Miss Earth contestants cry sexual harassment at Philippine pageant

MANILA – At least three contestants at a recent international beauty pageant in Manila have accused one of the sponsors of sexually harassing them with indecent proposals, sexual innuendos and inappropriate touching.

In separate posts on Instagram, Miss Earth contestants Jaime VandenBerg of Canada, Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown of Britain and Emma Mae Sheedy of Guam said they felt exploited, vulnerable and sexually harassed in the month leading up to the pageant finals last Saturday (Nov 3).

Ms Sheedy named Mr Amado Cruz, a sponsor who purportedly owns several restaurants here, as the one who repeatedly approached and contacted her and other contestants asking for sexual favours.

Mr Cruz has yet to comment on the allegations against him.

Miss Earth, a beauty pageant that promotes environmental awareness, is the smallest of four international pageants held annually. Through a foundation, it has tie-ups with the Philippine government and the United Nations Environment Programme, and works with groups like Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Foundation.

Ms VandenBerg took to social media on Wednesday (Nov 7) to reveal that a sponsor was given her phone number without her consent and began asking for her hotel and room number.

“It did not work. (But) he showed up at almost all of my events telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favours in exchange to get me further in the pageant,” she wrote on Instagram. “I was disgusted.”

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I left to compete at an international pageant in the Philippines about a month ago. I was so excited because I had been to the Philippines before and loved the country and the people; however, the experience with the pageant was not what I had expected. I left Miss Earth because I did not feel safe under their care. The second day of the pageant I felt uncomfortable because a sponsor from the first night was given my phone number, without my consent, and was calling me asking for my hotel and room number. I gave my phone to a team manager so that she could resolve the issue, but it did not work. He showed up to almost all of my events telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favours in exchange to get me further in the pageant. I was disgusted. He showed up to a hotel some girls were staying at and when I ran into him he continued to ask for my room number. I was lucky I wasn’t staying at that hotel. After so many strange calls, I recognized his phone number and was able to block it. At an event at the Manila Yacht Club he took all of the delegates in my group to his yacht and had some girls take sultry photos. Again, I was disgusted. Later in the pageant we had another sponsor event at the Manila Yacht Club and he was telling girls he could take them to Boracay, as long as we didn’t tell any one. A group of us left to sit out side as we did not feel comfortable. He followed us outside and was upset we were not dancing with him. The team mangers laughed and told us to be nice. Eventually we were allowed to go and sit on the bus because we refused to go back to his yacht. Six girls and myself left because we felt unsafe at that event. I asked many times why more girls weren’t given the option to leave but, was never given an answer. That night a few of us were given the opportunity to bring our concerns to Miss Lorraine, the woman in charge of the pageant. I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before I anything was done about it. I was told he would not be around any more, but I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved. Miss Peachy, another employee of the pageant, spoke with me at an event about…

A post shared by Jaime VandenBerg (@missjaimeyvonne) on

I left to compete at an international pageant in the Philippines about a month ago. I was so excited because I had been to the Philippines before and loved the country and the people; however, the experience with the pageant was not what I had expected. I left Miss Earth because I did not feel safe under their care. The second day of the pageant I felt uncomfortable because a sponsor from the first night was given my phone number, without my consent, and was calling me asking for my hotel and room number. I gave my phone to a team manager so that she could resolve the issue, but it did not work. He showed up to almost all of my events telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favours in exchange to get me further in the pageant. I was disgusted. He showed up to a hotel some girls were staying at and when I ran into him he continued to ask for my room number. I was lucky I wasn’t staying at that hotel. After so many strange calls, I recognized his phone number and was able to block it. At an event at the Manila Yacht Club he took all of the delegates in my group to his yacht and had some girls take sultry photos. Again, I was disgusted. Later in the pageant we had another sponsor event at the Manila Yacht Club and he was telling girls he could take them to Boracay, as long as we didn’t tell any one. A group of us left to sit out side as we did not feel comfortable. He followed us outside and was upset we were not dancing with him. The team mangers laughed and told us to be nice. Eventually we were allowed to go and sit on the bus because we refused to go back to his yacht. Six girls and myself left because we felt unsafe at that event. I asked many times why more girls weren’t given the option to leave but, was never given an answer. That night a few of us were given the opportunity to bring our concerns to Miss Lorraine, the woman in charge of the pageant. I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before I anything was done about it. I was told he would not be around any more, but I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved. Miss Peachy, another employee of the pageant, spoke with me at an event about…

A post shared by Jaime VandenBerg (@missjaimeyvonne) on

Ms VandenBerg said that at one event at the Manila Yacht Club, the contestants were made to pose for sultry photos and dance while on board Mr Cruz’s yacht.

She and six other contestants refused to participate and were led to a waiting bus.

