NOTE: This story was originally published on Philippine Daily Inquirer.
I was face to face with the newly-crowned beauty queens days after the 2021 Binibining Pilipinas coronation night that took place at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
All stunningly beautiful for the interview at the Novotel were Binibining Pilipinas International Hannah Arnold, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International Samantha Alexandra Panlilio, Binibining Pilipinas Intercontinental Cinderella Faye Obeñita, Binibining Pilipinas Globe Maureen Ann Montagne, first runner-up Gabrielle Camille Basiano and second runner-up Meiji Cruz.
Their journey to becoming Binibini winners was long and arduous, not to mention the amount of burden brought about by the pandemic.
The girls underwent training and workshops for a year or two in such beauty boot camps as Aces & Queens, Kagandahan Flores (KF) and The House as part of their preparation for the pageant. Mastering the signature stride, called the “duck walk,” is vital for Sam, Maureen and Meiji under the guidance of Rodgil Flores.
For pasarela, Cindy practiced “walking in circles” while Hannah applied her own “stretch-your-leg-up-and-then-down” technique. Gabrielle did the pageant “duck walk” sans the squats.
“You can change your aura completely with your walk,” said Maureen on the importance of perfecting the pageant walk.
Gym workouts and diet are part of the training, too. Sam said she’s into intermittent fasting while Meiji is a fan of yoga.
Hannah shared that she would always eat hard-boiled egg and saging na saba during rehearsals. And now that the competition is over, she’s just so happy that she doesn’t have to diet anymore “maybe for a little while.” The Filipino-Australian model and forensic scientist from Masbate will represent the Philippines in the Miss International 2021 in November.
Of course, beauty pageant winners cannot just be all beauty. They must be smart as well. That’s why, the most anticipated part of the pageant is the Q&A (question and answer) portion where potential winners are chosen based on how they answer the questions.
As one of the celebrity guest panelists in the 57th Binibining Pilipinas, I recorded seven questions and the question the production team had chosen would become a trending topic right after candidate No. 15 Karen Laurie Mendoza picked my name. My question was, “When is it okay not to be okay and when is it not okay to be not okay?”
In the spirit of fun, the girls responded to the same question during our live session for the Interviewer. Read on.
Sam: “I think that it’s okay to not be okay, especially during this time living in the pandemic. Depression rates are high, suicidal rates are high. However, I also know that it’s not okay to not be okay when you know that you need help and when you know when you should reach out because with social media nowadays, there are so many ways of communicating and reaching out to friends and family. I think because you know yourself the most, you’d be able to kind of know, for yourself, when you need help and when you need to reach out.”
Gab: “It’s okay to not be okay when you’re feeling sad; when you’re feeling lonely because it’s normal. We’re all just humans and it’s not okay to not be okay when you lose someone because I myself have experienced losing someone and up until this day, I’m carrying that pain and for me, that’s the reason why it’s not okay to not be okay.
Meiji: “Actually, nung narinig ko ‘yung question na ‘yun, sabi ko parang gusto ko ‘yung question kasi Psychology graduate ako, sabi ko, parang okay, gusto ko ‘to. Kung nabigay sakin ‘yun, I would answer that it’s okay not to be okay when you feel uncertainties. It’s part of life; we have to embrace it, we have to embrace sadness. But it’s not okay not to be okay when we let those uncertainties, those anxieties control our life because at the end of the day, we have to have control of our life.”
Maureen: “Well, I would say, I’m okay, this question is not okay. Joke na lang (laughs). I would like to commend Karen. I think she is so intelligent, so kind, and I hope she comes back. But for this question, I would have said, it’s very important to process our feelings, whether it’s a loss of a job or a loved one. We need to mourn in order to release the negativity, and we need to take that pain and turn it into purpose and passion.”
Cindy: “I agree with Maureen, Tito Boy. I have to commend Karen’s answer given the time and really, I think that we need to acknowledge the emotion of someone and if I were to answer the not okay to be not okay and okay to be not okay (question), I think it all boils down to your feelings. It all boils down to your character that we have our personal timelines. We are not here to demand how that someone would feel. We just have to respect the feeling.”
Hannah: “Actually, when I heard it, I was thinking of the way that Karen did it, how she kind of shared a quote in a story. So, I was thinking if I keep on saying okay, okay, it’s not okay, I would just get lost in my words. So, for me, there’s a quote that I’m saying, to be a star, you must shine your own light and follow your own path because in the darkness, that is when a star shines the brightest so I would have shared that as my message that even in the uncertain times of this pandemic, uhm, it’s okay to not be okay, we will come out okay in the end (laughs). That’s very tricky! So, good job, Karen!”