On her advocacy, unacknowledged win and future plans
Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong’s reign as the most beautiful steward of the environment ends on October 29 at the Mall of Asia Arena when she crowns her successor from 85 candidates of different nationalities.
Despite serving only 10 months instead of a full year, the current and third Philippine Miss Earth titleholder [after Karla Henry in 2008 and Jamie Herrell in 2014]nonetheless said she was able to maximize her environmental advocacies primarily here at home, but also in short trips to Reunion Island, Vietnam, USA, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, China, Singapore, the Czech Republic, and Germany.
She also takes pride that the slogan she coined during the question-and-answer portion of her December 2015 win in Vienna, Austria is now one of the mottos of Miss Earth: “We Will Because We Can.”
“I’ve been telling people about that slogan even during the national pageant, and then in Vienna too, but it was only acknowledged and given importance after I had the chance to use it in my answer on pageant night,” Ong told The Sunday Times Magazine at the press presentation of Miss Earth’s 2016 candidates at Diamond Hotel Manila.
Serendipitously, the Philippine representative was asked for her Q&A to what she would change Miss Earth’s 15-year-old slogan, “Beauty for a Cause,” if given the chance.
The articulate Manileña-Ilongga confidently replied, “I want to let everybody know that all things are possible and all things are feasible if we work together. We will, because we can.”
With the Philippines’ back-to-back win in Miss Earth, Ong was unable to avoid addressing a persistent issue that a win for the country lacks credibility what with the pageant’s Filipino origins.
With grace and diplomacy, the beauty queen asserted that her title is beyond question, asserting the following explanation: “There was only one Filipino in the panel [of judges]. Ms. Lorraine Schuck [founder and organizer of Miss Earth], and two United Nations bigwigs [Dick Gomer of United Nations Industrial Development Organization and United Nations Women’s Guild President Diana Oyugi]. That shows the decision was beyond question.
“Even previously, and in all editions of Miss Earth, a single Filipino in the panel will never and can never influence the final results because the rest of the judges come from different fields and different countries.
“Finally, there’s an auditing firm that tallies the scores and submits the results to the organizers before the hosts can announce the winners.”
Unaffected by detractors who belittle her win, Ong, however, admitted exclusively to The Sunday Times Magazine that she has a more personal issue, which she had to contend with over her title.
Tearfully, she recounted how she felt that her success in Vienna was hardly given importance, and effectively unacknowledged, by government and the usual groups who take time to laud individuals who bring pride to the Philippines from an international stage.
“No Senate resolution [was granted], nor a Malacañang courtesy call [afforded me]. Of course you never ask for these recognitions because they should be given voluntarily [by institutions].”
Asked what she thought of the possible reason why her win went unnoticed, she honestly replied, “Mahirap sumabay sa Miss Universe [It’s impossible to compete with a Miss Universe],” obviously referring to the current title holder of the said pageant, Pia Wurtzbach.
Ong quickly wiped away her tears as she good-naturedly laughed at her sentimentality. It will be remembered that the reigning Miss Earth was crowned on December 5, 2015, with Wurtzbach’s win unintentionally overshadowing her triumph on December 21 in Las Vegas, USA.
Admitting she was just letting out her emotions for the first time in an interview, the Mother Earth’s reigning ambassadress clarified that she understood the euphoria over Wurtzbach’s triumph, especially since it had been 42 years since the Philippines last won the Miss Universe title.
Despite her small disappointments, Ong is looking forward in passing on the torch to Miss Earth 2016, and does not deny she is hoping for a back-to-back-to-back win for the Philippines with Imelda Schweighart as representative.
“Everything is possible, there’s no rule that a country can never win successively. But of course everything will depend on the candidate’s performance in the end. She is judged by her own merits by the way, and not by the country written on her sash,” said Miss Earth 2015.
“As for Imee [Schweighart’s nickname], I think she has the chance [to win]like everybody else. She’s smart, friendly and confident,” Ong added.
Incidentally, the Philippine bet to this year’s Miss Earth pageant recently drew flak when she said in an online exchange that President Rodrigo Duterte “is doing a Hitler” in the Philippines, and even confirmed with Miss Austria that the notorious Nazi leader was actually from her country and not Germany. Schweighart’s father is German.
The video was played over and over to Schweighart’s embarrassment, eliciting jokes and bashing notably from avid supporters of Mr. Duterte. Schweighart apologized for her “booboo” and explained she meant no harm as she is in fact a Duterte supporter herself, especially in his fight against illegal drugs.
In defense of Miss Philippines Earth 2016, Ong said that while she does not agree nor tolerate what Schweighart had done and said on that video, “Knowing her, I also believe that she didn’t mean any harm. I don’t think she understood the consequences of her words and actions like she should have either.
“She’s a smart and beautiful girl and believe me, there’s more to her than that video and the series of posts she had on Facebook.
“But what’s done is done, and I know that along with it, something was broken, but it’s not something we can’t overcome.”
Additionally, Ong said of the issue via Instagram, “I feel that Miss Earth, though a Philippine brand, sometimes doesn’t get enough support as I expect it to have. It deserves so much more but this kind of popularity is not how I want our pageant to be known for. We have dedicated 16 years to raise awareness and compassion for the environment.
“On the other hand, as I try my best to look on the brighter side, I hope that the attention this issue brings can bridge the real reason why we do Miss Earth. I hope we still can reach more people about our cause despite this controversy.”
And as the day of the pageant nears, Ong reiterates her support for her successor as Miss Philippines Earth.
“I wish Imee the best of luck and that I hope she learned something from the controversy. She needs our understanding, guidance and support now more than ever.
“She’s been through a lot, and I know that’s no excuse, but please let us stop the bashing and cyber bullying. If others make mistakes, let’s not add more bad things to the situation because the outcome will never bear anything good.”
A different title
Just before she bequeaths her crown on the new Miss Earth, Ong is set to receive a different kind of title earlier in the day.
Another noteworthy feat indeed, the beauty and brains will receive her diploma in BSBA Marketing Management from De La Salle University’s College of Saint Benilde. Her graduation rites will take place on the morning of October 29 at PICC, after which she will proceed to the MoA Arena and prepare for the grand coronation night of Miss Earth 2016.
“My initial plan was to immediately go back to school and finish my studies soon after my reign, but a window opened when there was one whole month I had no commitments for Miss Earth,” Ong happily recounted when asked how she managed to graduate despite her schedule.
“So I enrolled and finished my paper [thesis], which meant a month with almost no sleep. But I’m glad I was able to finish the only requirement left for graduation,” she enthused as she expertly handled The Sunday Times’ questions while posing for this special pictorial at the Carousel Gardens in Mandaluyong City on October 20.
To keep herself busy after her reign, Ong intends to share her thoughts and experiences on “everything under the sun” on her website/blog angelia.ph and @missearth.angelia on Instagram, joking she may need assistance from The Manila Times for writing her articles.
Finally, she ends the interview with the following message resounding her Miss Earth slogan that nothing is impossible, whether in caring for the environment and pursuing the good, “Let’s empower each other and not bring each other down. At the end of the day, we are all human and we will make mistakes. But because we are human, we can also make a wrong right again.”