Today, Caraig still constantly reminds himself to “keep my feet on the ground no matter how high I get.”
Because he loves his family so much, it was a huge decision for him to participate in Mr Gay Hong Kong. Despite coming out to his friends in his college days, he had never come out to his family because he was worried about how it might affect their reputation.
“But somehow, I think it’s time to embrace and accept who you are. If you don’t accept and embrace who you are, they will never accept you as well,” Caraig says of his decision to enter the competition.
Although he did not tell his parents about the pageant, his mother eventually learned about it from media reports. In the end, there was no face-to-face coming out but an emotional acknowledgement. Some time after he won Mr Gay Hong Kong, Caraig received a text message from the Philippines. It was from his mother.
“I’m so proud of you, never ever forget the Lord,” Caraig recounts the message. “I told your dad about it. At first, he didn’t say anything. The first thing that came out of his mouth was, the Lord had a plan for my child.”
Other family members were supportive too. In fact, Caraig’s younger sister idolizes him for what he has achieved. As a lesbian, she understands the courage needed to come out not just to close relatives or friends but to the whole world.
So now Caraig is at peace with his sexual orientation and with his family. He is also at peace with his faith. He says it was never much of an issue to be gay and living in a country where 90 per cent of the population is Christian, of which more than 80 per cent are Catholic.
He found his church in the Philippines, in his experience, did not seem to care much about gay issues any more. “They are already used to it,” he says, although issues like gay marriage are sometimes brought up and argued over.
Although he is away from home, Caraig is active in his church in Hong Kong and now also in the gay community. Taking part in the pageant has helped him develop a strong sense of commitment to the gay community. He is surprised to see how gay issues have become more prominent in Hong Kong and the number of groups supporting gay issues has increased. There are organisations working on gay rights, on homophobic bullying and on HIV/AIDS education among other things. “I am really thankful that Hong Kong has embraced the gay community,” he says.