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Esmael ‘Toto’ Mangudadatu and Sharifa Akeel were married on Wednesday. Photo: Facebook

Philippine beauty queen Sharifa Akeel weds MP Esmael ‘Toto’ Mangudadatu after allegations of affair

  • The relationship between Mangudadatu, 53, and Akeel, 24, became a source of tabloid fascination after details of their private lives spilled out on social media
  • The couple were accused of having an affair while Mangudadatu was married to another woman, who described him as a womaniser in an angry Facebook post
Geela Garcia
Philippine beauty queen on Wednesday married a local politician twice her age in the southern province of Maguindanao, which is in the Muslim-majority region of Bangsamoro. It was the culmination of a relationship that has become a source of controversy and tabloid interest.

MP Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, 53, and Sharifa Akeel, 24, were rumoured to have had an affair while Mangudadatu was still married to another woman, Mylene Mangudadatu. In August, she made a series of accusations on Facebook and described him as a womaniser. She also appeared on the TV5 talk show Wanted sa Radyo to discuss her private life.

“Under Islamic law, a man may marry up to four wives but he had already ‘filled up his slots’,” Mylene told the TV interviewer. “A husband must also ask permission from his wives before marrying another woman.”

Sharifa, who was Miss Asia Pacific International 2018, has also defended herself on social media.

In a post addressed to “Miss Desperada (Desperate)”, Sharifa challenged Mylene to “proceed to court and flaunt all your evidence”. Sharifa also warned Mylene against invoking Islam.

Philippine internet users were quick to weigh in on the wedding.


One Facebook user commented alongside coverage: “Wasn’t Akeel denying all these allegations just like a year [ago]? Now she’s getting married.” Another commenter suggested simply: “Money can buy anything.”

A Philippine Cinderella: from domestic helper to Miss Universe?

Catholicism is the main dominant religion in the Philippines but there is a long history of Islam, which was introduced by Muslim traders in the 14th century and is the country’s second-largest religion. There are about 6 million Muslims in the Philippines and 93 per cent of them live on the southern island of Mindanao, where Maguindanao is located.

Sharifa, who has mixed Qatari and Filipino heritage, grew up in humble surroundings in the shanties of Lebak in Sultan Kudarat. She became a teacher in her hometown and now works for the province’s congressional office.

Mangudadatu, on the other hand, comes from a politically influential clan. In 2009, his family was targeted during the Maguindanao massacre, which left 58 people dead, including his wife and 34 journalists. He served as governor of Maguindanao from 2010-19 before being elected to represent Maguindanao’s second district in the country’s parliament.

Beauty pageants are wildly popular in the Philippines and some of Sharifa’s fans were dismayed when her engagement to Mangudadatu was announced, as married women are ineligible to compete in top international beauty pageants.

What’s behind the Philippine obsession with beauty queens?

Some internet users wished the couple well but, although the wedding was a welcome distraction for Filipinos during the pandemic, others took the opportunity to demand the financial aid of 10,000 pesos (US$200) promised by the government that never materialised.

The couple limited the number of guests due to the coronavirus pandemic. Their wedding invitation, which was published online, stressed the need for guests to wear face masks throughout the ceremony.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: MP in love tangle weds beauty queen, 24