CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 26 November) – Embarrassed tourism officials have invited organizers of an international beauty contest here after one of its contestants left in a huff and complained to the media in New Zealand of alleged “shabby treatment.”
Catalino Chan, regional director of Department of Tourism, said they invited Mylene Miranda, 43, organizer of Mister and Miss Pan Continental 2015 Global Pageant after one of the contestants, Miss New Zealand Nicole Harding, left for home on Sunday.
The pre-pageant presentation is scheduled on Thursday at a popular shopping mall here while coronation night is on November 30 in Manila.
Chan said they also invited local organizers, Sheryl Macale, manager of Radyo Natin station, and a certain Lourdes Stanley, to see if Harding’s allegations are true.
“Our city and the province of Misamis Oriental are put to shame because of her allegations. We do not blame Miss Harding but we want to know why,” Chan said.
Harding, together with Miss USA Ashley Clark, left Cagayan de Oro last Sunday citing disorganization among pageant organizers and security concerns. Around 30 contestants have reportedly come to the city to join the pageant.
She complained that she travelled to Cagayan de Oro to compete in the pageant, which she thought was a dream opportunity, but which turned out to be a nightmare for her.
Harding, a nursing student, accused the organizers as “a Mickey Mouse outfit” who put the contestants in danger.
She said organizers promised all the contestants they will shoulder all the costs, including their accommodation in five-star hotels. She arrived in the Philippines on November 18.
Arriving in Cagayan de Oro, one of the pageant’s venues, Harding said they were taken to a different hotel “in the middle of a red light district” because the organizers had some booking problems with their appointed hotels
“They took us to this hotel, which, in New Zealand, I would liken to a prison cell. There were guys out the front with machine guns and dogs,” Harding wrote in her Facebook page.
She said that at the hotel, the organizers assigned three contestants to a room with one double bed. The organizers, she added, put out a slim mattress on the floor in a room that was “crawling with bugs.”
“We met with the Cagayan de Oro governor and he said it was not safe to be here, this place is more unsafe than Afghanistan. He told us, where we were, they kidnap people and use them as sex slaves, it’s the number one place for human trafficking,” Harding narrated.
But Chan said Misamis Oriental Gov. Yevgeney Emano and Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno denied having talked with Harding.
Harding believes the pageant organizers were trying to make money by carrying out a low-budget event.
She said she left Cagayan de Oro heeding the travel advisory of New Zealand which put the entire island of Mindanao a “high risk area.”
Harding’s complaints appeared in news websites in New Zealand and Australia.
Chan said they noticed the organizers were “disorganized” in handling big events.
“We never received any official letter from them. When we met them we told them they should not expect the local government units (LGUs) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) to spend for them,” he said.
Chan said they are worried about the food and accommodation of the contestants whom they learned have been transferring from one hotel to another.
“We want everybody to know that the DOT or any of the LGUS are not connected to the pageant but we are helping them right now because we do not want the problems to grow bigger,” he said.
Chan said there have been already disagreements among the organizers.
He said Miranda filed a “breach of contract” complaint before the Carmen police station against Stanley who allegedly “failed miserably to make the necessary arrangement in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental which caused great injury and confusion to the pageant organization and the local government units.”
In her FB page, Macale warned local journalists she will file oral defamation cases against them if the media write unfounded allegations on the beauty pageant.
She said Harding’s outburst is only “a little problem,” adding the rest of the candidates are still around.