Q and A: Miss World Philippines 2019 candidates talk pageantry, defining the Filipina

MANILA, Philippines — As we wait for the next batch of Miss World Philippines queens, Rappler caught up with several candidates to talk about watching Mr World last August 23, their own pageant journeys, and how they define being a Filipina. (IN PHOTOS: Meet the 40 candidates of Miss World Philippines 2019)

Ilene de Vera, Candidate 20

You recently got to watch Mr World. What pointers and realizations did you get from it?

Ilene: It was fascinating and a joy to watch Mr. World as it was my first time watching a all-male international pageant. I was able to witness men from around the world who were not only amazing in their physique but also very successful in their own line of careers. I’ve always had the idea that pageants are only for women and that men cannot handle the pressure of being on stage and competing with other equally admirable men. The whole experience of watching Mr. World taught me that men too are capable of doing something that women can do and that is to look good, be smart and have a heart to care for other people.

Pageant questions are becoming more political in nature. How do you handle controversial questions like these, given the nature of the industry?

Ilene: It is important to note that to be a modern beauty queen, you must have your own opinion and stand on certain issues, may it be political or not. This is how you become a person of influence and this teaches you to be more diplomatic in dealing with social and political issues. A beauty queen’s role is not to divide people with her ideas but rather to unify them by opening their minds and ensuring that respect for others and mutual understanding is achieved at all times.  

How has the competition changed you?

Ilene: Prior joining Miss World Philippines this year, I had a lot of time to myself which I utilized to read more books and be more acquainted with socially-relevant issues. I also got to improve myself by doing more self-care rituals and exposing myself to more meaningful causes like my advocacy. No abrupt changes have taken place since everything that I’ve been going through is a process. It’s all about learning how to develop everyday and this is the positivity that I want to radiate to other people.

Do you feel that since joining the contest, more people listen to you and what you are promoting or advocating for? 

Ilene: Of course! I’ve always seen pageants as a form of empowerment for men, women and  other members of the society. It is an avenue for us to champion what we are most passionate about and our exposure to media has helped me multiply the scope of my cause tenfolds. It is also a very unique way of showing our own personal stories, our unique skills and talents, and our passion to showcase the Philippine culture to the world.

How would you define the Filipina?

A Filipina is fearless, unapologetic and dauntless to achieve the best. She has faced so many challenges that led her to being who she is today: an empowered Filipina.

Kayesha Chua, Candidate 11 

You recently got to watch Mr World. What pointers and realizations did you get from it?

Kayesha: My first time to watch a male pageant live and I got to witness an international competition  The best pointer I got from all the men who competed that night was simple, To enjoy every single bit of your time on stage, savour every exposure, and give your best everyday. They were a breeze to watch honestly! Cheering each other on, clapping for everyone and hugging whenever a country makes it to the next round, I found myself smiling in my seat from ear to ear!

Pageant questions are becoming more political in nature. How do you handle controversial questions like these, given the nature of the industry?

Kayesha:  Answer with all honesty every time. With whatever topic it may be. Just be you and answer away. It’s your opinion anyway, and no opinion is ever wrong.

How has the competition changed you?

Kayesha: I’m quite happy about the changes that I see in myself going in to my MWP journey and so far, I’ve learned how to relax a bit , I have learned to distinguish competition time from take a little step back time. And i think it is very important for one person to know when to feel certain feelings and when to control and contain.

Do you feel that since joining the contest, more people listen to you and what you are promoting or advocating for? 

Kayesha: I feel so grateful and humbled everytime I get messages regarding my causes and messages of inspiration, it’s one way to confirm that you are indeed doing something right and being part of a pageant and having the platform and opportunity to speak up about causes really do help in getting more people to engage and ask questions about the things you are fighting for.

How would you define the Filipina?

