Did Policeman Neil Perez Win Mr. International 2014-15 out of Sympathy for the Fallen 44?
When I found out that our kababayan and policeman Neil Perez (real name Mariano Perez Flormata Jr.) won the Mr. International 2014-15 male pageant last night in South Korea, I was fraught with emotion. Earlier in the evening I had watched a special on TV5 that featured one of the Fallen 44: a young handsome police officer who spent only two weeks with his newborn baby boy before dying on the battlefield in the terrible Mamasapano Clash on January 25, 2015. They showed his young wife crying as she watched a phone video of him bathing their little boy. Tears streamed down my face as I watched the last happy moments between father and son. Then I hugged my husband and thanked God for the 23 years I’ve had him. I am ma-drama that way.
So when I heard that Neil captured the crown, I let out a loud whoop and then cried again. I had been following news on his competition and knew that the bomb and explosives technician dedicated his efforts to the Fallen 44 and so I was overwhelmed. Seven of the Fallen were members of his batch in the academy so his victory had extra-special meaning. I know it is just a pageant and incomparable to the sacrifice of the 44 but Neil’s win is a welcome development that adds a bright dimension to our hard-working cops.
His win also takes the edge off my bitterness about the whole MJ/gown/Miss Universe issue. When I saw Neil’s National Costume – a brightly-colored Sarimanok-inspired warrior’s outfit – I joked to my hubby saying, “THIS is what MJ should have worn as her National Costume!” In one interview, Neil emphasized that his costume, suit and entire wardrobe were all-Filipino made – a lesson his team learned after witnessing the controversy surrounding MJ’s foreign-made National Costume and gown. He ended up winning 2nd runner up in the National Costume completion. Bravo!
Now, some are saying that Neil Perez only won because of sympathy over the Mamasapano Battle that cost the lives of 44 policemen. The news made it to international headlines. One of my readers, Marcelo (hi there!) brought it up in a comment saying that it is beginning to look like a trend – disaster happens, we’re all over the news then our contestants win abroad.
Do I think Neil won because of sympathy? I personally don’t think so. But I do think he got attention BECAUSE OF IT. Pageant veterans know just how important it is for a contestant to be able to catch the attention of the judges. But the harder job is keeping their attention – that’s where the hard work from Neil came in.
Furthermore, the tragedy gave him a platform from to which to speak, a cause to fight for. But he still had to speak and fight for it. And he had to outdo 27 other cute hunks. So it wasn’t effortless.
Also, having a translator during his Q&A was wise. He was asked, “What has been your biggest disappointment in life?” Answering in Tagalog, Perez said: “First, I regret being disrespectful to my parents. I regret it because our parents are a big part of our life; also because it is against the commandment of God.” (Watch video below for his exact words.) That kind of honesty is rare in pageants so I’m sure it struck a chord with everyone (aren’t we all guilty of being disrespectful to Mom and Dad?) and it must’ve impressed the South Koreans as well… they are a people who greatly value respect and honesty.
At guapo naman talaga si Neil. From the face to the body and the way he carries himself. With quiet pride. I looked at the circle of winners and he certainly stands out. We sent a really hot guy to this male pageant and I’m now wishing that we could send him to the next Mr. World! But we already have a hunk for that one.
So, what do you think? Did the judges of Mr. International choose Neil Perez out of sympathy or did he win fair and square?