Mrs. Kalayaan beauty contest marred by ugly accusations

Ernestine Hollins

Ernestine Hollins

By Elton Lugay

This is Ernestine Hollins’s story.

Let’s read on because what she has to say may have to do with who we are as a factionalized community living in America.

On March 23, Ernestine and several other married Filipino women participated in a beauty and fundraising competition called Mrs. Kalayaan. Proceeds from this contest will help support the June 8 Philippine Independence Day Parade on Madison Avenue.

Ernestine, a child caregiver from Rego Park, placed second. The much-coveted crown went to Rose Pacia Labelle, a personal care assistant at Elder Care nursing home.

As Mrs. Kalayaan 2013, Rose gets to ride a float for the long stretch of Madison Avenue from 23rd to 40th streets. A singular honor not a few hardworking FilAm women aspire to.

But Ernestine did not lose by votes. She lost by a thousand dollars. Let’s hear how it happened.

“I was robbed and I am frustrated about this whole experience,” she expressed to The FilAm.

Ernestine and her friend, Margie Wisotsky, who was last year’s Mrs. Kalayaan, began their fundraising campaign months ahead of time.

“We’ve received donations mostly from friends and sponsors apart from the money that we have raised and saved,” she said.

Margie told The FilAm she and Ernestine have worked so hard to raise funds to win the title. “Never did I think that there are people out there who would go out of their way just to hurt us,” she said, hoping to crown her friend and likely successor that night.

The winner turned over $18,000 to the PIDCI board, which organizes the annual Manhattan parade, and Ernestine, $17,000. According to Ernestine, a big chunk of the winner’s $18,000 came from a “loan from a wealthy community leader.”

Ugly accusations began to fly on the coronation night of March 23rd at the lavish ballroom of the Astoria World Manor where the contestants paraded dressed in richly elegant ‘ternos’ in the colors of the rainbow. Whispered accusations of cheating, favoritism, jealousy, and other issues were being passed around as Rose was being crowned Mrs. Kalayaan by Deputy Consul General Tess Dizon de Vega and Grand Marshal Rebecca Rivera.

“It was totally disturbing,” Ernestine, the daughter of a police officer, said. She maintained that a fundraising project is supposed to be money collected and delivered, not money generated from a loan.

“I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t work hard to get the title. But I would never cheat, I would not go to that route. And we are supposed to be doing this for a greater cause,” she explained.

As for her other claims, Ernestine cited how the Mrs. Kalayaan pageant application form states that the contest is strictly for married women only. But she said the current winner is a divorcee.

“She’s technically single. This violates the rule; a strong ground for dismissal,” she said.

Ernestine has been married to her husband, Clyde, for nine years. The couple has no children.

Mrs. Kalayaan winners (from left): Susan Tobias, Josephine Gaurana, Ernestine Hollins, Rose Pacia Labelle, Leila Martinez and Jeanette Corpuz

Mrs. Kalayaan winners (from left): Susan Tobias, Josephine Gaurana, Ernestine Hollins, Rose Pacia Labelle, Leila Martinez and Jeanette Corpuz

She mused, “Joining this pageant and winning it are in my bucket list. I wanted to prove that married women like myself can still feel good about ourselves by becoming a beauty queen at least once in their lifetime.”

Looking back, Ernestine shrugged. Now she can concentrate on getting pregnant and “completing my family,” she said.

Rose Pacia LaBelle would not comment on the article, but board member Vivian Velasco said Pidci “has no knowledge” of the loan allegations.

“It’s a very personal issue,” she said. “Pidci will not even want to comment on such controversial topic as we have no knowledge of it.”

As for Rose’s status, Vivian said “Mrs. Kalayaan has no strict rules and regulations regarding this matter. Being a married woman, the title of Mrs. carries on legally throughout a woman’s life even after her divorce.”

Erno Hormillosa, a veteran pageant coordinator, said the Mrs. Kalayaan pageantry should have a set of criteria, and that the winner should be the role model of FilAm youth.

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  1. M wrote:

    What a fiasco, indeed.

  2. Clyde Hollins wrote:

    Here is the thing. These are supposed to be for “CHARITY” in the Philippines. But IS IT???? They have many formal parties, from $45-$90 per person. Catering halls here in the U.S. profit. The women buy many fancy gowns to show off at these events. Designers, and Clothing stores here in the U.S. profit. MOST of the money raised, goes to fund more fundraisers, and pay for many of the officers to have free trips to Philippines, in order for the entire group of them to present the small donations to various causes. IF THE GUESTS WHO MEAN WELL, SPENT THE MONEY FOR ALL THOSE DINNER TICKETS, GOWNS, RAFFLE TICKETS, etc. ON BALEKBAYAN BOXES that they actually SENT TO THE PHILIPPINES… THE PHILIPPINES WOULD BENEFIT TENFOLD MORE THAN THEY DO. MOST of these organizations are a sham. Playing on the vanity that is a large part of the Pinoy culture. It is SHAMEFUL, and this should be a WAKE-UP CALL, for the whole community to reject this and start to actually do some REAL GOOD for their poor compatriots back home in the Philippines.

