Mela Habijan brought honor to the country on Saturday, September 12 when she became the first Filipina to win Miss Trans Global 2020.
Mela bested 17 contestants, including 4 Filipinas, to win the title. As the winner, Mela will become the organization’s spokesperson for its activities, including work with groups such as TransValid and TransBeauty Magazine to “raise money, educate, and inspire transgender people globally.”
While she’s a relative newbie to the international pageant world, she’s no stranger to the Philippine online space and entertainment industry.
Mela has a Communications degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.
In an interview with ABS-CBN in 2019, Mela said she first identified herself as gay and, initially, didn’t know what it means to be transgender. It was only through friends who were transitioning then that she realized that she too was a transgender woman.
It was in a beauty contest in 2014 she said that she first identified herself as a woman. “Ang nasabi ko lang sa sarili ko, ang ganda mo (All I could tell myself was… you are beautiful),” she said.
‘Eh ano kung bakla ka?’
In an Esquire Philippines article, Mela shared how she came out to her parents in 2002.
When she first told her dad she was gay, he replied: “Eh ano kung bakla ka? Bakit naman kita ikakahiya? Matalino ka. Pinalaki kita nang maayos para maging mabuti tao. At higit sa lahat, anak kita.”
(So what if you’re gay? Why would I be embarrassed by you? You are a smart person. I raised you to be a good person. Most importantly, you are my child.)
After coming out to her parents and with their blessing, Mela came out publicly when she turned 30 in 2017. She’s since openly spoken about her relationship with her parents, and has paid tribute to them several times, such as in a 2018 post on Facebook.
Mela is a writer, actress, and content creator
Mela started as a writer for TV shows such as Gandang Gabi Vice and The Buzz. She was also head writer for the beauty contest Mr. and Ms. Chinatown 2018.
She also ventured in acting, appearing on GMA shows such as Asawa Ko, Karibal Ko, and Magpakailaman.
Mela has also contributed to various publications such as Esquire Philippines and Rappler.
She is also a content creator and hosts a show called 3Some, streamed on YouTube, Kumu, and Facebook. She’s featured a range of guests – including Vice President Leni Robredo. (LISTEN: Who is the Filipino? The ABCs of LGTBQ+ and SOGIE)
Trying her luck in politics
Before her foray into the world of pageants, Mela tried her luck in a world that can be just as exciting: politics.
She campaigned to be councilor of Marikina’s 2nd district during the 2016 elections. Then still using the name Erick, Mela campaign under the slogan “Bata. Bago. Bakla.” (literally: Young. New. Queer.) – which, of course, went viral. While she didn’t win a seat in her city’s legislature, her campaign made its mark nationwide.
In her interview with Spot.ph, Mela said had she been elected, she would have pushed for projects in relation to the youth, the LGBTQ+ sector, and education.
Mela launched a homemade peanut butter business during the coronavirus quarantine as a means to augment her income, since hosting gigs have become near non-existent because of the pandemic. She created 4 flavors – Choco-nut, creamy original, classic chunky, and coco-nut.
Learn more about her business through Miss Mela’s Peanut Butter Facebook and Instagram accounts.
– Alexa Villano/Rappler.com