LIFE as we know it is full of surprises. Sometimes, the most unpredictable situations happen at the right time. Indeed, the world has its way of showing this. Things one has never dreamed of having and the life one has never planned on living will come at the least expected moment. All one is left to do is to embrace it. That is what Ilene Astrid de Vera did.
Aug. 4 was a night to remember for Cebuana de Vera who was crowned Mutya ng Pilipinas - Asia Pacific International at Resorts World Manila. But before she stepped on stage as a representative of Cebu, de Vera never had a clue that this would be the path she’d choose to lead. Being a beauty queen was never the plan for this wanderer but everything seemed to fit perfectly fine—like she was tailor-made to wear a crown on her head. With her thirst for adventures and love for untouched places, de Vera is undeniably the right person to hold the title.
Bagging the crown was never an easy task for the reigning Mutya ng Pilipinas because interestingly, de Vera only had a week of preparation. Although given the time constraint, she never considered it a disadvantage. Rather, she gladly accepted the offer of representing the province. De Vera also shared that it was an honor and privilege for her to be handpicked to compete. She then took the chance and gave everything she could because there was no turning back. Luckily enough, she took home the crown and that’s when it all began for the beauty queen.
Becoming a beauty queen might be part of every girl’s childhood dream, but for de Vera, she never really did anything to pursue it. The only experience she ever held dear was when she earned the title of Miss UP Cebu. Her interests leaned more on traveling and communicating which explained her first job doing marketing for a real estate company.
“I’ve never really dreamed of becoming a beauty queen but at the back of my mind, it was just still there,” shared de Vera.
From campus grounds to the national level, de Vera has proven to many that experience isn’t the only way to win a pageant like this. It also takes perseverance and courage, especially for someone like her who’s all new to this scope of competition. As she conquered and dominated the prestigious pageant, there was only one thing that inspired her. “I think it’s not a question of who, but what inspired me,” de Vera started. “I was really down before I joined Mutya ng Pilipinas. I went through something and somehow it helped me. It motivated me to do my best and prove to others that I could still succeed in something that they thought I couldn’t.”
Self-empowerment is truly a powerful thing. De Vera held on to that belief and came out a champion. Now with a title under her name, she believes that she can stand as role model to other people with women empowerment as her personal advocacy.
“Women empowerment was always close to my heart. I believe in the power of women and how each of us can inspire other people with our story.”
Winning the title of Mutya ng Pilipinas, de Vera is placed under the limelight—a given for every beauty queen—but this doesn’t mean she’s letting fame take over. “I’m still the Ilene you know now. There’s not much change because I only see the title as my new job. Being Mutya ng Pilipinas means you’re responsible to promote tourism in the Philippines. It’s an all-around job. Whatever you do will reflect your title,” explained de Vera. For her, glamor and fame are all but second factors. The priority is to do her job well as the crowned Mutya ng Pilipinas - Asia Pacific International 2017. This job may be too overwhelming at times, but she has her family and friends to keep her sane and grounded.
Her coronation night signaled that a lot was in store for de Vera. After she won, her schedule consisted mainly of countless training sessions. She was immediately given a proper training on walking, answering questions as well as how to project and carry herself. All these in preparation for Miss Asia Pacific International where she will now be representing the Philippines. “When I think about it, it always makes me smile because never did I imagine that I will be saying my name and then my country afterward,” a giddy de Vera stated on competing at an international level. This two-month-old beauty queen promises to do her best and make her mother country proud this Nov. 29.
Also as the reigning Mutya ng Pilipinas, de Vera plays a crucial role in next year’s pageant as Mutya ng Pilipinas will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. “My highlight project would be the anniversary because we have bigger plans and scope. Instead of the usual 30 candidates, we will be having 50 candidates from all over the Philippines for next year. We will be traveling around the Philippines to meet other girls who would want to be an ambassadress of tourism,” de Vera said on their plans for Mutya ng Pilipinas 2018.
De Vera’s every day activities are obviously already laid out for her, but nothing can stop her from making personal plans that will secure her future. “My personal plans are to gain as many connections as I can in this job. Afterward, maybe join media and pursue the degree that I got or go back to marketing for any type of company. My best friend and I are also planning to create an events company here in Cebu catered to the younger market,” she stated. De Vera is just like any other 22-year-old who seeks for a stable job and hopes to become a successful and accomplished individual one day.
However, she isn’t closing doors to competing in pageants again. This aspect of her life isn’t planned out, so if they still see potential in her, then she is more than open to represent the Philippines in whatever advocacy and international pageant if the future permits. “Let’s not put any pressure on it at this moment. That’s one of my biggest learnings in this experience of mine so far. Don’t rush things because it will just come before you know it.”
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on October 17, 2017.
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