SOUTHERN Leyte province in Eastern Visayas has all the reason to celebrate after 23-year-old Cynthia Thomalla won this year’s Miss Eco International crown, besting 70 other contestants from around the globe.

Thomalla is the first Filipina to win the prestigious title that aims to "promote the importance of saving our planet environmentally in addition to marketing tourism across the world."

"I am overjoyed to hear the well-deserved victory of Ms. Cynthia Thomalla as the newly crowned Ms. Eco International 2018. Thank you, Miss Thomalla, for showing to the world the brilliance and grace of our people," said Mayor Nacional Mercado of Maasin City, where Thomalla spent her high school and college years.

“I joined the rest of your kababayan here in Southern Leyte in saying that we are very proud of you! My heartiest congratulations!” Mercado said.

Jham Hatayna, a budding photographer from Maasin City, recalled how good Thomalla is when she modeled for their group during their fun shoots while she was still in high school.

“We knew then she will soar high on the world stage with her charisma she has shown to us,” said Hatayna.

“Stay the same as what you are -- humble and down to earth,” he added.

Maasin City-known make-up artist Jun Tingson also waxed nostalgic on the winning of Thomalla in the global beauty pageant, admitting that he had prayed that she would join a pageant upon seeing her for the first in a store.

“What I saw in your aura is a beautiful lady who will soon wear a bigger crown, an international crown. So when you asked me to handle you and train you for a pageant (Miss Macrohon) years ago I, without hesitation, said yes and grabbed the chance because I believe that you have a bigger dream in line with this industry and I want to help you to achieve that,” Tingson posted on his Facebook.

“And now, you already achieved it. I pray that you will fulfill and perform your duties and responsibilities as Miss Eco International while staying grounded and be an inspiration to those young ladies who also dream a dream you have dreamt,” he added.

In an interview with SunStar, Tingson recalled how he also did Thomalla’s make-up when she was still in a high school band and “made her dresses during the prom, pageant, and debut.”

Born to a German father and Filipina mother from Macrohon, Southern Leyte, Thomalla’s family arrived and stayed in the Philippines when she was nine years old.

In 2011, Thomalla was crowned Miss Macrohon, her first pageant title at age 16.

Thereafter, Thomalla regularly joined in various competitions and won the titles, namely: Miss Southern Leyte 2012, second-runner-up; Miss Merida 2012, first-runner-up; Miss Pintados 2013; Miss Mandaue City 2015, first-runner-up; Reyna ng Aliwan (Sinulog Queen) 2016; and Miss Eco Philippines 2017.

In between her competitions, Thomalla also pursued her studies in Cebu City and modeling career aside from dabbling in archery and swimming being her favorite sports.

She finished Tourism and Event Management at Science and Technology Institute (STI) in Maasin City.

Admired for her “Barbie-doll like” charm and beauty, Thomalla is an ardent traveler and an advocate of sustainable tourism. She hoped to become a flight attendant someday.

During the pageant's night in Cairo, Egypt, on Friday (Saturday in Manila, April 28), Thomalla captivated the judges and the audience when she delivered her answer to the question: "What do you think is the most important thing that beauty pageants add to people and the world?"

"I think the most relevant thing that we beauty queens can add to the world is raising awareness on our own causes. For example, the Miss Eco International is raising the advocacy of sustainable tourism and protecting the environment. And that is the main point of doing beauty pageants, by raising our voices to help the earth," Thomalla answered. (SunStar Philippines)