  3. Clyde Hollins wrote:

    Or send the actual CASH themselves…… even better!

  4. E wrote:

    Losing with grace is never a Filipino trait,sour graping is not uncommon

    • Clyde Hollins wrote:

      E. The article does not tell the REAL story of the cheating that went on. Stay tuned, other newspapers are willing to tell the whole story. The Loser that you refer to, did NOT approve of this article, and wanted the whole situation to just go away. She wanted to keep what happened quiet so as to not mar the reputation of the Organization. And so far, she has succeeded because what REALLY happened has not gotten out…. YET. So not only DID she lose with grace, but she was CHEATED, she did not Lose. There is a difference. And perhaps losing with grace is difficult for ANY Nationality, when they know that they put in all the hard work that was necessary to win.

      • M. wrote:

        Mr. Clyde, we hope that the writer of this article may share more to this breaking story? You seem to have some knowledge about the FilAms in your area. Thanks for your informative comments Sir, M.

      • Clyde Hollins wrote:

        M. I do not believe the people interviewed, told the article’s author the whole story. They wanted to protect the people who betrayed them, believing that it was an accidental betrayal. I on the other hand do not CARE whether it was intentional or not. That is IRRELEVANT! The truth is the truth. If someone leaked information, then that is what should be reported, without speculation as to their motives. If another party took advantage of such information, to win the pageant, when they otherwise would NOT have won, then that is immoral, and unethical, whether or not it was against the rules. And if the organization makes no attempt to correct the injustice, particularly when it is their lack of rules and regulations that allow such unethical tactics, then they are complicit. Particularly IF, (and I am not saying what the organizations motives are), but IF the reason for the lack of rules, is for the purpose of making it easier to raise money, without regard for the FAIRNESS and HONOR of the pageant.

  5. Clyde Hollins wrote:

    If what you say is the TRUTH, then have some HONOR and INTEGRITY, and stand behind what you have to say.
    Be PROUD of who you are, what you represent, and the statements that you make. STAND UP for what you believe in.
    Be LOYAL to your FRIENDS! Have HONOR and INTEGRITY, and Demonstrate this for ALL….. PARTICULARLY your CHILDREN to see and EMULATE!

    Hopefully this is one of my American Cultural attributes that I can influence Philippinos, who are all too concerned with conflict AVERSION, to adopt.
    ALL groups, be they Racial, National, Religious, even Sexual Preference, GAIN THEIR RIGHTS through NECESSARY CONFLICT.
    Injustices are corrected in the present and avoided in the future by necessary CONFLICT.
    CONFLICT, when it is necessary to do the RIGHT thing, is a GOOD THING!

    • M. Matthews wrote:

      Mr. Clyde, I think what you have stated in the above statement may be valid, indeed.
      But people have the right to remain anonymous if they choice to do so. It a personal choice.

      • Clyde Hollins wrote:

        Yes, it most certainly IS a personal choice. But can there be any HONORABLE reason to withhold your identity? If you want to say something, but you are not willing to allow people to know who is saying it, then you should THINK TWICE about saying it. Just like if you are going to take an action in the dark where no one can see, stop and think whether you would take the SAME action in the light of day where everyone can see. If the answer is NO, then you should think twice about doing it. You NEVER KNOW who is watching and who is listening. So ONLY say and do things that you are PROUD of, and want EVERYONE to know. You will lead a MUCH less stressful, and more fulfilling life that way.
        More African American, and Native American Culture, that I am sharing with you. We have developed this culture, because as minorities, unfortunately we not only represent ourselves, but our entire group. If ANY minority does something bad, then people look at it being BECAUSE of their background. So when you take an action, you represent whatever group you belong to. I LOVE the people of your country, and want them to aspire to be examples, not only to their people back home, but to ALL people. And change the image that Americans have of ALL people of color, including Philippinos. We should ALL stick TOGETHER!

      • M. Matthews wrote:

        Clyde, do let me inform you this: You have read many Letter(s) to the Editor that the names were withheld from the letter(s) when they were published in newspapers. About me. I happened to be born in Israel into the Greek Catholic faith from a European family background. I also happened to be married to a Pilipina woman (stand for Filipino woman in Tagalog I think so).

        I have 2 Asian-Slovak-American grand-nephew/niece. I have met many Filipinos men/women during my travel around Europe, Canada, Philippines/USA and known the Fil-Am/Asia community for over 35 years and counting.

        What is lacking in the Fil-Am community-at-large is, lack of being united as one group of people and nation in the Philippines. Filipinos are so divided by region, language, religious and, mind you even by their (complexion) color of their skin to. Brown looking women in the Philippines are buying skin whiteners to look fair skinned. Do you know for a fact, that when I was in the Philippines, most of the women sale staff working in the fancy department store were fair skin looking Chinese and Spanish looking Filipinos.

