The term women empowerment has been the buzzword for several years now in the pageant world. Every pageant organization and contestant have been defining and redefining this seemingly overused and misused catchphrase in an attempt to convince critics that pageants are relevant.
But many of these so-called “women empowerment” efforts are video packages shown during the pageant night and nothing more.
This year, BPCI Chairperson, Stella Marquez Araneta, didn’t just want to be like the rest. She wanted to walk the walk and launched an initiative to actively empower women through the pageant activities. These activities allowed them to not just compete but more importanly, to learn and be educated through their experiences, art appreciation and cultural enrichment activities, environmental and socio-civic activities. By being empowered through experience, the Binibinis grow in their knowledge of the Philippines that they know and gain a first hand understanding of what makes our country great.
Perhaps one of the most tangible tools of empowerment that reaps limitless intangible benefits that BPCI gave to the Binibinis was the self-love retreat. As candidates, the Binibinis are constantly asked what they can give and what they can do. Whether it’s about their advocacy or a fan asking for a selfie, it’s always about others. Then, should they be fortunate enough to win, it becomes a question of how can they can make the country proud.
Most people don’t realize that these women give, give and give. This retreat is the first of its kind given to beauty pageant contestants. BPCI is an organization that cares and by giving these women the tools to deal with the stresses of a beauty queen is indicative of that.
The “Empowerment is Authenticity” Retreat was conducted by the Atma Prema Well Being Group led by Lia S. Bernardo, a psychoneurologist. She is a member of the American and International Board of Psychoneurology and is referred to as “The Happiness Doctor.” Also present was the co-founder of the Atma Prema Well Being Group, Tina Thelmo-Nakayama.
Dr. Bernardo told the Binibinis that during the planning of the women empowerment campaign, the committee headed by Araneta came up with the slogan #beyondbeauty. It started with the idea of wanting it be also have the letters “B-B” as in “Bb.” And so they decided to stick with it. Months later, during the press presentation, Bernardo noticed that the former Bb. Pilipinas titleholders were wearing t-shirts with the words “Beyond Beauty” emblazoned on them. It was serendipitously the name of the charity former Bb. Pilipinas titleholders call their charity.
She reminded the women that the first step to empowerment is self-love. By being the best version of you, you are able to inspire others, motivate yourself and truly be an empowered woman. Her formula is seemingly simple. Move, Learn and Grow. The key to empowerment is finding your authentic self and purpose.
Bb. Pilipinas Daraga, Albay 2019 Julia Saubier said: “We learned how to determine our ‘ikigai’ or purpose, which should sit at the intersection of what we love, what the world needs and what we’re good at. It’s a powerful tool to determine if your day to day activities are aligned with your long-term vision. It was a humbling experience to hear about the binibining pilipinas journeys of the other girls. We opened up, were honest, and really connected in our struggles and dreams.”
To help with the movement aspect, Mara Andres, Movement Specialist, led the Binibinis through a series of activities that moved their bodies and to be more comfortable with their own skin. No truer or more apt is this philosophy than in a beauty pageant.
Bb. Pilipinas Laguna 2019 Leren Mae Bautista said of the movement exercise: “I’ve learned that we should always be true to who we are and let our true selves be seen. By being who we are, we uplift and empower people. It is when we free our minds and bodies thru movement that we can begin to do this. This was my favorite part of the retreat.”
In the grow segment, Nathan Alba led the women in healing sessions that not only put a certain physical stillness on the women as they lay on the ground but also a spiritual and mental stillness that they probably have not had since the pageant started.
Bb. Pilipinas Maguindanao 2019 Resham Saeed said: “Learning about myself is a constant progress which I continually work on. Discovering my strengths and weaknesses gives me knowledge which in turn gives me power. That’s where my empowerment and authenticity meet and create something truly beautiful.
I really enjoyed the healing portion of the retreat. The guided subconscious inductions with Nathan were. That meditation process really allowed all of the girls to take a moment to reconnect with ourselves and regain focus on ideas like self-love, our aspirations and why we do what we do. It was all overwhelmingly relieving and I felt at peace with a sense of determination.”
For many people, when they hear the word retreat, they assume that one is automatically trying to affect a change. Bernardo said something quite significant.
“This self-love retreat isn’t meant to transform the women. We are not trying to change the women. All we are doing is to bring out their inherent beauty. They are already beautiful. But the best kind of beauty is inner beauty. And the only way to be empowered is to show your authentic self.”
In this age of social media, many images are highly edited or filtered and what is posted is what the user wants the world to see which is a perfectly curated version of their life without the bad stuff. So the struggle to find comfort in ones own skin, to have the confidence in ones own unique self, and to have the courage to be the person you are meant to be is probably facing a more difficult time than any other time in history.
There were many exercises during the retreat but there were a couple that stood out for many of the candidates.
Random Photo Collage. Hundreds of magazine pages were laid out on two long tables. The candidates were given only seconds to grab a few pages from the table. From these selections, they had to come up with a collage.
Bb. Pilipinas Sorsogon 2019 Maria Isabela Galeria said: “My favorite part of the retreat was when we were cutting and pasting pictures from magazines. I picked two random photos and they turned out to be connected. That reminded me that even if two people seem different, they will always have something in common and be connected in a way. God made us all so we can help each other and fill our differences.”
Eye to eye Challenge. The Binibinis were paired up. They had to stare into each other’s eyes for a couple of minutes without talking or moving. It was a lot more difficult that it looked.
Bb. Pilipinas Talisay, Cebu 2019 Gazini Ganados said: “The stare at your partner activity was very memorable. Sometimes, we get so busy during events we don’t have time to just sit down. Through this, I feel my fellow candidates and I grew closer to each other. It just goes to prove that the eyes are truly the windows to the soul.”
Bb. Pilipinas Palawan 2019 Samantha Bernardo shared what the retreat meant to her. “The retreat also allowed us to tap our unconscious and visualize ourselves with our imagination. It tested my own view of myself. This was very powerful. Because what I think, is how I act, and how I act is what becomes my way of life. I’ve learned that real power comes from truly knowing and being your authentic self because no one is created the same way like you. Everyone is different and has a special gift and when someone becomes aware of this, they will be unstoppable. And that is true authentic power.”
The lessons and experiences the Binibinis learn from this retreat will not only help them in the pageant but way beyond their pageant life. With or without a crown, they will be empowered Filipinas who will continue to succeed in life.
The #beyondbeauty campaign couldn’t have come at a better time for the Binibinis. It is far more than a hashtag or slogan with a pseudo message. It is a philosophy deeply ingrained in the history of Bb. Pilipinas Charities Inc. of how it has taken care of its queens. – Rappler.com
Voltaire has 10 years experience in the fashion industry. He previously worked with a luxury clothing and accessories brand in Los Angeles, CA. He graduated magna cum laude from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, major in Fashion Design. He also holds a BS in Applied Economics and BS in Marketing from DLSU. He is now doing real estate but finds ample spare time to pursue his passions.
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