For Roberta Tamondong, the Miss Eco Teen International crown was a Christmas gift

Christmas came early for Roberta Tamondong, an 18-year-old teen from Laguna, in the form of a Miss Eco Teen International 2020 crown. She is the first Filipina to win this title and the second winner of the pageant which was hold in Hurghada, Egypt.

Miss Eco Teen International is the sister pageant to Miss Eco International Pageant, which the Philippines’ Cynthia Thomalla won in 2017. 

“Actually, and totoong (real) Christmas gift ko before I land in Egypt was to bring home the crown,” Tamondong said in a press conference. “And I am happy nagkatotoo naman (it came true) and I hope all like my Christmas gift.”

Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

Tamondong was handpicked by the Miss World Philippines Organization National Director, Arnold Vegafria. Between her appointment to her departure, Tamondong only had a week to prepare for the pageant. That she emerged victorious is a testament to how well this young lady handles pressure and rises above it, when others several years her senior struggle. 

The year 2020 has brought seemingly insurmountable challenges to the Philippine pageant industry. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was hard to imagine that any pageant would even be held by the end of the year.

“This is a perfect way to finish this year in pageantry. We have additional pride in the form of Miss Eco Teen International. I’m so proud of her and despite the one week preparation, we got the victory. She’s a very diligent and very responsible young lady,” Vegafria said.

Even at this young age, she is already a veteran pageant girl who has been training with Kagandahang Flores since she was 13 years old. She said of Rodgil Flores, her mentor, ”I credit him for all of this.”

Tamondong with Arnold Vegafria and Rodgil Flores.

Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

Flores responded by saying, “Yes, it’s true what she said. She has been training with me since she was 13 years old and at that time, I already saw her huge potential back then. And kitang kita niyo naman yun stage presence niya (it shows with her stage presence) in all her previous pageants and it was due to all of her 5 years of training with me. I congratulate her for this. She has a bigger responsibility now.”

Two people who are Tamondong’s biggest support system are Arnold and Wilma Tamondong. They have been such encouraging parents who have raised an amazing young woman but also were so brave and trusting to allow their daughter to compete internationally for the first time. 

Shortly after winning, Tamondong called her parents and told her mom. “Everytime I joined pageants, yun parents ko andoon lagi sa tabi ko. Thank you Mama for everything. Even though I felt a little bit homesick and I really miss you. I won the crown pero I can’t hug you pa kasi wala kayo sa tabi ko. Kung nandito lang kayo ngayon, ibibigay ko sa inyo yun crown and sash, kasi kayo ang panalo. I really owe everything to them.

(Everytime I joined pageants, my parents would always be by my side. Thank you mama for everything. Even though I felt a little bit homesick and I really miss you. I won the crown but I can't hug you because you were not by my side. If you were here now, I would give you my sash and crown because you are the winner. I really owe everything to them.)

Tamondong and her family

Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

Being away from her parents for the first time, Tamondong said she also got a boost in confidence from all the support she was getting from social media. At the end of it, all Tamondong said, “I think this is my destiny to win this crown. It seemed impossible to win a crown with less than a week’s preparation.”

Part of Tamondong’s duties will be to travel to New York as an ambassador for the Environment for the United Nations. She will also grace the Miss Eco International 2021 Pageant in March, where Kelley Day will finally be able to compete.

Being still so young, Tamondong has a bright future ahead of her. She plans to fulfill all her duties as Miss Eco Teen International and finish school. After that, she plans on entering showbiz, be a host, and definitely pursue higher titles like the Miss World Philippines title.

At more lighthearted moments of the press conference, Tamondong was asked who she admired in showbiz and her celebrity crushes. She said: "Noong nag-start ako ng pageantry, ang daming nagsasabi sa akin na kamukha ko raw si Bea Alonzo, pero 'di ko naman nakikita. Kasi napakaganda niya. Si Bea magaling umarte. I really look up to her acting skills."

(When I started in pageantry, a lot of people said I resemble Bea Alonzo. But I did not believe it because she's very beautiful. Bea is also a good actress. I really look up to her as an actress.)

As for her celebrity crushes, she first said she didn’t have any but then mentioned Daniel Padilla and James Reid.

With one of the country’s foremost talent manager and MWP National Director Arnold Vegafria now at the helm of Tamondong’s career path, we can truly expect great things from her soon. Winning a major international teen title is a great way to start a career in a pageant loving country like ours. –