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Orlando Diola: The brains behind Miss Gay Mandaue


Orlando Diola, 76, with his cat, Cleopatra.

CEBU CITY, Philippines— When creativity and talent meet, the opportunities become endless.

Orlando “Orly” Diola, 76, shares his journey as the original organizer of Miss Gay Mandaue.

His vision, which was initially aimed to provide entertainment, has since become a gateway for the LGBTQ+ community to rise above societal limitations and proudly showcase their talents and their uniqueness.

“As a child, I always love gardening and the arts and then, one time I was thinking about the winning of Gemma Cruz Miss International 1964 and I thought why not use men, to wear women’s clothes, and that started it all,” he recalled.

Orlando Diola showing his drag costumes from the 80s.

The first Miss Gay Mandaue pageant took place in 1973 and was met with praise during the fiesta celebrations in Mandaue City.

However, not everyone shared the same excitement. Some religious sectors expressed disapproval, but that did not deter Diola and his team from continuing to entertain the masses.

Through the years, Diola said he was just amazed at how his simple idea of entertainment through Miss Gay Mandaue opened the opportunity for the people from their community to use the Miss Gay pageant as their avenue to express themselves through fashion and art.

“I didn’t even know that it was going to be an advocacy. At first, I thought just plain entertainment, like boys dress as girls or men dress as women, that’s it. I was really thinking about who will sponsor the high heels, and who will sponsor the gloves, and then who will sponsor the evening gown. But knowing the gays that they are so talented they just took care of it themselves,” he said.

Miss Gay

Letina Lyccah, Ms. Gay COVID-19. | Contributed photo

Before moving to the United States in the 80s, Diola served as a pillar of support for his community.

Even after he left the Philippines to pursue a career in banking, he received letters from gay individuals in Cebu seeking advice, a testament to the impact he had made.

With the support that Diola got from his family, accepting who he was, also gave him the strength to make others feel safe and accepted.

Even with the support of his family, he was not spared from being called names.

“Back then here (Philippines) they used to call me names and you know, I fight back,” he said.

This year, Miss Gay Mandaue celebrated its 50th year and past winners were all smiles during the coronation night of Reina de Mandaue last, May 9.

THE KWEENS 🏳️🌈👑LOOK: During the Reina de Mandaue’s coronation night last Tuesday, May 9, they honored Miss Gay…

Posted by CDN Digital on Thursday, May 11, 2023

With the courage and knowledge Diola has as the pioneering organizer of Miss Gay Mandaue, he has become one of the most respected pageant organizers and the beacon of hope and strength for the LGBTQA community here in Cebu.     /rcg


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TAGS: Diola, Gay, LGBTQA, Mandaue City
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