TO SAY that the Philippines, home of the most ecstatic beauty pageant fans, has proved itself as a great host to the recently concluded Miss Universe competition is not a figment of imagination.
With ancillary events significantly placed in key cities like Cebu and Davao, the candidates, without doubt, have surely proved to themselves why this 6,107 island nation is home to the most charming people in the world.
With the advent of social media, which, in relatively great ways, being "one of the big changes I have seen the world embraced in the last 10 years," all the girls were treated like A-list celebrities.
Surely, to their amazement, they have found themselves online, event after event, as Filipino fans think of this whole experience as "a great time to be alive."
For the first time, I will generally sweep on this as a collective thought of Filipinos, who, in so many ways, have shown a great deal of interest in an event that united the nation.
Even though I was left to catch the "blow by blow" online at the comforts of my home in Bacolod, I can equally feel the excitement of the people in Vigan to see the contestants in traditional terno outfits or how Dabaweños felt beyond elated to see Mindanao fabrics getting international attention. In me is a sense of pride that all things "Made in the Philippines" appear as glittering diamonds in the international scene.
Negrenses in this side of the islands had grasped a shot of the limelight as top local designer JohnJohn Ditching proved he is at par with the best designers in the country today. With decades of experience and a signature engineering design, he elevated himself as among the selected designers during the Gala Night and National Gift Auction event. The towering Miss Indonesia modeled a revealing red gown perfected with elaborate bead works and complimented with a lengthy V shape top. The winning form of JohnJohn got the nods of fashion bloggers and magazines.
"I feel that this is a long awaited moment for Bacolod designers to be recognized in the fashion industry because I believe that there are many talents here that are at par with the best designers out there. I knew someday Bacolod will make its mark in the fashion map of the world," he shared.
The cyber highway lead me to bet my luck to the social media account of Kat De Castro, Undersecretary of the Department of Tourism, and among the brains of making the event possible, to some worthy notes. It was such a delight to see someone from the government enjoying the painstaking production efforts to mount what is dubbed as the "most beautiful event in the universe."
To Kat, you are truly a woman of the real world: confident, unassuming, a gem championed by experiences and cut to perfection. I leave you with her words, that in many ways, would surely feed your Miss Universe hangover:
1. How do you feel that the most glamorous event in recent history is now over?
"I have mixed emotions about it. I feel elated in such a way that Miss Universe in the Philippines created a lot of positive feedback for the Department of Tourism and Secretary Wanda Teo and I received hundreds of congratulatory messages because of it. At the same time, I feel sad as well. I miss the daily grind leading to the coronation show and I miss the wonderful MUO people and candidates who I became close with during the short span of time they were here."
2. What was the one thing that remained constant while were watching in the "pit" of the arena?
"Everyone in the production side (the hosts, candidates and crew) gave it their all. All of them wanted to come up with the best show that MU fans have ever seen."
3. After this experience, what is your definition of beauty and women empowerment?
"Beauty is not all about the physical aspects. Miss Universe is breaking all stereotypes. The candidates are not just beautiful faces. They are ‘women of the real world.’ The candidates are mostly college graduates. They are medics, soldiers, scientists, engineers, designers, etc. To be Miss Universe is simply not about having just a pretty face. You have to learn how to use your stature to voice out your passions and advocacies. You should give your best to become an inspiration to others.... help change the world in whatever way you can. That said, women empowerment is stronger in Miss Universe nowadays."
4. What will you miss about producing Miss Universe?
"I will miss the pressure of coming up with a great show. I don't know. I work better when I'm pressured to exceed everybody's expectations."
5. What are your personal takeaways or insights after being so close to the contestants?
"They genuinely would love to make a difference in this world. Sure, they would like to be famous for one reason or another. But even when the cameras stopped rolling, they go out of their way to continue helping others. I've seen this during our outreach activities with the girls. They have also fallen in love with the Philippines and they are genuinely interested to come back soon with their families and friends."