It’s no secret that the Philippines has a long-standing love affair with pageantry, and it’s not just a hobby or a pastime, Filipinos have enthusiastically followed and supported their beauty queens, often with intense national pride on the line.
Miss Universe, in particular, holds a special place in the hearts of many Filipinos, as it’s the most prestigious international pageant and the one where the Philippines has had the most success. Which is why it’s no surprise that year after year, women from across the Philippines submit their applications for a shot at the coveted crown.
For Alex Bollier (Bacoor City), Chloei Gabales (Iloilo City), Kristeen Boccang (Apayao), and Christine Salcedo (Marinduque), being a part of this pageant culture is a dream come true. While at some points they have participated or experienced pageantry, Miss Universe Philippines is a completely different ballgame. Kristeen notes, “This kind of level is very different. The pressure is coming from different factors and I have a team, that’s why naninibago ako.”
They know that they may be underestimated compared to the veteran delegates. After all, this crop of delegates boast 4 national titleholders. But Christine remains optimistic, imploring pageant fans and spectators to get to know them because they are worth taking a chance on. “The fact that we are here means that the selection panel was able to see potential in us –that this girl can have a crown.”
For Kristeen, more than her potential, she relishes in the opportunity put her province on the map. “It really excites me that every day, I get to meet new people and introduce my province,” Kristeen shares as she recalls people mistakenly thinking Apayao is from Mindanao rather than Luzon. They want to break the stereotype that only candidates from big cities have a shot at winning and show that beauty and brains can come from any corner of the country.
Of course, joining a national pageant like Miss Universe Philippines is not just about being glamorous and photogenic. It’s a huge adjustment in lifestyle, from the rigorous training and rehearsals to the scrutiny of the media and the public eye. Alex, a former professional volleyball player, describes just how drastically different the switch from sneakers to stilettos yet how all the hustle is worth it. She draws her strength from her roots, “I feel like it’s because of my family that I even have the opportunity to be here… We’re representing them, but at the same time their love for us is so empowering.”
While Chloei wholeheartedly agrees, makes an important point of how pressure can come from your greatest supporters as well. You see, Chloei hails from the same locale as Rabiya Mateo, the first queen crowned under the independent Miss Universe Philippines pageant. She emphasizes the importance of knowing and staying true to oneself, “At the end of the day, it’s you that you are representing; it’s you on the stage, not them.”
When all is said and done, what matters most is the journey of self-discovery and empowerment that these women will go through. They are proud to be a part of the rich pageant culture of the Philippines and excited to leave their mark on the stage, as underdogs who rose to the challenge and proved that anything is possible with passion, determination, and resilience.
As Alex sums it up, “One of the most rewarding things you can see is to watch yourself bloom.”
PRODUCED BY: Alexa Bautista Bollier | Chloei Darl Gabales | Kristeen Mae Boccang | Christine Salcedo | Ica Imanuelle Macazo
CREATIVE PRODUCER: Nathan Vargas
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Ica Imanuelle Macazo | Rexy Jolly Conopio | Angel Fagaragan
PHOTOGRAPHER: Rap Yu