Meet Joenas Galinato, Mr. VicBears 2024

As Diniz Sanchez told us in his fantastic recap of Bearfest 2024, the wonderful VicBears of Melbourne and Victoria held the annual contest to find their new Mister VicBears during the festivities, as is tradition.

After several days of parties, beach gatherings and attending the MidSumma Festival, the bears gathered together at the Laird in Melbourne to watch six handsome men compete for the title. When the dust settled Joenas Galinato emerged victorious. Get to know a bit about him below.

Joenas Galinato winning Mr. Vicbears 2024

BWM: Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Joenas Galinato (JG): I am a proud Filipino, born in Baguio City, Philippines. I came to Australia in 2018 and have since resided in the City of Melbourne which is now my home. I am a Nurse by profession in a GP clinic and have been in practice for almost 12 years both back in the Philippines and in Australia.

BWM: What drew you to the bear community?

JG: What drew me in the bear community in Melbourne was that I was looking for a community that would accept me for who I am since I do identify myself as a bear despite my unconventional physical attributes (when compared to the usual description of a typical bear). 

BWM: Tell us a bit about the bear scene in Melbourne. What bars, clubs, and events do the bears gravitate towards?

JG: The bear scene in Melbourne is very alive, active and full of bear energy! Almost all bears in Melbourne would consider The Laird Hotel as their local den since it has hosted many bear events and has been the only same-sex attracted CIS and Trans males venue in the city.  Bears in Melbourne tend to congregate in events where they can express themselves freely and celebrate body positivity. Some of these events held in Melbourne are Chunk and Thick N Juicy.

BWM: Can you tell us a bit about the VicBears and what they do?

JG: Since its creation in 1996, VicBears has been a social club for down to earth, same sex attracted males, and male identifying community members of all shapes, sizes, races and ages in Melbourne and Victoria. They are active in organizing events that engage their members in activities that promote camaraderie and also strengthen bear bonds amongst bears in Melbourne as well with visiting bears from other cities. Two of the biggest events that VicBears organizes are BearFest which is held every January and Southern Hibearnation which happens every June. The Highlight of the two events mentioned is the Mr VicBears competition for Bearfest then at Southern Hibearnation title holders from Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, New Zealand and Melbourne, vie for the coveted Mr. Australasia Bear title! 

BWM: Tell us about your history with the bear community. Are there any particular issues/causes or charities that are especially important to you?

JG: I was first introduced to the bears while I was still in Manila. Back then there were some events that were organized by my friends like the Bear Beach Paradise which showcased some of the best beaches in the Philippines being flocked to by bears. When I moved to Melbourne, I found myself at first in the corners of The Laird knowing anyone; but soon, I built my confidence and began growing my friendship circles, eventually finding my chosen family in the VicBears where I felt that I had a home.

Being a practicing Nurse who has experience dealing with people who belong to the rainbow community who are homeless and are at risk of homelessness, I have seen the immediate effect of not having a stable housing situation on their mental health. They are subjected to different kinds of abuse and are exposed to an environment where they cannot thrive and express themselves and their identity as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. I would like to create an awareness that homelessness is also a big issue within the rainbow community and that there is also a need to be more understanding for those who are at risk of being homeless. I know I cannot directly address the problem of homelessness, but by supporting a charity that has the capacity and framework to help those who need it like Pride Foundation Australia, I can make a difference in the lives of the people that they have helped.

BWM:  What are the responsibilities associated with your title?

JG: Having the title entails the big responsibility of representing VicBears and its ideals in the general public. Making an appearance at events wearing the sash promotes the club and makes the presence of the VicBears known in the community by creating conversations. Being Mr. VicBears is not only being the face of the club, but it also shows that the bears have a heart for the community by supporting charities through fundraising and other advocacy related activities. 

However, having the title is not all about serious matters, I also have the responsibility to myself to enjoy my reign, meet new friends and make the most memorable year I can for myself as Mr. VicBears 2024!

BWM: What are your goals for your title year? Where will you be appearing?

JG: My goal for my title year is to show everyone that I do deserve this title and to let everyone know what I am capable of contributing to the betterment of the bear community. I want to open doors for those who want to become part of the bear community no matter what shape, size, race and age they are. I would also like to raise some funds for my chosen charity to support them with our shared cause regarding the issue of homelessness in the rainbow community. Speaking of charity, please do support my fundraising campaign by buying my merchandise at the VicBears website!

I attended Sydney Mardi Gras at the end of February where together with my current sash brothers, members of the Sydney Harbour Bears, and other bears from different cities, we proudly marched in the streets of Sydney waving the bear flag. A week after that I was at the Chillout Festival in Daylesford in regional Victoria. This coming June 8-16, I would like to invite everyone to Southern Hibearnation 2024 “Toon Town”! Bears from all around Australia will come to Melbourne to revisit their younger days and favorite childhood cartoon characters with a bear twist! Also, during that event the new Mr. Australasia Bear will be crowned!

BWM: What are some important issues you feel that need to be addressed in the bear community?

JG: I think there is still a need to promote diversity and representation in the bear community and acknowledge that stereotypes of ‘who a bear should be’ still exist. 

Be sure to follow Joenas Galinato on Facebook and Instagram.

BWM Staff

Our Staff Writing Team works hard to bring you great content and share news & events from the bear community and beyond.