Kayesha: The Filipina is a doer more than a dreamer. When she wants something done, she goes for it and acts upon it no matter what. She does not wait for the apple to fall from the tree. She instead gets a ladder, climbs the tree. She also has compassion running through her veins, she does not only get one but a basket full of apples for everyone to share. A Filipina is a visionary, she plants the seeds From what she ate and lets it grow for others to enjoy.

Sheila Marie Reyes, Candidate 31

You recently got to watch Mr World. What pointers and realizations did you get from it?

Sheila: I have realized that pageantry is really for everybody, it’s not just for us women. It just goes to show that no matter your gender or race, you can really make a big change in the world if you will put out your heart in it. 

Pageant questions are becoming more political in nature. How do you handle controversial questions like these, given the nature of the industry?

Sheila: Well I have been actually put in that spot, but the key to answering controversial questions is to see it in the perspective of positivity rather than the negative part of it, because at the end of the day, pageants exists to inspire. 

How has the competition changed you?

Sheila: It has made my vision clearer, I’m someone who isn’t really socially aware, but now I’m a person who can really see that a life lived serving others is what I can call a life worth living.

Do you feel that since joining the contest, more people listen to you and what you are promoting or advocating for? 

Sheila:  Yes, Miss World has made it possible for my advocacy to grow, and now people are more aware about it. 

How would you define the Filipina?

Sheila: A Filipina is someone who always puts her heart out in everything she does, be it for her family, her community or herself.

Jacqueline Hammoude, Candidate 10

You recently got to watch Mr World. What pointers and realizations did you get from it?

Jacqueline:  I had never watched a male pageant before Mr. World in Araneta, but while attending I had so much fun! Miss World Philippines is the first pageant I've ever joined, so being on the opposite side, getting to watch the men was so exciting. Just from only meeting some of the candidates once or twice, you can really see the sincerity and joy in the Mr. World contestants. I think that us women in pageants can learn a lot from them in the sense that they don't take everything so seriously and they really enjoy each other's company and brotherhood. I will say I think my batch of Miss World Philippines girls are some of the nicest people I've met, but there are so many "catty" girls in this industry. If we could go through the pageant with a lighter mindset like the men, I think it would bring more joy to the competition, rather than drama. 

Pageant questions are becoming more political in nature. How do you handle controversial questions like these, given the nature of the industry?

Jacqueline: Obviously political questions are inevitable in this industry, but I feel like now they have become a way just to try to make contestants fail. Instead of actually being curious about what she thinks, people just ask questions to try and stump them. It's great to see that contestants are socially aware and and knowledgeable about the world we live in, but we are not politicians. I think at times it can be unfair to put contestants in a position where they need to answer questions that are not usually relevant to their day-to-day lives.  

How has the competition changed you?

Jacqueline: I wouldn't say the competition has really changed me, but more so heightened my strengths. I see what aspects of my mindset/personality works and doesn't work in different situations, and I'm learning to harness my strengths into every aspect of the competition. My competition mindset definitely turned on as soon as our official activities began, in the sense that I am here to win, and I have the security or understanding that every decision I make can effect the outcome I want. I am very proud of myself for the amount of effort I am seeing myself put into a goal I really want.

Do you feel that since joining the contest, more people listen to you and what you are promoting or advocating for?

Jacqueline: You know unfortunately, it is always inevitable that there will be "favorites" or more popular candidates who people want to hear from more, but I think you need to take it upon yourself to put yourself out there and make your voice be heard instead of waiting for someone to ask. I am a very vocal person, and I have no problem voicing my opinions, so I feel like like when I push myself to share my thoughts when not asked, people are more intrigued in what I have to say and are then ready to listen.

How would you define the Filipina? 

Jacqueline: I would describe the Filipina as unstoppable. No matter what circumstances we come from, we do whatever it takes to get what or where want in life. People still have this mindset of "dalagang Pilipina" being the most "attractive" type of woman, but I think we need stop trying to label women as one thing because it is holding us back from all of the great possibilities we can achieve. We need to start instilling in young girls that goals are limitless absolutely attainable because they are. If there's a will, there's a way. As a Filipina, you can, and will, be a force to reckoned with if you desire. 

