said.

In a statement, the Augustinian Friars of the Basilica Minore Del Santo Niño De Cebu reminded the public to mind the “appropriateness” of their actions.

“As Cebuano Catholics, the Sto. Niño has profound religious and cultural importance to us. Let us approach and treat the Sto. Niño with reverence and respect in order to avoid conflict and misunderstanding,” the statement read.

Mixed feelings

Some netizens felt that the use of the holy vestments as a pageant costume was “insensitive” and done simply to stir controversy.

LGBTQ+ advocate and Cebu Lady Lawyers Association Incorporated president Regal Oliva said in her Facebook post that the costume was a “cheap rehash” of the image venerated by millions of Cebuano Catholics.

“The creativity of this costume is wanting. Last year, Miss Eastern Samar also paraded a religious icon as her national costume, so by originality, you (Dacoron) failed in this part,” Oliva said.

During the previous Binibining Pilipinas 2022 competition, Gabrielle Basiano, the candidate from Borongan City, Eastern Samar, wore a “Virgin Mary-inspired” costume that also received criticisms online.

“What makes me more interested to look into is that this candidate is a woman portraying an image of a boy child. If this is accepted and embraced by the Catholic Church, would it have the same acceptance if a man will portray the image of the Virgin Mary as a costume,” Oliva said.

But some netizens also came to the defense of Dacoron. 

“The big problem I have here is probably the sexism or machismo at play because they still keep finding fault in her outfit low enough to make her sexuality as a woman, a reason as to why wearing the Sto. Niño costume is wrong,” former Binibining Cebu 2017 candidate Pia Gabuya said. 

Gabuya also pointed out what she called the hypocrisy of some critics who would have lauded the use of the holy vestments had it been worn by a child – as seen during the usual Sinulog celebrations.

The photo of Dacoron in the Santo Nińo costume has been taken down on the official Facebook page of the Binibining Pilipinas competition.

In the original post, it was explained that the costume was designed as a way to pay homage and give gratitude to God for relieving Dacoron of her doubts, especially after she lost her father in an accident in 2022.

Rappler has reached out to Dacoron and her costume designer, Chino Ledesma Christopherson, for comment on the matter but they have yet to respond as of posting time. –

John Sitchon is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.

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