        Clyde, discrimination by color’s of one skin is not a USA problem. It is a world wide problem, indeed.
        Do let me assure you this: No in this world is a Saint. Non-of us a perfect being. We all have some kind of like and dislike about other people, race, religious, region and nationality. It is the facts of Life on this planet earth.

        M. Matthews NYC.

      • Clyde Hollins wrote:

        Unfortunately M., I am very afraid that I have to agree with just about EVERYTHING you’ve said. Yes I did notice the sales staff, and the large and popular selection (and use) of skin lighteners. And the discrimination based skin color. And the high regard in which (fair skinned) Chinese, are held.
        But that is EXACTLY why I say the things that I say here. I want to inspire them to stop their divisiveness, and realize that they have common interests, and desires. Will I reach the ENTIRE community? Absolutely not. But if I can convince just ONE, perhaps they will convince another. And that one…. convince another. And so on, and so on. Then it will have been WORTH the backlash that my statements have caused my wife and I.
        I am hoping that if they see that someone OUTSIDE of their community cares so much about them,….perhaps they should care AT LEAST that much about each other!
        I have a mother in law, and my wife’s nieces and nephews (and siblings), back in Phils, that I love very much. Some of them we are working to bring here. I would feel MUCH better bringing them to the AMERICAN Filipino community if it were a little more united. So I do this, for the family (in law) that I love. I am just sorry that I am causing a backlash against my wife. BUT if those who backlash against her, cannot see that I have the ENTIRE Pinoy community’s best interest at heart….. then they are not true friends, who think ONLY OF THEMSELVES, and she is better off without them. FORTUNATELY MOST of her friends are supportive, but still a little angry at me for not obeying her wishes to keep my mouth shut!

      • M. Matthews wrote:

        Clyde after reading your reply to my recent comment on The Fil-Am, I think I owed to reply to your last comment in question. I to love my wife’s family back in Quezon City very much. I wish I could have made it possible to have them come to the USA and reunite with her immediate family with us in New York City.
        But unfortunately this can not happened for a very, long, long time due to the discriminatory policies of the immigration laws of the USA that prevent Filipino Americans to reunite with their sisters and brothers and their sibling.

        The USA has been discriminating against Filipino before you came into this universe of ours. It took over60 years to allow Filipinos veterans of World II to be able to immigrate to the United States with their wife’s and children had to wait to reunite with them much later on. Some are still waiting to come to the USA to be with their love ones. Most of the men/women from the World War two-era are dead by now including my wife’s beloved father who served under the US Flag as guerrilla fighter. For your information Clyde, we could not obtain his service records form Missouri and from the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We have found the official book some how and his name was listed on it. We even got a copy from one of our contact in the VA showing his name on the records but only his name and service number on it with missing data. I on behalf of my wife’s father have called the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and the Army Personals Records data center in Missouri and was told that they could not find his records. Due this fiasco, my wife’s family had been denied to come to live in the USA. Now you could understand what kinds of heart aches and pain it caused my wife and I in trying our best to help my wife’s family to have a better life and opportunities in the USA.

        Clyde, if my wife’s family members had paid big sum of cash to some ranking officials or military officer, we might be able to obtain her father military records from Philippine Army Manila. But they did not do so. In order to get anything done in the Philippines, you need to pay money under the table. After all, that’s how things get done in the Republic of the Philippines.

        Regarding you comment on this Web site at The Fil-Am. Your wife was against your decision to comment about the Beauty Queen gone wrong or fiasco. Clyde, you have to understand why she did so. But you still had the right to comment or write about what you have written about this matter(s) in question. Regarding your wife’s so call friends who is not please or may have criticized you or her. I say drop them from your life once and for all.

        My wife and I don’t have many Pinoy’s friends due to the nature of gossiping which is a well known Filipino treat or cultural habit that is ingrain in the Filipino society. Indeed, I think you are the right things to express your opinion(s) in this or any other forum you may chose to do so now or in the future. Yes, sometime you have to break the tide and be your own kind person even when so call ‘friends” may dislike what you did or will do regarding disobeying your loving wife’s wishes not to go public about this intriguing story.

        Clyde, I would like to salute you for having showing how much you care about your wife’s family members and love of Filipinos to be united under one Flag under one nation, under one community united.

        M. Matthews has written numerous political and social commentaries for several Fil-Am publications in the past. His article also appeared in several Queens based publications including the Woodside Herald, a weekly based in Sunnyside, New York. M. Matthews has been associated with two radio shows in NJ for over 20 years and counting.

  6. E wrote:

    The fact that she accepted her position during coronation night makes this complaint futile.Move on and make your lives fruitful.This case would be filed under the millions of “unsolved mysteries of the 7107 islands of the Philippines”

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