Mutya ng Dabaw 2023: Wearing the Crown in Beauty Diplomacy

Mar. 24, 2023
Screengrab from Mutya ng Dabaw 2023 livestream

By Arcadia Ilagan/The Blue Bridge

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Crowned last week as this year’s Mutya ng Dabaw was contestant No. 3, Maria Isabel Pelayo. Pelayo bested 29 other candidates at the University of Southeastern Philippines (USEP) Gymnasium on Friday, three years after the last Mutya ng Dabaw was crowned. 

Vice Mayor Jay Melchor B. Quitain, Jr. said in a speech he delivered on behalf of Mayor Sebastian “Baste” Duterte, “This year, we removed the age limit for the contestants to be inclusive and to give more women the opportunity to represent our community. The Mutya ng Dabaw celebration is not just about beauty and grace, but also about talent, intelligence, and leadership. It is an opportunity for us to showcase the potential of our young women and to inspire them to continue to make a positive impact on our community.”

Based on Mutya’s stringent guidelines and qualifications for their aspiring candidates, contestants were required to be a Filipina residing in Davao City for at least a year prior to the event’s screening day. Another requirement for contestants was to have strong advocacy in supporting a cause in life, focusing on women’s welfare and social responsibility.

The city’s organizers pride in the fact that the Mutya ng Dabaw had produced beauty queens who showcased the ideal qualities of a Dabawenya—someone who exemplifies confidence, intelligence, strength, and power.

For her part, former Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Partylist and social welfare department undersecretary said that while the Davao beauty pageant had become inclusive, “the organizers have scrapped an excellent innovation introduced a few years back. And that is requiring contestants to represent an indigenous tribe and to partner with an NGO in pursuing an advocacy. An example of this advocacy would be protecting the environment. That was certainly a laudable move—progressive, innovative, and gender uplifting.”

Pageantry brings people together to celebrate and to appreciate their shared heritage, values, and willingness to involve themselves in community development. With Davao City’s rich and diverse culture, this would not be difficult to pursue. Through pageantry, participants will have an avenue not only to showcase their indigenous culture but also to provide them with an opportunity to shape a better, more inclusive community.

“The idea of requiring contestants to represent a tribe highlighted the cultural identity and uniqueness of Davao. That was certainly progressive and uniquely Davao,” Ilagan added.

Widely recognized as a melting pot of various indigenous cultures, Davao City is home to many distinct cultural backgrounds. Mutya could have done more to promote and reflect this aspect of the city’s identity by better highlighting these in the event. By showcasing Davao City’s unique culture, Mutya could not only have continued a memorable tradition for today’s Dabawenyos but could have also promoted an unparalleled feature of Davao City for both locals and tourists.

“My question is, are the organizers falling back on stereotypes? If so, then merely lifting the age restriction and allowing single mothers to join will just be a token or cosmetic change. Beauty is not skin deep. The Mutya ng Dabaw should be the embodiment of what Dabawenyos consider as truly representative of the true beauty of the city and of its citizens,” Ilagan emphasized. (

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