Perhaps no other country in the world is as pageant-obsessed as the Philippines.
It could be because even before the Spanish colonization we have been a festival people, with beauty contests highlighting a town fiesta. And if there’s a celebration for woman pulchritude, in the name of equality of the sexes, why not for men as well?
Recently, Connecticut-raised Cebuano Judah Jyreh P. Cohen (who already won Cebu Tropical Hunk 2011, Mr. Ecotourism Philippines Mossimo Bikini Summer-Visayas 2011, and Mr. Lapu-Lapu City 2012) earned the right to represent the country to the Mr. Tourism International 2014 in Panama.
The articulate young gentleman, who’s a financial management graduate from the University of San Carlos, opens his heart to the Play! pool about the dynamics and constitution make-up of a beauty king.
For Mr. Tourism International 2014, what are the big guns that you’d bring with you on stage?
I’m glad and honored to be able to represent the Philippines. What I would like to bring to stage even more than a great looking body, is an intelligent mind. I’ve already met Director Rowena Montecillo of the Department of Tourism, Region VII, and will be partnering with them to learn more about tourism in the Philippines. It’s my goal to be active with my title so I can learn as much as I can, and represent the Philippines the best that I can.
What is your platform or advocacy that you’d like to personally pursue during your reign and why?
I’d push for true healthy living—being healthy and having a great looking body is useless unless you’re doing something with it. If you’re so focused on your body that you ignore your responsibilities and loved ones, then that’s not being healthy mentally. Being truly healthy is a complete package. I’m planning on being as active as I can with my title, both physically and mentally, so I can show the world on an international level the great potential Filipinos have.
How did you get into male beauty pageants?
The first pageant I saw was Mr. And Ms. Commerce, 2010, my college’s pageant. What struck me was how much fun the candidates had on stage and how well they projected their personality, earning cheers from the the audience. I knew from then on that I wanted to try that even if just once. So in the next school year I joined my department’s pageant in the hopes of winning and representing our department in the next Mr. and Ms. Commerce. I won both, and one pageant led to another… until here I am now, Mister Tourism International Philippines 2014, four years later!
How does it feel to have the title?
Incredible. I was initially aiming for Mr. International, and somehow during the pageant, it hit me that if I was going to win any of the titles, it should be Mr. Tourism because I believe we need to promote tourism within and outside the Philippines. It has a clear purpose, and it means a lot to me that I do something with my title.
Let’s take a step back. Did you ever picture yourself to be where you are right now?
No. I thought Hari ng Lapu-Lapu would be my first and last, and then I when my handler talked me into this—being the male pageants of all male pageants—and getting to represent the country. I didn’t even know if I’d make it. I just saw the winners in its official website and I saw them embodying built, looks, character, everything! So I decided that I will just go for it, enjoy the experience, and just be the real me.
What are you as a person minus the title?
I am rather silent. I am very imaginative—I use my imagination a lot. I picture myself in all sorts of situations, random situations from how to cook something, to stuff to do that I should do if I was in the gym, or if I have the chance to travel with my girlfriend where would we go. So if someone would accidentally see me in this moments they would say that I am spaced out. Its really different once I am in the public since I love meeting people so I tend to be more talkative and sociable.
What would be your biggest learning now that you have this title?
Discoveries. Life lessons that I still keep on learning… and that is you just can’t judge a book by its cover. Going back to the competition I would look at other contestants and there you have 26 men who are friendly, of good background and somehow you look above and beyond the façade because they basically are not in just for the competition—they are having fun.
What would make you happy?
Having my own family. Prior to joining the competition I contemplated on having a family of my own as I already have a stable job, I was saving up for my future, and I just want to pursue fatherhood. Then came this opportunity, and great things can come out of this. I asked a leave from my job but they did not give it to me so I resigned. If I did not have that aspiration of having a family I sure would not have that focus or that drive for stability. That thing that would make me happy? To be a food father and provide for my family’s needs.
What would be the first thing that you’d do if you win the international title?
I would thank my father. He is someone that really pushed me to do the things that’s good for me. Like I said I was not considering joining and just continue with my job, but this opportunity is just amazing— meeting people and the travel, so many activities. An opportunity like that at my age of 26 doesn’t come that often. I am just glad that I did this.
They say that male pageants are often riddled with gay contestants, both open and closeted. What is your take on this?
I don’t see an issue.
What’s the weirdest thing that happened to you on the stage?
The weirdest thing? How about having to answer questions wearing swimwear? When answering questions, I’d rather be clad. Q&A and interviews are supposed to display the candidates intelligence and show his personality. When my body is exposed so much, the attention of the crowd may be distracted from the answer, taking away the purpose of the question.
What’s your least liked segment of a pageant?
The wait backstage between exposures. The wait can be a killer. Haha!
I’d rather just go out and get it over with. The longer I wait, the more nervous I get.
Any physical flaw that you’d like to alter?
I’m not insecure about my body and there’s nothing I would like to enhance unnaturally. I would like to buff up and define my muscles more, but all naturally. I’m not even into lifting weights so much. I’m more into calisthenics, and building muscle mass by working with my own body weight.
How do you see yourself after your term?
I see myself working hard in the financial/ investment industry in order to save up and be able to provide for my future family. Even as a kid, as early as eight or nine years old, I already dreamed of having a family of my own.
What is your definition of a man?
Generally, a man is seen as the provider of the family, and in order to do so, he must be responsible. Sexual preference, notwithstanding… What is important is that the gay or the straight contestant isn’t scandalous about his relationship. As the pageant’s ambassador, he must maintain a good image.
Dr. Francis Xavier Solis