Skip to content

4th Man Of The World Contestants Wear Bahags, Indigenous People Cry Bastardization Of Culture

4th Man Of The World contestants wear bahag for swimsuit competition

It’s not unusual for beauty pageants to be trending topics in the Philippines. After all, many Filipinos have strong opinions on which participant should represent the country for international competitions.

Recently, however, the international male beauty pageant 4th Man of the World received negative reactions from netizens, particularly indigenous people. This is because of their alleged inappropriate use of the bahag (Cordilleran indigenous loincloth) during the pre-pageant swimwear competition on 11th June at Okada Manila.

Netizens cry cultural appropriation

4th Man of the World - bahag
How the bahag was worn by some of the candidates in the competition vs. how it’s worn by indigenous peoples.
Image adapted from: Missosology, @rson.syc

Many indigenous people online said that bahags are not used as swimming attire, which is why it was inappropriate for 4th Man of the World to use it for their swimwear competition.

comment 1
“Who greenlit this? It’s disgusting,” wrote one Twitter user.

Some added that the way the loincloth was tied on some of the contestants was more like the Japanese men’s undergarment fundoshi than the bahag.

comment 3
They used the bahag like the fundoshi, read one tweet.

Using the bahag for this portion of the pageant, according to some netizens, is also sexualization of Cordilleran indigenous culture.

comment 4

The Smart Local Philippines has viewed the original tweets.

Organizers claim they had permission from NCIP-CAR

A clip from the media conference.
Video credit: Drew Francisco

In a media conference held 12 June in Baguio, the organizers PEPPs Foundation and Ray-Casa Group – said that they had obtained permission from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR) to use bahags for the pageant’s swimwear competition. They even presented the letter from the NCIP-CAR which stated the said approval to the media.

“Prior to the staging of this activity, all the consents needed were already secured,” said Maria Catbagan Aplatin, the pageant’s cultural consultant recommended by the Department of Tourism-CAR. Aplatin also told the media that she agreed to take part in the contest to forward her advocacy on cultural integrity, especially on the proper wearing of Cordilleran traditional attires.

“The contestants were oriented about the significance of the bahag and can explain it themselves,” Attorney Mary Ann Bayang of Indigenous People’s Rights International also added.

NCIP-CAR calls out improper use of the bahag

4th Man of the World - NCIP CARPage 1 of the NCIP-CAR regional director’s statement.
Image credit: National Commission on Indigenous Peoples CAR

According to the NCIP-CAR, they did not object to the use of bahags for the 4th Man of the World competition as long as it’s worn properly by the contestants. The organizers also told the agency that there would be an expert with them to ensure that the traditional attire is worn correctly.

NCIP-CAR does not tolerate the way the bahag was worn nor did they allow it. The inappropriate use of the cloth was solely on the organizers and the pageant’s consultant.

Contrary to an organizer’s claim in the comments section of a Facebook post, there was also no consultation with the director of NCIP-CAR.

NCIP-CAR stands with indigenous people on bahag issue

Before they take action, the NCIP-CAR asked the organizers of the 4th Man of the World competition to provide anthropological proof that the bahag was worn by their Cordilleran ancestors as swimwear and that it was tied the same way the cloth was worn in the competition.

Should indigenous peoples call for sanctions, the NCIP-CAR said that the agency will stand with them.

Also check out:

Cover image adapted from: Missosology