If you’ve ever been outside the country, you’ve probably found yourself within an earshot of a kababayan, proving that the Filipino community isn’t limited by our geographical boundaries. Miss Universe Philippines delegates Layla Adriatico (Northern Samar), Hyra Desiree Betito (Surigao Del Norte), and Vanessa Yuson Matzeit (Negros Oriental) share their hearts as global Pinays: true Filipino women who just so happen to live and thrive overseas.
Let’s face it: half-Pinays who grew up overseas still draw flak from pageantry circles. Queens like Pia Wurtzbach (half-German) and Catriona Gray (half-Australian) are still considered not Filipino enough — even after representing the country and winning the crown. But just like them, Layla and Vanessa are Filipino. Both raised abroad, their stories include hearing OPM music on a normal day and eating pancit during birthdays “for long life”. Their parents made sure they knew their home culture, and it wonderfully paid off. “I’ve always embraced our heritage… and it’s a Filipino thing I guess,” says Layla, and Vanessa adds to that: “It’s like you automatically embrace ‘yung pagka-Pinoy mo. You never even question it.”
There is also a skewed idea that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) work abroad to escape and forget the Philippines. In reality, they toil away from home to provide better for the families they left behind. Hyra dealt with those misconceptions, having worked as an OFW herself in Cambodia and Macao. These were two countries with contrasting cultures, yet she notes how locals took to Filipino service. “Filipinos are really hospitable. And then if a local Khmer [finds out] that you’re a Filipino, they would give you free stuff [and] free food.”
As global Pinays, these ladies advocate for the rights and well-being of Pinoys abroad, which is why they encourage finding a community. Filipino communities give the global Pinoy a sense of family, and Vanessa shares how working abroad with a mostly-Pinoy staff did that for her. “They’re all my titos and titas na. We’re all a family. Mafi-feel mo na parang you’re all united.
Basta maka-meet ka lang ng Pinoy abroad, [you’ll] feel at home agad-agad.”
Of course, home is nothing without food, and our delegates momentarily bond over sinigang and how it tastes different outside the country. They get lost in the moment over something that reminds them of home, something they miss when they’re out in the world, reminding them where they’re from. Filipinos really are connected by gut, by speech, and by heart.
It is that heart connection that creates sparks when we meet other Pinoys abroad. Vanessa and Hyra share anecdotes of encounters where even hearing the slightest of the Pinoy accent led them to bond with kababayans in other countries. They also highlight being Bisaya as a magical thing that bonds people “like we’ve known each other for so long,” as according to Hyra. It happened to them with strangers, and it happened to them both. And it was wonderful.
Home is where the heart is, and that sense of home really lies with the people you’re with.
Like these beautiful Pinays, may we all embrace our heritage, our roots, and our home — wherever in the world we may be.
PRODUCED BY: Layla Adriatico | Hyra Desiree Betito | Vanessa Yuson-Matzeit | Ica Imanuelle Macazo
CREATIVE PRODUCER: Nathan Vargas
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Ica Imanuelle Macazo | Rexy Jolly Conopio | Angel Fagaragan
PHOTOGRAPHER: Rap Yu