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Meet these new Filipina pageant standouts out to change the world!

Are pageants still relevant in a pandemic? I asked you guys this question in a previous column, just when our Miss Universe bet Rabiya Mateo was battling it out on the world stage in Florida last May. Fittingly, coming from my very insightful conversation on pageantry with Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz and Miss Kumu Global Pageant organizer/Miss World 2003 Top 5 finisher Mafae Yunon-Belasco, I got the answer to my own question: A resounding yes!

With pageants crossing over to politics, queens speaking up more, and a part of the industry modifying its standards of “beauty” to include the once marginalized, we could say that beaucons remain a hot conversation starter especially in our pageant-obsessed country. (Go ahead and tease this tita still using the term beaucon in this age!)

As the Philippines readies itself for this year’s local editions of Miss Universe and Miss World, I had the chance to meet a few young beauty queens from these pageants out to incite change through their beauty, talent, and bravery.

Get to know them by watching our “Pamilya Talk” episode .

Ganiel Krishnan, Miss World Philippines – Cavite

We all know Ganiel from TV Patrol, but real followers of this 27-year-old can pinpoint when and where she exactly started out in the biz. The Kendall Jenner lookalike, whose features betray her Indian, Singaporean, and Filipino roots combined, was first a model, Star Magic talent, and then UAAP courtside reporter for her alma mater Far Eastern University. She eventually graduated with a mass communication degree until she landed a regular job in news.

In between these gigs, Ganiel would take a leave to pursue her pageantry dreams. She had already won Miss Asia-Pacific International second runner-up in 2016 prior to her entry to Miss World PH this year.

Among all these hats Ganiel wears is that of a writer. On @People.IMet on Instagram, she features a la Humans of New York the inspiring people she meets. Most of these individuals, from elderly fishermen to sampaguita-selling street children, Ganiel encounters on the job.

“It’s deeply rooted with what I do as a journalist, and it’s about telling stories about people that I meet. Iba’t-ibang tao, different walks of life. I just tell their stories in the hopes of alleviating their life situation,” she explained her advocacy.

“Medyo mahirap gawin yung @People.IMet before for me. Then, noong nasa TV Patrol na ako, naturuan na ako, ‘Okay, i have to write stories na makaka-touch sa lives ng people, or the person reading it.”

Ganiel thus hopes that through pageants such as Miss World, advocacies like her own further cross into mainstream consciousness. That is, after all, the point, she says.

“Beauty pageants are not just about strutting your beautiful body or beautiful face—it’s more than that. It’s more than the physical appearance. Actually, when we talk about beauty pageants, it’s being able to speak out or speak about yourself regarding the platforms or advocacies you are really fighting for,” she declared.

“I think sobrang kailangan yan especially during this time of the pandemic. There’s a lot of uncertainties happening right now and I think we should just somehow shed hope and light to people.”

Corrine Abalos, Miss Universe Philippines – Mandaluyong

Compared to Ganiel, Corrine, 23, is a pageant newbie. She’s not totally unarmed, though, with former Binibining Pilipinas candidate and incumbent Mandaluyong Mayor Menchie Abalos as her mom.

Corrine has also struck the pageantry radar hot, after Kris Aquino herself posted about her in support. Corrine is apparently a family friend of the Aquinos, even sharing the same name as former president Corazon Aquino.

“Honestly, sobrang nakakakilig kasi si Miss Kris Aquino,” Corrine gushed on the show. “She’s a very big personality in Philippine show business. Being seen by her is really validating kasi first time ko in pageantry and para makita nila na gumagaling ako or to see my performance makes me feel na what I’m doing is correct or I’m on the right track.”

Corrine Abalos, Miss Universe Philippines – Mandaluyong

Miss Universe Philippines 2021

The De La Salle University International Studies graduate admits to being a private person before all this. But through the MUP stage, she believes it’s high time to give her advocacy a much-needed thrust.

“It’s very dear to my heart, it’s about scoliosis. Kasi ako mismo may scoliosis,” Corrine revealed.

“Growing up, sobrang I was really insecure of my body kasi I had a hump in my back and my spine wasn’t straight, you would see it. I just wanna raise (awareness) about it and also to boost the confidence of the youth kasi I know alam ko how it can be like to have scoliosis and feel bad about your bump”

Ayn Bernos, Miss Universe Philippines – San Juan City

Another MUP candidate who’s made ripples early on was this TikTok content creator, writer, and entrepreneur. At 5’3”, triple threat Ayn has been appointed torchbearer of many petite women who have long had potential only to be intimidated by the height standards in pageants.

The University of Santo Tomas English Language Studies graduate definitely gave us a peek of what we’ve missed out on because of our outmoded ideas of beauty. On the show, Ayn, 26, eloquently talked about the removal of the height requirement in the MUP. 

“I really think that it’s a step forward—this is gonna be the start of maybe a revolution in the pageant industry or beauty standards in general. We’re seeing more and more women embrace themselves, and I think even during with the selection process, like nobody asked me about my waistline, or kung ano yung itsura ko, or stuff like that,” she said.

“I feel like we were able to highlight what really mattered, and that was who we are, our identities. I think that reflects din the values of the next generation—na we care still about beauty, but beauty that’s more welcoming and that’s more inclusive, and it represents a lot more kinds of Filipinos. It’s no longer one kind of Filipino, but the diversity of us, and I think that’s beautiful. I can’t wait to see the next batches, to see sino ba mga bagong trailblazers at ano pa ang bago nating makikita.”

Ayn Bernos, Miss Universe Philippines – San Juan City

Instagram/Ayn Bernos (Photo by Rxandy)

Besides redefining beauty, Ayn makes the perfect queen these digitally dependent times. On the show, she revealed how she’s also struggled with criticisms online as she, like the rest of how, kept her mental wellness in check.

“People would go as far as emailing me edited photos of me na basag-basag yung ngipin ko. I even received medyo threat-level na sila. (Dahil sa) height ko, partly. Kasi I think that’s one of the most obvious things, but other than that, just the general, ‘You’re not pretty enough,’” she opened up.

“Pero honestly, hindi na kasi ako naaapektuhan masyado nun. I understand na this is gonna be the general opinion. But I’m also happy that throughout the different challenges, I was able to slowly prove myself one by one. Slowly but surely, I’m able to prove na I also belong here. And I think now that I have done that, I’m affected a lot less. As in I’m enjoying the experience na lang at this point.”


Please watch Pamilya Talk on Facebook, YouTube, and Kumu (@JingCastaneda – 5:30-7:00 p.m. Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday). Please share your stories or suggest topics at jin[email protected]. You can also follow and send your comments via my social media accounts: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Kumu.

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