Michele Gumabao: ‘I was heartbroken, I was devastated’

Published November 3, 2020, 3:55 PM

by Kristel Satumbaga-Villar

Photo from Michele Gumabao’s Instagram account

Volleyball star and beauty queen Michele Gumabao shared the highs and lows of her journey as a candidate of the recent Miss Universe Philippines 2020 pageant in a 24-minute tell-all video posted on her YouTube channel last Monday.

The video, which has garnered more than 250,000 views as of writing, showed Gumabao shedding explanations for her actions during the pageant after receiving backlash online.

“I am speaking up now and defending myself because I know no one will. This is my statement, this is my story, this is my message for all of you,” Gumabao wrote on the video post.

The 28-year-old open spiker admitted she is speaking up after overcoming the doubt and fear over the past few days.

“I’m not sharing this to attack or hurt anyone. I just want to share the truth. And I want to be true to myself because this will be the only way to look back into this and happily move on,” she said.

Gumabao said she passed out and injured herself due to exhaustion a few days leading to pageant night. She sprained her ankle, broke her toe and injured her head so she decided to do her rehab at home.

She added that hectic and sometimes unpredictable schedule also took a toll on her.

“There were days where we were just kept in our rooms, and those little things built up. In the end, all the anxiety, pressure and exhaustion were a lot to handle,” she said.

But an incident pushed her to the edge, to the point that all she wanted was to go home.

She was spending the night with the girls, getting to know them more since pandemic restrictions weren’t able to allow them to bond as often as they could when she received cryptic messages from people about the results.

At first, Gumabao didn’t mind it and chose to have fun with the girls.

It didn’t stop there.

“Early morning of the 25th (October) at 3 a.m., I heard things that I wasn’t supposed to hear and it hurts. I admit I just went to my room and cried so hard. Everything that I’ve been hearing the past few days came in rushing to my head. I was heartbroken. I was devastated,” she said.

“I realized that for nine months, I kept putting this journey first, this organization first and it was my time to put myself first. And I did.”

Gumabao, who eventually won second runner up, said she sent a notice to people from the organization the reasons she wanted to go home, and even congratulated pageant winner Rabiya Mateo. But she was surprised by the social media posts from people bashing her for her absence on the pictures of the winners circulating online.

“I thought everything was okay… Upon reaching Manila, my family was there. They told me what was happening online and everything: all the stories, all the issues that were made up, and I just couldn’t believe that people are capable of such things, that we’re in this beauty pageant, joining because of our dreams, because we want to empower people but it’s so toxic: the industry, the fans, the bashers, the criticism… Everything is just so toxic and I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Gumabao also expressed her disappointment for people who could have stood up for her but didn’t.

“What saddens me most is when people make issues about me leaving and not being part of that photo. The organization knew why. They knew my reasons. They knew why I left but never said anything. They kept quiet, and now so many stories are circulating. I told myself, I have to speak up. I have to defend myself. I have to fight for myself because I knew nobody would.”

Overall, Gumabao hopes people would be more responsible online.

“I’d also like to remind everybody that we should stop bashing, stop spreading lies and negativity. It doesn’t mean that even though we’re free to speak our minds and hearts and share our passion to a certain topic, it is okay to bring and take people down just because we feel bad,” she said.

“I just hope that people allowed me to accept my fate and destiny on my own terms and I just hope that there were things I shouldn’t have heard. I hope that I never heard them. Because accepting failure is one thing, but to get it mixed up with uncertainty and doubt is another,” Gumabao said.