Shannon Christie Kerver, Candidate 40

You recently got to watch Mr World. What pointers and realizations did you get from it?

Shannon: While watching Mr. World I was incredibly impressed by the support all the candidates showed each other, especially during the opening number. It was great to see how the candidates were amazing role models for male and female pageants alike due to their exemplary behavior. They really showed that pageants aren’t all about competing against each other but also about improving yourself holistically even through sportsmanship.  

Pageant questions are becoming more political in nature. How do you handle controversial questions like these, given the nature of the industry?

Shannon: The questions that are asked during pageants are often times about political and socio-cultural issues and problems. Often times questions revolving around these topics ask the contestants for their opinions on such matters. As a contestant in a national pageant, one has limitations in giving their opinion since one has to consider the public’s and the judges’ opinion as well as the reaction it might stir from the audience. However, I think it is still very important to stand firmly for what you believe in despite that it might cause a negative reaction from the public. When joining pageants I believe it is especially important to stay true to your values, morals, opinions and who you are. Lastly, besides voicing out your opinion, it is also importance that you will touch the hearts of the people with your answer and that the audience learns something as well.

How has the competition changed you?

Shannon: Joining Miss World Philippines has definitely changed me. When I received the news during the screening that I would be an official Miss World Philippines candidate, I was absolutely thrilled and exhilarated. It has always been a dream of mine to join Miss World and from that moment on I promised myself that I would do my ultimate best. Joining Miss World Philippines has made me more confident about myself but also more aware about what I need to improve with myself. These realizations of wanting to improve as an individual, has given me more drive to achieve my dreams and goals. Those closest to me would not describe me as a risk taker, I like being in my comfort zone and get very anxious when I’m not. However, ever since i was chosen to join Miss World Philippines, I’ve found a new strength in me that enables me to be strong enough to explore my limitations. I now have a new drive to take more risks because no matter the outcome, what is important is that you learned from your experiences.

Do you feel that since joining the contest, more people listen to you and what you are promoting or advocating for?

Shannon: Ever since joining, I did notice that a lot more attention is being given to the contestants. Personally, I can feel this the most in my own home town and province which is Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. This is especially important to me since I want to bring more attention to Cabiao and the entire province. Furthermore, I have associated myself with the Mutya ng Cabiao organization who share the same advocacy as me, which is bringing education and learning closer to children since I believe that every child deserves education. Miss World Philippines allows me to promote both my beloved province and my advocacy, achieving two goals through one pageant 

How would you define the Filipina?

Shannon: The first word that comes into mind is versatile. Ever since we were colonized by different countries our culture has greatly changed in a way where it now encompasses other countries’ traditions and cultural ways, and Filipina women have thrived in this change and adapted themselves into becoming who they are today. Filipina women are capable of tackling even the hardest of jobs whilst being the “ilaw ng tahanan”. They are graceful and kind but still can put up a fight when need be. Filipina women are the heart of the Philippines.

Tracy Maureen Perez, Candidate 9 

You recently got to watch Mr World. What pointers and realizations did you get from it?

Tracy: I actually wasn’t able to watch the Mr World Finals as I was fulfilling the August 23-27 schedule for my Binibining Cebu duties since I’m still reigning Binibining Cebu Charity 2018, which by the way was also approved by the Miss World Organization. However, I had the opportunity to be at the Mr World Gala Night, which for me should be more or less the same in the sense that both events showcase the best of the best men in the world who just want to bring pride to their country. Watching the Gala Night gave me a new perspective. It was my first time being able to watch something as big as that live but depspite the number of candidates (with more than 70 ccountries participating), I could still clearly tell which ones stood out from the rest and at that same time, I also understood why. It was because those men were sporting the brightest smiles and personality, they were radiating with beauty and lightness. One look and you could tell they were kind, were sure of themselves and of what they were fighting for. And then I realized, that’s exactly the way to do it. That’s also how I could stand out.

