By Joee Guilas
They all came armed and ready. Full pageant hair and make-up. The tallest, sexiest heels. Killer bods and catwalks. The most attention-grabbing outfits.
This year’s candidates of the Miss Universe Pageant headed not for an onstage appointment with the judges but were there for a medical meeting with the swabbing team of Resorts World Manila. All 50-something of them had to undergo RT-PCR testing that afternoon at the Holiday Inn Express (HIEx) Newport City before they were allowed to proceed to the final coronation venue of the pageant’s introductory edition—Baguio City.
“They’re probably the most gorgeous bunch to ever submit themselves to us for actual swab testing,” said HIEx Newport City General Manager Boy Beloso.
Surely, getting swab tested isn’t among the candidates’ most anticipated activities, but at this time of the pandemic, failure for them to pass this round could mean automatic disqualification for a competition they have been preparing for all their lives.
Taguig delegate and “Build, Build, Build” girl Sandra Lemonon admitted to not liking being swabbed: “I don’t think anyone really likes it but, of course, we really need to be safe. I think this is my 8th swab. I told the one doing it, “please..please be gentle!” I know we all have to do it, but in the end, I didn’t really like it.”
“Kinabahan talaga ako swab test because this is my first time,” said Quezon Province’s representative Faye Dominique Deveza. “Sabi sa kin nung nurse na tumulong sa akin, ang feeling mo dito para kang nakasinghot ng tubig sa pool. Ayoko. Parang that’s the worst feeling for me. Para syang umaabot sa ulo,” she added.
This year’s batch of candidates is a combination of first-timers and those who have already had previous national pageant experience. Among those belonging to the latter is top favourite Alaiza Flor Malinao of Davao: “This is actually my second swab. I always find it so difficult kasi masakit sya sa ilong! Saka nakakakiliti sya sa throat. This is something that I really didn’t want to do again but I had to do it to keep myself safe and the rest of the girls as well.”
Rizal’s Ericka Evangelista found fulfilment in her performance as a swab patient: “I’m super proud kasi hindi na ako umiyak. The first time I had it, I really cried like tulo talaga yung luha ko.”
After getting their noses poked, the ladies had to stay a night in the hotel for a 24-hour wait for their test results to come out. All of them had to stay solo in their rooms to ensure physical distancing.
Girl-to-beat Michele Gumabao of Quezon City found being in quarantine a challenge. “Medyo mahirap talaga kasi being in the room all alone. I can say it’s really a big challenge not only for me but for everybody,” she confessed.
Not in the case of Paranaque’s Ysabella Ysmael, however. This relative of the country’s second Miss Universe, Margarita Moran, actually welcomed being afforded some quiet time. She declared: “I have no problem being isolated. I’m loving my alone time.”
The entire swabbing activity ended up with two candidates as casualties, testing positive for COVID19. After undergoing their first major test for the competition, Lou Dominique Piczon of Mandaue shared this reminder to the public who might still have apprehensions on getting themselves tested: “It’s really important to undergo swab testing. To prep, we have put in mind that it’s for the betterment of everyone and people around you. Yes, it will be painful, I’m not going to lie, but it actually depends on the one conducting it. Just brace yourselves and pray for negative results.”