TALENT, in the olden days, referred to a unit of money usually in silver or gold equivalent to several years of hard work. As in the Parable of the Talents in the Bible's book of Matthew.
These days, our access to various forms of media make us more aware of a plethora of talents ranging from the musical, artistic and creative, to the intellectual, physical and unusual. For the extremely talented, their talent is their ticket to fame and fortune.
As a local pageant organizer and a frequent pageant judge, I sometimes end up being disappointed by talent competitions in the context of a beauty pageant. Is talent too much to ask from our local beauty queens, kings, and princesses? I hope not.
We do have proof that talent, beauty and wit can come in one complete package, as in the likes of Mutya ning Kapampangan and Miss World Philippines First Princess Nicolette Henson and Mutya ning Sinukwan and Miss Philippines Earth candidate Korina Christiene Reyes. Or are they becoming a rare breed? Unless we refer to the candidates of any Miss Gay pageant of which about 90 percent are all oozing with talent.
In a given local pageant, the talent competitions are most likely to be a hit and miss. Most candidates are forced to perform the so - called interpretative dance as a popular and often poor talent choice.
Having a little ballerina who has been taking dance classes for the past three years, I have realized that dancing in all its forms is both a talent and a skill. Even my daughter Sunis who watches all these pageants with me can tell if a candidate has only recently started dancing lessons since the most basic positions are often skewed.
As a cultural worker, I cringe and get uncomfortable when certain musical pieces, costumes or cultural traditions are taken out of context for the sake of a talent presentation.
An example is the "magdarame" dance popularized by Peter De Vera as part of his Panata at Panalangin performances which has been showcased here and abroad as a representation of Kapampangan culture. It becomes inappropriate when you use this piece as a talent presentation in a pageant. Moreover, talent coaches should be more culturally sensitive in their appropriations, so as not to offend ethnolinguistic groups.
Another observation I have made which is close to my heart and sensibility as a parent is how children are seemingly urged to perform talents that are not entirely appropriate for their age.
If I had a five-year-old daughter I will not have her gyrate like a bar girl in front of an audience nor let her wear a skimpy outfit for a talent presentation, not in a day and age when child sexual abuse is prevalent, even on social media.
However disturbing the talent competition scene is, all is not lost.
There is hope. We continue to witness the likes of our reigning Mutya ning Sinukwan Jhackie Garcia who presented a time-lapse video of her painting culminating in an actual art work when she competed in the pageant.
We have children like Mamuy Villanueva who showcased her gymnastics prowess and Kriztal Manalastas who wowed the audience with her dance sport excellence, both in the Little Miss Fernandino competitions. Not one to dance, Annika Simbulan delivered a Kapampangan poetry piece which she herself wrote in a Mutya ning San Fernando competition.
As local organizers, let us continue our efforts on holding talent screenings prior to the pageants and providing proper and informed guidance to candidates and their teams. I encourage talent coaches to do research and continue to develop the talents of their candidates.
I salute parents and handlers who support and highlight not only the beauty but also the talent of their children and the youth who are entrusted to them. Then and now, we appreciate talent as if it were a person's weight and worth in money or gold.