'Better, not bitter': Bea Rose Santiago shares hope despite chronic kidney disease

During the Binibining Pilipinas 2021 coronation night in Araneta Center on Sunday evening, July 11, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International 2016 and host Nicole Cordoves caught up with Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago over Zoom.

Nicole asked Bea how she's been coping in the pandemic "despite life's daunting challenges," especially as a chronic kidney disease patient.

"I have IGA Nepropathy, an autoimmune disease. I'm in end-stage renal failure," Bea said. IGA Nepropathy, also known as Berger's disease, is an incurable kidney disease wherein the body produces an excess amount of the immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibody, which results in kidney inflammation and the gradual, permanent loss of kidney function.

Bea is currently in end-stage renal failure (stage five), which means that her kidneys cannot properly filter waste from her blood anymore, which is why she has to undergo dialysis five times a week. She is waiting for a kidney transplant.

"I actually have my machine up in my room," Bea said.

"I heard that you had to undergo training for yourself so you can administer it, at the comfort of your own home. Despite the pandemic we are facing, you also have your own health condition. Saan ka humuhugot ng lakas (Where do you get your strength)?," Nicole asked Bea.

"It’s either you get better, or you get bitter. It’s really that simple. You have to take what life has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, better version of yourself, or it will consume you," Bea shared.

"I don't want my pain to make me a victim. I want my story, my battle, to make me someone else’s inspiration," she added.

Nicole said that Bea's win in 2013 was "of the most memorable ones for [her], as it was the year the Philippines faced one of its most devastating typhoons, which is Yolanda."

"You were a symbol of hope that time, sobrang natuwa ang buong Pilipinas sa pagkanalo mo (it brought the entire Philippines joy) at a time that it was hopeless. We are sort of in the same predicament. What words of inspiration would you like to share with our next Binibining Pilipinas International this year, who will be our symbol of hope this pandemic?" Nicole asked.

"My experience as Miss International and as a beauty queen was full of awesomeness, smiles, and positive energy. That energy inspires confidence. If you want light to come into your life, you need to stand where it is shining," Bea said.

"I always think positive. You have to think positively, and that you are braver than you believe and stronger than you think. I think that’s the kind of mindset I choose to live by," she added.

Bea was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2018. She said she "came to the hospital for severe migraines and found out something potentially more dangerous."

She cautioned people about taking pre-workout drinks and doing heavy exercise after, and reminded everyone to consult a doctor before trying a diet or drinking pre-workout drinks. – Steph Arnaldo/Rappler.com