In 1999, Erik Salvador made history when he became the first Igorot to win the Mr. Philippines pageant. The Kankana-ey native from Kapangan, Benguet, defied stereotypes and prejudices about his ethnicity to emerge victorious in the competition.
Salvador's journey to the Mr. Philippines title was not easy. He faced discrimination from his fellow contestants, who doubted his ability to win because of his Igorot heritage. Some even made fun of him for his height, his straight hair, and his nose, which was not flat.
But Salvador refused to let the discrimination get to him. He knew that he had the talent, the intelligence, and the charisma to win the pageant. And he was determined to prove to the world that an Igorot could be just as successful as anyone else.
On the night of the pageant, Salvador delivered a strong performance. He dazzled the judges with his good looks, his charm, and his intelligence. He also gave a moving speech about his Igorot heritage and his desire to use his platform to promote cultural understanding.
In the end, Salvador's hard work and determination paid off. He was crowned Mr. Philippines 1999, becoming the first Igorot to win the title. His victory was a triumph for his community and for all Filipinos.
Salvador's win was a watershed moment for the Igorot people. It showed the world that Igorots are just as capable and talented as anyone else. It also inspired a new generation of Igorots to pursue their dreams and break down barriers.
After his victory, Salvador went on to represent the Philippines in the Mr. World pageant in 2001. He placed in the top 15, which was a remarkable achievement for a first-time contestant.
Since then, Salvador has continued to use his platform to promote cultural understanding and to advocate for the rights of the Igorot people. He is a role model for young people everywhere, and he is an inspiration to all who know him.
One of Salvador's most memorable moments came when he was asked by a reporter in Cebu if it was true that Igorots have tails. The reporter's question was meant to be a joke, but Salvador took it in stride. He smiled and said, "Oh yes we have a tail, but it is in the front, and it is big."
The crowd roared with laughter, but Salvador's response was more than just a joke. It was a powerful statement about the resilience and determination of the Igorot people. It showed that even when faced with discrimination, Igorots will never back down.
Erik Salvador is a true champion. He is a man of great talent, intelligence, and determination. He is also a proud Igorot who has broken down barriers and paved the way for future generations.
In his own words:
"It was 1999. I was backstage brimming with confidence. It was my fourth pageant but this time I was so proud and thrilled that I will be representing Baguio City and Benguet in the Mr. Philippines-World national competition. I overheard a conversation among my fellow contestants that they were curious about the Igorot who joined. They wanted to know how he looked. Someone joked that if you see the ugliest contestant that would be him. When they finally saw me, they could not believe their eyes. Some remarked that I was a fake. According to them I could not be an Igorot because I was tall, had straight hair and my nose was not flat. That was just one of the many discrimination I personally heard. It was a hurtful experience. My fellow competitors were no push over, they were taller, good-looking, while some were celebrities and professional models. But I was not to be discouraged.
To represent the Igorots was the source of my inner strength. I had to bring out the best in me. I have to prove them wrong. They announced the top ten and I was in. Then I was in the final five. When asked during the question and answer portion, 'As Mr. Philippines 1999, what would be your mission?', I answered unequivocally in proper English, 'To create programs to save the street children - they need our help most because they are very vulnerable so we must take good care of them'. I was announced Mr. Photogenic and finally, I was declared Mr. Philippines-World 1999 besting 25 contestants. I have the right to represent the Philippines in the Mr. World competition to be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, I, the Igorot many thought was ugly. I was Mr. Philippines from 1999-2001 because the Mr. World organization required at least 40 countries for a Mr. World pageant to push through, it was only in 2001 when the number was met. I was in the top 15 in the Mr. World 2001. My experience with discrimination didn't end during the Mr. Philippines pageant.
As the reigning Mr. Philippines part of my duties was to become an ambassador of goodwill under the Binibining Pilipinas Charities by going around important cities in the country. When we were in Cebu, a reporter asked me in jest, 'So is it true that you Igorots have tails?' There was a big crowd during that time and they roared in laughter. But I was not to be intimidated. I told the reporter, 'Oh yes we have a tail, but it is in the front, and it is big'."
Salvador's story is an inspiration to all of us. It shows that we should never let discrimination hold us back from achieving our dreams. If we have the talent, the intelligence, and the determination, we can achieve anything we set our minds to.