DESPITE the hitch after Ms. New Zealand backed out and spread wrong information about Cagayan de Oro, the pageant activities intended for the city went on with the Swimwear Competition held at the Apple Tree Resort Hotel on Tuesday, November 24.

Fifteen female and thirteen male candidates from seventeen countries strutted in violet and pink swimsuits by Filipino designer Rikki Molina.

This is the inaugural staging of Mister and Miss Pancontinental, which was created to search for the best ambassadors to promote their respective country’s tourism and culture.

The candidates also serve as envoys for diabetes awareness. Muhammad Usman Aman, the franchise owner said, “Mister and Miss Pancontinental is based on the advocacy of living a healthy lifestyle with emphasis on battling against diabetes.” The goal is to educate the people on what diabetes is and how to live a long and healthy life despite living with the disease.

Aman added that the reason he brought the pageant to the country is the Filipinos love for pageants. “Because the Philippines is the hub of pageants and what better place to start the debut edition. People love pageants here.”

The lovely ladies and gorgeous gentlemen of the pageant, aged 18 to 32, flew in from all corners of the world to represent their countries. “We have national directors all over the world,” said Mylene Miranda Hill, organizer of the said event, “Some of them don’t have a male candidate, some of them don’t have a female candidate. So, it’s really not that equal and that’s fine.” The seventeen countries and states represented include Australia, Borneo, Nagaland India, India, Indonesia, Korea, Latvia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

Cassandra Ann McDonald, the Philippine female candidate, was born and raised in Australia.

“I was actually approached in Australia by my National Director and she asked me to participate in this competition. Of course, I willingly said yes,” said Cassandra.

She said she wanted to promote the awareness of diabetes and to represent and win the crown for the country. “As a Filipino, as a half-Filipino, I’ll be very welcoming, I’ll embrace everybody, just spread the love. And I hope that everybody realizes that the Philippines is a beautiful country and it’s full of beautiful people.”

Miss Australia, Radmila Isabelle Borkovic, is also part Filipino, her mother is from Butuan. “My advocacy is the importance of education. I feel that education, related to diabetes, is an essential thing, starting from children right through to adulthood. Regardless if it’s formal education, informal education, sharing our knowledge with one another and helping each other, we can use our experiences to support each other.”

Malik Shaban of Indonesia said that it is his passion to join pageants. “As a new experience, I’m really enjoying it. I’m really enjoying Manila and Cagayan de Oro. The people are very nice and kind. I’m loving it.”

“I wanted to bring awareness for diabetes and I think it’s important for people to know that they can live happily with diabetes, they can take care of it,” said Miss Russia, Evgenia Sidorova, who cited American singer Nick Jonas as an example, “And I think bringing awareness about the success of people who have this disease is extremely important.”

She is very vocal of how excited she is to be in the country, “This is my first time in the Philippines and I really love the people because they’re very excited about us. Whenever they see us at the mall, they would just take picture and we feel like celebrities.”

Amid controversies now plaguing the said pageant, organizers are still determined to push through with their schedule of activities.

“I treat the candidates like my own kids. They have dreams, this is their dream. Makarampa, to have a crown, it’s a big thing for them,” said Ms. Hill, “I want to give that dream to them. Kasi parang, sa maliit na problem, kailangan ba talagang tapusin? You have to be strong, I tell them that, you have to be strong.”

Also, the franchise held its Talent Competition and Parade of Costumes at SM Mall Thursday, November 26.

For the Best in Swimwear competition, the candidates were judged based on the following criteria: face value, proportionality of body to height, body physique and contour, and overall impact.

The Best in Swimwear, Best in Talent, and Best in National Costume winners will be announced during the coronation night on November 29 at the Metrowalk, Pasig.