THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
A few weeks ago, we wrote about the importance of “adaptability” – the ability to adjust to changes in the environment and circumstances. We echoed the view of experts that adaptability is the special quality seen among various species of creatures who have managed to survive the major changes that happened in the world where we live in.
We cited the ability of the world of sports to exhibit this special quality. Local and international sports leagues have returned to the centerstage through the use of online platforms. The Olympic Games in Tokyo will soon be beamed worldwide and viewed by millions in their computers. The National Basketball Association (NBA) of the US and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) have just recently crowned their respective champions in dramatic fashion.
A new season of the local Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has begun. Sports events among the member schools of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are being played online.
The resumption of the sports events we love are reminders to us all that humankind has what it takes to adapt and survive even in the face of the worst crises.
One more passion among various countries of the world has adapted and will definitely survive and thrive: local and international beauty contests.
Despite the absence of the usual throngs of adoring fans filling a contest venue, the best and brightest among our young women continue to sign up for the competition. We have recently crowned our representatives to several international beauty pageants. Meanwhile, the search for the next Filipina who might win the Miss Universe title has kicked off.
Not only has the organizers of the Miss Universe Philippines pageant adapted to the New Normal – they have also adapted to the changing mood and temperament of the times.
Many welcomed the news that the organizers have removed the minimum height requirement for contestants. This opened the door for Filipinas like Ayn Bernos – the popular vlogger promoting the idea that “morena” is beautiful – to enter the competition.
The move also assured us that we will get to witness the beauty and brilliance of more Filipinas.
This development made me recall my experience as one of the judges of the annual search for our representatives to international beauty competitions.
That was in 2012 and I remember that the judges’ choice for that particular evening to represent the country in the Miss Universe contest was Janine Tugonon, a pharmacy student from the University of the Philippines who grew up in a small town in Bataan province.
Janine would later emerge first runner up in the Miss Universe pageant. Many believe she should have been named Miss Universe, but that year’s winner, Miss USA, had the judges’ sympathy vote. That was the year when Americans grieved the death of several schoolchildren in a senseless shooting incident.
When friends asked me about that experience of sitting in the board of judges, I said I was awed by the contestants. I was awed not just by their beauty, but by their remarkable intellect.
That is an honest answer.
While it is true that the contestants were remarkably beautiful, most if not all of them were also impressive brains-wise. Janine was the perfect proof of that fact – she graduated cum laude and her answer to the interview questions proved she deserved the academic honors.
Our view is that our beauty queens have been, by some tradition of sorts, the perfect combination of brains and beauty. The Filipino women who have represented us in international beauty contests were not mannequins. They were women who possessed physical beauty and the intelligence, wit and social awareness that have become their trademark.
In an earlier column, I shared with our readers the proof to this fact.
One of our earliest beauty queens was a Filipina by the name of Maria Villanueva Kalaw, a Southern Tagalog beauty who was crowned Carnival Queen in the 1950s. She would not be contented with a beauty queen’s life of cutting ribbons and posing before photographers. She would later become Senator Maria Kalaw Katigbak, the second Filipina to win a seat in the senate. There, she distinguished herself with outstanding legislative work in commerce, culture and education.
Another Filipina beauty who later became Senator was the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. She was also editor of the official student organ of the University of the Philippines where she was known for her leadership which combined the power of beauty and brains. Senator Miriam was Corps Sponsor of the UP ROTC, a prestigious accomplishment during her time.
Another campus beauty who wore that prestigious beauty-and-brains title also became an outstanding senator of the land – Senator Eva Estrada Kalaw.
Our elders in Rizal province also relate that our first Miss International stood out in the global stage because of her remarkable wit and intellect. She is Gemma Cruz-Araneta who became head of the National Library and who continues to distinguish herself as a writer and leader in the women’s rights movement.
Our first Miss Universe also wowed the world with her intelligent wit. Many who still remember that 1969 contest held in Miami Beach, Florida would attest that Gloria Diaz’s answer to the “Man from the Moon” question showed the Filipina at her best.
Binibining Pilipinas 1976 Elizabeth de Padua, who went on to become a doctor in the United States was a summa cum laude graduate of UP, is one of our many beauty queens with remarkable academic achievements.
Speaking of Summa Cum Laude beauty queens, Rizaleños have one – Anna Theresa Licaros of Cainta, and Binibining Pilipinas 2007. Theresa went on to pursue law studies and now combines her law practice with the responsibilities of being amother to her two sons. We are confident that the Antipoleña Gliyam Marianna B. Cundangan will follow in Theresa’s footsteps.
The Filipina has always been that – the combination of brains and beauty which make them natural leaders. The Filipino women we have long admired have possessed both qualities.
We are glad that the world of beauty pageants has adapted to the changing times.
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