New companies behind the Mutya ng Pilipinas franchise are taking it to a new, more progressive direction

The Philippines is one of the few countries in the world where beauty pageants is a significant part of its culture. Up until the late ’90s, beauty contests were just about everywhere in the Philippines, even in places where Filipinos have settled around the world. As a country, we have always placed a huge premium on big beauty franchises like Mutya ng Pilipinas and Binibining Pilipinas, which have produced national icons the likes of Miss Universe title-holders Gloria Diaz and Margie Moran.

When the Philippines hosted the 1994 Miss Universe pageant in Manila, it had the power to stop traffic the way a Manny Pacquaio match does today.

Recent years, however, have seen a decline in interest among the viewing public. Whereas in the ’90s, both national and international pageants garnered nationwide interest, it is clear today that the beauty pageant industry’s golden years have long since passed.

The good news is, as with any recession, trying times eventually pass. For the beauty pageant industry, the revival might just be in the form of this year’s much-anticipated Mutya ng Pilipinas.

Elevating the Philippine Pageant Scene

Mutya ng Pilipinas has a long heritage of being the country’s premier beauty competition. While recent years have left it at a stalemate, all that is about to change with the creative direction the organization is taking.

This year, the Mutya ng Pilipinas Organization inked a deal with Scribbleworks Production, Inc. (Scribbleworks), a creative events and production company, giving the latter free reign in managing the pageant, which will be aired on September 5 on ABS-CBN.

Preparations are well underway for what the organizers are saying would be one of the biggest events of the year “We want to elevate the pageant to the highest level,” says Tati Fortuna, Managing Director of Scribbleworks Production Inc. and Mutya ng Pilipinas National Pageant Committee Chair. “We want to transform the organization and bring it back to its roots of being the most prestigious pageant in the country.”

What sets Mutya ng Pilipinas apart from other pageants of its kind is its strong thrust in promoting tourism. “If we really want to attract more investors to the country, then tourism is really the way to go because the Philippines is a world-class destination,” says Fortuna. “And our mission for the pageant is to emphasize that.”

The Anatomy of the Pageant Business

As a creative below-the-line production company, Scribbleworks is no stranger to staging one-of-a-kind events. “Coming from an agency, our team is used to all the multi-tasking and thinking of 10 things all at once,” says Fortuna. “With our experience in working with a lot of clients, I think managing the pageant wouldn’t be that difficult because we’re used to the creative process.”

What makes the Mutya ng Pilipinas venture different, however, is that it will be the first project the company is funding itself. “When we got the franchise, we really believed in the brand,” says Fortuna. “We felt it was a brand that needed repackaging and that’s related to what we do for our corporate clients. The only difference is that this is not your usual brand wherein it’s just for a certain company’s benefit. This is a pageant that has national interest.”

According to Mutya ng Pilipinas National Pageant Charity Chair Fortune Ledesma: “When we enlisted Scribbleworks’ expertise in event production, we saw it as an exciting challenge. More than just a beauty pageant, Mutya is going to be for the country.”

Where Local Talent and Tourism Takes the Cake

Working in tandem with Scribbleworks is Monsters Centaur Production, a company known for its work with the Philippine fashion industry. The latter’s principal stylist, Charmaine Palermo, is a sought-after stylist, and her involvement in the pageant brought with it the fashion industry’s support. “Our goal is to make the pageant more modern,” says Fortuna. “With that in mind, we are holding pre-pageant photo shoots styled by Charmaine, and with her help, we’ve partnered with the Young Designers Guild and Rajo Laurel to provide the gowns for the pageant. Even in that aspect, you already see the difference.”

Keeping with Mutya ng Pilipinas’ enhanced tourism platform, one of the more interesting components of this year’s pageant is that it will highlight some of the Philippines’ top tourist destinations.

“Different parts of the competition will be held in different parts of the Philippines,” shares Fortuna. “Vigan has agreed to be the venue of our cultural gown competition, and for our swimsuit competition, we are teaming up with Mayor Hagedorn of Puerto Princesa. This is just the beginning. In the years to come, we plan on partnering with other provinces as well.”

Scribbleworks also signed a partnership with Resorts World Manila (RWM) as the venue of this year’s coronation night, as well as other pre-pageant events. “Mutya ng Pilipinas will be one of the first of any distinctly Filipino events held here in RWM,” says Dino Molina, RWM Events Manager. “We welcome the partnership as it is in line with our aim to redefine entertainment and leisure in the Philippines.”

Mutya ng Pilipinas’ tourism platform doesn’t end when a new winner is crowned. According to Fortuna, there are plans to collaborate with the Department of Tourism for international road shows promoting the Philippines.

More than just potential beauty queens, Scribbleworks wants the coming batch of Filipina delegates to be good communicators. “Our vision is for the winners of Mutya ng Pilipinas to become representatives of the Philippines,” she shares. “We’ve had several screenings and we look for a balance of beauty and eloquence because we want Mutya ng Pilipinas to serve a higher purpose. And that is to promote tourism. We’re taking it a step further.”

Published in the Business Agenda section of the Manila Bulletin, July 19, 2010.