PASAY CITY – Ignoring travel advisories on the Philippines issued by several countries, overseas-based contestants to this year’s Mutya ng Pilipinas pageant came to the country to compete for the beauty title.
The candidates, representing overseas Filipino communities to the annual beauty pageant, came earlier this month to join the rest of the homegrown candidates for a series of activities that took them to as far as Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte.
“This is actually my first time to travel to the Philppines,” Mutya ng California Suzanne Perez told the Inquirer at the sidelines of the press presentation held at Hotel 101 in Pasay City on July 20. “So the fact that there could be a travel ban in the Philippines is devastating.”
“Being here for the first time, my experience here has been amazing,” added the 20-year-old pre-school teacher, who also currently holds the regional title Miss Fullerton USA. “Filipinos are the most warm, the most genuine people that I have ever met.”
Mutya ng Australia Rica Sey, meanwhile, has been visiting the country with her family every year.
“I understand that safety always comes first,” said the 20-year-old dance teacher. “But I do see that there is a travel ban needed in some places in the Philippines. Like Miss California, I am devastated with that fact.”
“But in most places in the Philippines it is safe for tourists to come and enjoy the Philippines, to experience the culture,” added Sey, who bagged the Miss Philippines Australia crown in 2015.
The Filipino community in the United Kingdom is represented by Philippine-born Nicole Marie Deguilmo, who said: “Knowing that there could be [a travel ban] really upsets me, knowing that this is where it started for me. Home is where the heart is.”
The United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom have standing travel advisories warning against travel to the Philippines.
The three contenders also took the opportunity to invite foreigners to come visit the Philippines.
“Please come to the Philipines,” Perez said. “Everybody needs to feel the warmth that Filipinos bring to them, at least once in their lives.”
“I know there are certain devastating situations happening in other parts of the Philippines right now,” she added. “But it is important to know that not all Filipinos are like that. Not everything is like that in the Philippines. The Philippines is a beautiful place that everyone needs to experience. I really hope that everyone gets to come here.”
Sey, meanwhile, said: “I feel like there is danger all over the world when you decide to travel. So I recommend you do your research, make sure you have safety requirements put in place and just have fun and just make sure you know where to go in case of an emergency.”
Deguilmo, for her part, said: “Devastations are inevitable. It is something that should not stop us from enjoying ourselves. We should live life to the fullest.”
For California-based Perez, a first-time visitor to the Philippines, Sey and Deguilmo shared contrasting tips.
“Go island hoppping. Go to Palawan, Boracay. Do the touristy things because everyone comes here to the Philippines for the attractions that are so amazing,” said Sey.
Deguilmo suggested: “Go to more quiet places, maybe less known than the ones that have been promoted before. To truly experience the culture of the Philippines, you must go dive deep into the culture. It is made up of different islands. To fully experience it, you must explore the hearts of the people, before you could experience and enjoy the whole country.”
But Perez confessed it was the food that got her excited for her first trip to the Philippines.
“Being in America, my family has been cooking the traditional American food like burgers and hotdogs,” she said. “But I know that Filipino food is amazing, based on my experince in Filipino parties in the United States. That was honestly the number one thing I was looking forward to coming here.”
The three ladies, along with the representatives from the Filipino communities in Singapore, Japan, Melbourne, Hawaii, and Iceland, will compete against homegrown bets for three national titles – Mutya ng Pilipinas-Asia Pacific International, Mutya ng Pilipinas-Tourism International, and Mutya ng Pilipinas-Top Model of the World – which gives the winners the right to represent the Philippines in international competitions.
Last year’s winner, Ganiel Akrisha Krishnan, finished third in the revival edition of the Miss Asia Pacific International pageant staged in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Her fellow Mutya winner, Justin Mae San Jose, meanwhile, brought home a special award from the Miss Tourism International contest in Malaysia.
The Top Model of the World is the newest addition to the list of international contests supported by the Mutya ng Pilipinas organization.
The 2017 Mutya ng Pilipinas coronation night will be staged at the Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts World Manila in Pasay City on Aug. 4.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer is a media partner of this year’s pageant. /atm
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