Miss Universe 2012: Meet Janine Tugonon

Pia Ranada

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Janine Tugonon, Philippine representative to the Miss Universe 2012 pageant, faces the challenge of making her own mark as well as bringing home the crown

FRESH-FACED. Binibining Pilipinas-Universe Janine Tugonon carries the hopes of Pinoys for a Miss Universe win. Photo from Facebook

MANILA, Philippines – Resplendent in a red lace dress and bearing a confident hundred-watt smile was how Janine Tugonon looked the night before she flew to Las Vegas, USA to compete in this year’s Miss Universe Beauty Pageant.

That smile is Janine’s answer to the challenge she faces.

If the pressure of the pageant itself is not enough, she comes bearing the weight of her predecessors’ runner-up placements: Shamcey Supsup was last year’s 4th placer while Venus Raj bagged 5th place in 2010.

To top it all off, she is often compared to Miss Universe 1999 1st runner-up Miriam Quiambao for their similar Filipina good-looks.

To say that the pressure is on is an understatement.

Janine is hard-pressed to make her own mark in the international beauty pageant where she will compete against 87 other beauties on December 20 (Philippine time).

So who is Janine Tugonon? Rappler finds out what makes this year’s most beautiful Filipina tick and what, perhaps, will win her that crown.

An academic achiever

Tugonon before leaving Manila for Las Vegas on December 2. Photo from Facebook

Janine Tugonon is no stranger to rankings and getting to the top.

The 23-year-old pharmacist from Bataan graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with Cum Laude honors that capped her years as a consistent honor student.  

This places her beside past Miss Universe Philippine contestants who have their own academic achievements to be proud of. 

Shamcey Supsup, a University of the Philippines alumna, graduated Magna Cum Laude aside from topping the 2011 national licensure exams for architects while Venus Raj can boast of Cum Laude honors after graduating with a diploma in Communication Arts from Bicol University.

Beauty and brains are a winning combination for getting through those tricky question-and-answer portions. Let’s hope that Janine’s performance lives up to her intelligence and keeps her safe from those damning post-pageant YouTube parodies. 

Morena beauty

With her caramel-brown skin, onyx-black locks and delicate Malay facial features, Janine is a bonafide morena bombshell.

This has led to many comparisons to that other morena beauty queen, Miriam Quiambao. 

The so-called distinctly Filipina look is said to be widely appreciated by the pageant’s judges, according to Miriam Quiambao in a quote taken by Inquirer.net.

Devout Christian

Tugonon behind the scenes of a shoot with the other candidates in Las Vegas. Photo from Facebook

In the Binibining Pilipinas pageant last April, Janine was asked by a judge, “Many women nowadays forego a happy family life for a successful career. How do you feel about this?”

She replied, “I believe that women have the right to choose between what they want. But for me, just go for what God wants you to do.

“Between the two, whatever it is, you must do what’s your purpose in this world. Just have a child-like faith and mature obedience, and everything will go smooth (sic).”

This answer, said to have helped her cinch the Binibing Pilipinas-Universe title, stems from her Christian faith, a faith that she believes has sustained her and will continue to be a source of strength during the pageant.   

This is not unprecedented. The Philippine Miss Universe contestants of the past two years, Venus Raj and Shamcey Supsup, are Born-Again Christians who were also quite vocal about their faith during the pageant. 

Signature walk

COBRA WALK, TAKE IT! One of Togonon's photos in her profile at www.missuniverse.com

If Shamcey wowed the world with her “tsunami walk,” Janine is set to sashay down the stage with her “cobra walk.”

1985 Miss Universe Philippines and Adventures of a Beauty Queen blogger Joyce Burton Titular describes it as a “fast crisscross walk with a slight shoulder shake and a pivot that will render you hypnotized.”

Could she be channeling the grace that comes with her ballet training? We hope so.

But even if she happens to fall, it need not be a fall from grace as Miriam Quiambao proved when, after literally falling on-stage during the Miss Universe 1999 pageant, she rose with poise and dignity to the applause of the crowd.

As the day of the pageant draws near, Janine comes closer to the hour or minute or moment that has the power to change the course of her life.

Coaches, family, friends and fans have taken Janine within reach of the Miss Universe crown.

But it is she, and only she, who can reach out and take it. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is Rappler’s Community Lead, in charge of linking our journalism with communities for impact.