by Heidi M. Pascual
Celebrating Old Folks, Mothers and Fathers
As a former title holder in the provincial level’s Pinakamagandang Lola ng Laguna (Fairest Grandmother of Laguna Province), I’ve been
requested twice this month to judge two competitions in two towns: the
Gandang Lola at Poging Lolo (Fairest Grandmother and Most Good-
looking Grandfather) pageant in Sta. Cruz, and the
Marilag na Nanay at Makisig na Tatay (Prettiest Mother and Best Father) pageant in Santa
Maria. Sta. Cruz is my hometown and capital of the province of Laguna, while Santa Maria is the last town west of the province, and located
at the rightmost tip of Laguna de Bay. Both competitions featured the following segments for judging: Talent, Production Number, Native
Costume, Formal Wear, Casual Wear, and Q&A. Special awards were given to the Most Friendly, Most Photogenic, Best in Native Costume,
How does the whole community celebrate their elderly, or their mothers
and fathers not yet in their senior years?  In my province of Laguna, it has
become an annual big event in various municipalities to create competitions
in the form of pageants during town festivals, offering big cash prizes to
winners and freebies to both winners and losers, such as gowns and
formal shirts or barongs. Our town leaders believe that our elders and
parents have to be celebrated year-round because their hard work and
unconditional love for their children and families create strong and loving
homes that produce productive citizens who help the province and country
become highly developed and wealthy.

The selection of candidates begins at the barangay level, the smallest
political division of a municipality. The basis of selecting the candidates
representing each barangay is a confluence of traits making up personalities
worthy of respect and emulation. The barangay captain and the president
of the senior citizens in the barangay usually choose the elderly candidates
for both male and female. Candidates for outstanding mothers and fathers
usually are selected from nominees of barangay districts or sitios. The
barangay captain usually decides with the barangay council their candidates
during their regular or special meeting called for the purpose.
What amazed me most in these competitions were the unique experiences of each candidate in raising their respective children, the simple
beauty and poise so natural in the barrio, the intelligent answers of winners, and the physical support of barrio mates and neighbors among the
audience. It was an exciting experience for me to judge these local folks, most of whom didn’t even have the opportunity to complete their
college degrees, yet were able to raise kids who became professionals or highly skilled workers in government and private firms.

I salute these men and women who participated in these pageants because they highlight the Filipino character and family traditions absent in
some other cultures. Though mostly a bit shy to be onstage to show their hidden talents, in the end after days of rehearsals and camaraderie,
their talents were out and their stage presence quite impressive. Walking on the ramp, for instance, took a lot of courage from each of the
candidates. When they moved like fashion models wearing creations of local designers, it was no surprise to catch a lot of people in the
audience experiencing jaw-dropping moments. And when some exhibited rare intelligence as they answered magic questions, I knew right
away who would “bring home the bacon” so to speak.

Here are some photos taken during these competitions. I’d like to share them with you, hoping that our readers would pause a little bit and
think about or thank their own elders and parents.
Above left: Winner of the
Marilag na Nanay
competition in Sta. Maria,
Above: Winner of the
Makisig na Tatay
competition in Sta. Maria
Above: A grandfather in
his 80s dancing with his
grandkids during the
Talent portion
Right: A  grandmother
performs with two friends
at Kesong Puti Festival in
Sta. Cruz, Laguna