Pageant questions are becoming more political in nature. How do you handle controversial questions like these, given the nature of the industry?

Tracy:  In handling questions, may they be controversial or not, I always just stick with what I truly think and believe in. Honesty will always be the best way to go because then I wouldn’t have to force anything that I have to say, it will all just come out naturally. I’m also confident with my principles and character, that my way of thinking and my truth will always be for what’s good for the people and so I woudn’t be afraid to speak up especially that my intentions are good.

How has competition changed you?

Tracy: Joining Miss World Philippines for me meant leaving my comfort zone in Cebu and staying in a place where nobody knew me, away from my relatives and friends. It was really hard at first but the whole Miss World Philippines experience helped me become stronger and more focused on my goals. I’ve also never had any formal trainings before so I’m very thankful for Miss World Philippines that I get to subject myself to situations where I could grow and learn more.  

Do you feel that since joining the contest, more people listen to you and what you are promoting or advocating for?

Tracy: I really do. Miss World Philippines is such a huge platform and more people can be reached every single day. More people now message me to say thank you and some even just ask me for my opinion and some advices.

How would you define the Filipina?

Tracy: A Filipina is beautiful with such a big and strong heart that never falters amidst chaos and challenges. No matter where a Filipina is in the world, she always stands out and contributes to the growth of oneself and of others. Lastly, a Filipina is resilient in chasing for her dreams, making them a reality. And I am proudly a Filipina, by blood and by heart.

Michelle Thorlund, Candidate 26

You recently got to watch Mr World. What pointers and realizations did you get from it?

Michelle: Watching the Mister World finals was so much fun and it was a real eye opener for me in a couple ways. I notice now that men seem to not receive even half as much attention and praise for participating in a pageant as do women. It seems like the support for these men stems mostly from their family and friends, but that outside of that, male pageants don’t garner as much attention as do female beauty pageants for some reason.

The men from Mister World, however, were absolutely outstanding and are such successful and inspiring people. On stage we heard from some young men who are doctors and the recently crowned Mister World 2019 is even a rocket scientist. I think when you’re exposed to so much of the pageant world, you tend to forget how amazing each contestant’s achievements are, but attending Mister World really reminded me again that pageants truly uplift and showcase such amazing people in the world in a positive and welcoming environment. 

Pageant questions are becoming more political in nature. How do you handle controversial questions like these, given the nature of the industry?

Michelle: One thing I know when I answer political questions is that I am striving to represent my country internationally, so I should be aware of current events and I should have an opinion on them as well. With that in mind, I try to be mindful of the things I say because I know that the citizens of our country will have different opinions on politics. When I voice my opinions on current events, I speak my truth while bearing in mind that i would not want to offend any other person who could have a different opinion from me.

How has the competition changed you? 

Michelle: I feel that after every pageant, I come out wiser than when I entered. Miss World Philippines so far has not let me down in giving me opportunities to become a better version of myself. I love that pageants challenge me to dig deeper into myself and learn more about who I am,  what my values are, and what I would represent as a beauty queen in this country. Miss World Philippines is such a fantastic and exciting experience. I feel that with each passing day I’m becoming more confident and more proud to be myself.

Do you feel that since joining the contest, more people listen to you and what you are promoting or advocating for?

Michelle: Yes, I do feel that since joining the contest more people listen to me. What is great about pageants is that it really gives women the opportunity to speak to a wider audience. One of the best things about pageantry is the support the queens receive from the public to talk about ourselves, our advocacies, and our love for this country. Pageants and beauty queens would not be able to thrive without the love and support of the fans. 

How would you define the Filipina?

Michelle: I would define today’s Filipina as a modern woman. She’s confident, intelligent, supportive of other women and doesn’t let anyone stand in the way of achieving her dreams. I’m proud to be a Filipina who shows no fear in chasing my dreams through pageantry. I love being surrounded by driven women who are ultimately after the same goal, but at the same time absolutely so supportive and loving towards each other.

— Rappler.com