“We felt unsafe at that event,” she said. They complained to their team managers, but “(they) just laughed and told us to be nice”.

Ms VandenBerg later brought up her concerns to Ms Lorraine Schuck, executive vice-president of Carousel Productions, which ran the Miss Earth pageant. Ms Schuck assured her that Mr Cruz “would not be around any more”.

“But I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved… I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before anything was done about it,” said Ms VandenBerg.

She eventually withdrew from the pageant and returned to Canada.

Ms VandenBerg did not name the sponsor in her post, but Ms Sheedy tagged Mr Cruz as the culprit.

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My side of the Miss Earth International Experience: – After a year and a half of preparation for my first beauty pageant; the Miss Earth pageant, I was excited to travel back to the Philippines for the 6th time. The hospitality of the Filipinos is not found anywhere else. The Philippines is like a second home to me. I joined the pageant to make a difference and be a role model to those around me. I enjoyed a majority of the pageant, but what I did not know, is that a specific sponsor from the Manila Yacht Club would change the way I see pageantry and sponsors. The sponsor who’s name is Amado S. Cruz became a problem for many of the delegates, including myself. To focus on ONLY myself, I was pulled aside multiple times to be invited to Boracay, private islands and into his house and insisted that I and “the latino women dance for him.” Amado S. Cruz grabbed my bare backside at the National Costume Competition where I was able to push him away, but he consistently told me not to tell anyone about any of the instances. At the Manila Yacht Club, Amado S. Cruz ensured that the team managers and security personnel were separated in another room, this is where he made many girls uncomfortable. A groups of us left the room because we felt uncomfortable, but Amado S. Cruz followed us and insisted that we stayed inside to dance with him. We asked our team managers to bring us to the busses, which took over 20 minutes for them finally to do. Later on that night @missjaimeyvonne and @Miss.Earth.England spoke on the phone with Lorraine Schuck, the Vice President of Miss Earth, who assured them that Amado S. Cruz would not be at any other event. From the moment the pageant started until coronation night, Amado S. Cruz was at every event and dinner he could physically get to. Since other delegates have posted, multiple other queens from past years have come out about the same behavior. I want to help put a stop to this sponsor being apart of the Miss Earth International Pageant because he has become a problem for years. #missearth2018 #missearth #MeToo @missearth

A post shared by Emma Mae (@erma101) on

My side of the Miss Earth International Experience: – After a year and a half of preparation for my first beauty pageant; the Miss Earth pageant, I was excited to travel back to the Philippines for the 6th time. The hospitality of the Filipinos is not found anywhere else. The Philippines is like a second home to me. I joined the pageant to make a difference and be a role model to those around me. I enjoyed a majority of the pageant, but what I did not know, is that a specific sponsor from the Manila Yacht Club would change the way I see pageantry and sponsors. The sponsor who’s name is Amado S. Cruz became a problem for many of the delegates, including myself. To focus on ONLY myself, I was pulled aside multiple times to be invited to Boracay, private islands and into his house and insisted that I and “the latino women dance for him.” Amado S. Cruz grabbed my bare backside at the National Costume Competition where I was able to push him away, but he consistently told me not to tell anyone about any of the instances. At the Manila Yacht Club, Amado S. Cruz ensured that the team managers and security personnel were separated in another room, this is where he made many girls uncomfortable. A groups of us left the room because we felt uncomfortable, but Amado S. Cruz followed us and insisted that we stayed inside to dance with him. We asked our team managers to bring us to the busses, which took over 20 minutes for them finally to do. Later on that night @missjaimeyvonne and @Miss.Earth.England spoke on the phone with Lorraine Schuck, the Vice President of Miss Earth, who assured them that Amado S. Cruz would not be at any other event. From the moment the pageant started until coronation night, Amado S. Cruz was at every event and dinner he could physically get to. Since other delegates have posted, multiple other queens from past years have come out about the same behavior. I want to help put a stop to this sponsor being apart of the Miss Earth International Pageant because he has become a problem for years. #missearth2018 #missearth #MeToo @missearth

A post shared by Emma Mae (@erma101) on

In an interview, Ms Schuck told GMA News that she did address Ms VandenBerg’s complaints, but she was informed about them a week after the pre-pageant events began.

“She never told us. She came here on the sixth (of October). We found out about it on the 14th. She never told anyone,” she said.

Ms Schuck insisted that Mr Cruz was banned from all events, although he was in the audience during the coronation.

“Because the coronation night was a public event, we could not control his appearance. Even the police couldn’t do anything about it,” she said.

She added that all the contestants were provided police escorts for their safety.

Ms Gyles-Brown, the British contestant, said in her Instagram post that she had a similar experience as Ms VandenBerg.

