Roni Meneses, on how to love

Published July 31, 2021, 9:00 PM

by Jules Vivas

Meet one of the top bets in this year’s Miss Earth Philippines and how her personal advocacy and lifestyle set her apart

QUINTESSENTIAL QUEEN Roni in her MPE pre-pageant evening gown (Hair by Valerie Corpuz, makeup by Jr Constantino, photo by Bryan Emanuel Termulo)

Beauty for a cause. This is what one of the country’s much-anticipated pageants, the Miss Earth Philippines (MPE), is all about. The search for the most beautiful women to serve as a role model for the benefit of the earth is on. The coronation night is right around the corner, a little over a week from now, on Aug. 8, Sunday. The event, same as last year, is set to air online as a precaution in the ongoing health crisis.

Among the top bets to win this year is Roni Meneses, the youngest child of former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) star, now mayor of Bulakan, Bulacan, Vergel Meneses. It has been only two years since Roni debuted in the world of pageantry, and already she has made a name for herself. She won her first contest right off the bat, where she was crowned Miss Mandaluyong 2020.

“Ever since I was young, I have always wondered how it feels to be a beauty queen. I would watch Binibining Pilipinas (BBP), and tell myself that one day I would be a queen too,” Roni said in a sit-down with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “It was not until two years ago that I had enough courage and confidence to finally push through with my dream of becoming a beauty queen,” the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Clothing Technology graduate at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman says.

Back then, Roni was full of self-doubt. She wanted to find out if she was worthy of a crown. “Winning Miss Mandaluyong 2020 was more than just a title. It was an affirmation and confirmation that I could do anything I put my heart into.”

Hailing from a family famous in the sports industry, especially with her father having hoisted the PBA MVP plum, Roni is also into physical recreation. In her high school days, she played volleyball and basketball. And while she did not follow in the footsteps of her father directly, the 26-year-old beauty queen draws great inspiration from her dad.

ADVOCATE OF HEALTHY EATING Roni in her pre-pageant casual wear (Hair by Velerie Corpuz, makeup by Jr Constantino, photo by Ian Francisco)

“I can’t express how proud I am to have a father who is well known for being phenomenal in one of the leading sports in the country,” Roni says. She confesses that being the daughter of a PBA legend comes with great pride and pressure. “I’d like to think that this is where the pressure comes from as well. It is the kind of pressure that motivates me to become better and to aim higher at all times. To be able to live up or even exceed the level of success my father was able to achieve.”

Roni shares just how much love and respect she has for her father. “One unforgettable moment I had with my dad was during a ride home just recently. We were having an ordinary conversation when he suddenly said, ‘Sana manalo ka sa Miss Earth ‘no? Pero ramdam ko naman mananalo ka. Alam ko ito ang nakatadhana para sa’yo; ang maging beauty queen. (I hope you win Miss Earth. I feel that you won’t lose. I know for a fact that you are destined to be a beauty queen),’” she recounts. “I was surprised. What he said meant the world to me. Ibang klaseng suporta at pagtitiwala ang nakuha ko mula sakanya (the trust and support he gives me is on another level). It is priceless.”

Estimating the odds of winning MPE 2021 is tough, especially with 65 other contestants vying for the title. Roni, however, believes in herself enough to say that she has what it takes to bring home the crown. “I am confident with what I am capable of. I know in my heart that I was made to fulfill the duties and responsibilities that come with being Miss Philippines Earth,” she explains.

Roni clarifies that her core values set her apart from other candidates. She lives a life of kindness, love, and respect. It is through these values that she can stay committed to her advocacy, environmental vegetarianism. The concept itself is new and unique in MPE. She is the only delegate promoting plant-based diet as a means of preserving and protecting the environment.

TAKING AFTER HER DAD Roni and her dad Vergel Meneses

Roni also believes that the key element to her campaign is education. “Providing the right information helps in creating awareness, we are also opening new opportunities toward self-improvement,” she says.

There are many articles, books, even films and documentaries regarding plant-based diet as well as the environment readily accessible to the public. By suggesting these to people who have an open mind about the whole idea of vegetarianism, Roni thinks she may be able to genuinely influence many others to make the switch. She is willing to convince people through her experience. “There is a growing number of vegan-friendly restaurants that serve delicious meals. Once people taste these dishes and realize that plant-based meals can be just as good, then they would start rethinking their food choices,” Roni says.

Her favorite vegetarian meal is kare-kare. “Growing up it [kare-kare] has always been my comfort dish; only back then it had meat and bagoong.”  But if there is one dish that Roni could eat every day, it would be the simple yet extremely fresh and healthy steamed or boiled mixed vegetables.

Roni credits her youthful glow to her healthy lifestyle, along with her great respect toward herself and her body. “I give my body the treatment and care it deserves. I sleep early, I keep myself hydrated, I apply the necessary skincare products, and of course, I have my monthly appointments,” she beams. “I also read motivational quotes and do personal reflections to keep a healthy and positive mind, because true beauty always comes from within.” In terms of keeping physically fit, apart from her balanced diet, she works out. “I do morning walks with my dad, dance classes with my sister, I lift weights and play sports with my cousins in the afternoon,” she adds. Ultimately her mindful eating and vegetarian diet are important in maintaining her figure.

‘Being a beauty queen means having a genuine heart, compassionate enough to give love, pay respect, and share kindness to herself, to other people, and to Mother Nature.’

Of course, even the healthiest people get sick too. At one point during the pandemic, Roni and her entire household caught COVID-19. “My whole family was positive with COVID. It was difficult because all of us were affected at the same time. I wasn’t only thinking about my own health, but I was also concerned about the physical and mental health of everyone,” Roni intimates. “Due to post-COVID symptoms, I had to deal with personal anxiety, which was truly difficult and heartbreaking. I am able to cope with the health crisis because of my loved ones. They give me joy and strength, especially during this tough time. We spend quality time together, and we try to keep ourselves as busy and entertained as possible.”

Despite the challenges of the times, Roni remains strong. Perhaps stronger than she had been before, both in her personal life and environmental advocacies. She holds ignorance, indifference, and the lack of responsibility of people accountable for the environmental problems we have today. “We should start educating ourselves more on other issues of climate change, global warming, pollution, etc., and be compassionate toward ourselves, others, and the environment. Make conscious efforts in doing more acts of green and aim toward a sustainable lifestyle. To create a better world, we must start by creating a better us.

Her message to her supporters: “Thank you so much. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the kind of support and faith you have been giving me. I am beyond grateful knowing there are people who truly believe in me and my capabilities, who genuinely wish the best for me. To my whole family and friends, mahal na mahal ko kayo (I love you all). I appreciate all the love and support. Mananalo tayo (We will win)!”

To Roni, a beauty queen is more than just a pretty face, but an intelligent mind, an authentic personality, and a heart filled with the right values and principles. “Being a beauty queen means having a genuine heart, compassionate enough to give love, pay respect, and share kindness to herself, to other people, and to Mother Nature.”

Following this metric, we can already say that Roni is a true beauty queen.

Get updates on all pageant events by downloading the Ecosystem app. Don’t forget to vote for Roni as Miss Earth Philippines 2021.