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My personal encounter @missearth. • It’s time to speak up about my personal experience. I have been in close contact with my national director and all incidents have been noted. I have worked very hard for my title of Miss Earth England and as I have previously mentioned I took 4 years to get to the top and win my place at the Internationals. I was elated to finally represent England over in the beautiful Philippines. My trip was a rollercoaster of emotions, stress and endurance and I did not leave the pageant as I was not going to miss out on the experience. I have many beautiful memories of my time here in the Philippines and many wonderful days. I met happy Filipinos who showed me such kindness and respect. I enjoyed 50% of my trip but the other 50% was over shadowed by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved & sexually harassed as I was approached by a sponsor on many occasions who asked for sexual favours in exchange for the Crown. This happened at Manila Yacht Club on a sponsored evening meal away from the team managers behind closed doors. The sponsor also tried to find out what hotel and room I was staying in. Myself and Canada approached Team Manager to express our disgust only to be laughed at. Another official attendee of the night told me not to cry as I would ruin my makeup! There was no respect or compassion shown to myself or Jaimie. I felt traumatised by this experience and had many sleepless nights. I was not sure who had my personal details including my mob number and hotel room. It was not only myself and Canada who were approached on this night but other delegates who I believe are going to come forward and tell their side of the story. I approached Lorraine Schuck who is the Vice President Of Miss Earth she informed me that the sponsor would be removed from all contact with contestants but this did not happen. As other groups experienced the same issue. Myself and @missjaimeyvonne removed ourselves from this uncomfortable environment and sat on the bus away from further exploitation. This is one of many incidents we faced during our Miss Earth Journey! The said sponsor in fact show up at a prelim event and also attended the Coronation night

A post shared by 🌍♻️🌸Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown🌸♻️🌍 (@miss.earth.england) on

My personal encounter @missearth. • It’s time to speak up about my personal experience. I have been in close contact with my national director and all incidents have been noted. I have worked very hard for my title of Miss Earth England and as I have previously mentioned I took 4 years to get to the top and win my place at the Internationals. I was elated to finally represent England over in the beautiful Philippines. My trip was a rollercoaster of emotions, stress and endurance and I did not leave the pageant as I was not going to miss out on the experience. I have many beautiful memories of my time here in the Philippines and many wonderful days. I met happy Filipinos who showed me such kindness and respect. I enjoyed 50% of my trip but the other 50% was over shadowed by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved & sexually harassed as I was approached by a sponsor on many occasions who asked for sexual favours in exchange for the Crown. This happened at Manila Yacht Club on a sponsored evening meal away from the team managers behind closed doors. The sponsor also tried to find out what hotel and room I was staying in. Myself and Canada approached Team Manager to express our disgust only to be laughed at. Another official attendee of the night told me not to cry as I would ruin my makeup! There was no respect or compassion shown to myself or Jaimie. I felt traumatised by this experience and had many sleepless nights. I was not sure who had my personal details including my mob number and hotel room. It was not only myself and Canada who were approached on this night but other delegates who I believe are going to come forward and tell their side of the story. I approached Lorraine Schuck who is the Vice President Of Miss Earth she informed me that the sponsor would be removed from all contact with contestants but this did not happen. As other groups experienced the same issue. Myself and @missjaimeyvonne removed ourselves from this uncomfortable environment and sat on the bus away from further exploitation. This is one of many incidents we faced during our Miss Earth Journey! The said sponsor in fact show up at a prelim event and also attended the Coronation night

A post shared by 🌍♻️🌸Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown🌸♻️🌍 (@miss.earth.england) on

“I was approached by a sponsor on many occasions who asked for sexual favours in exchange for the crown… Myself and (Miss) Canada approached team manager to express our disgust only to be laughed at.”

She said half her experience at the pageant was overshadowed “by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved (and) sexually harassed”.

“I felt traumatised by this experience, and had many sleepless nights,” she said.

Like Ms VandenBerg, Ms Gyles-Brown raised concerns about Mr Cruz with the pageant’s minders, but one of them simply told her “not to cry as I would ruin my make-up”.

Ms Sheed of Guam, in her Instagram post with the hashtag #MeToo, said Mr Cruz “became a problem for many of the delegates, including myself”.

“I was pulled aside multiple times to be invited to Boracay, private islands and into his house, and (he) insisted that I and the Latino women dance for him,” she said.

She claimed that Mr Cruz grabbed her “bare backside” and “consistently told me not to tell anyone about any of the instances”.

“I joined the pageant to make a difference and be a role model to those around me. I enjoyed a majority of the pageant. But what I did not know was that a specific sponsor… would change the way I see pageantry and sponsors,” said Ms Sheed.

Ms Schuck did not say if Mr Cruz would remain a Miss Earth sponsor. But she urged all three contestants to file official complaints against him.

“They can sue the guy, and I will support them,” she said.

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