IT has been two months since 49 beautiful Filipinas competed for the title of Miss Earth-Philippines 2014—the only pageant that “actively promotes and gets involved in the preservation of the environment and the protection of Mother Earth” (missearth.tv).
Five candidates stood out from the competition, effectively becoming the most beautiful environmental advocates of the country. They are Miss Philippines-Earth 2014 grand winner 19-year old Jamie Herrel, and her “pageant sisters” Miss Philippines-Water Kimberly Covert, Miss Philippines-Eco-Tourism Monique Teruelle Manuel, Miss Philippines-Fire Bianca Paz, and Miss Philippines Air Diane Carmela Querer.
The intelligent beauties, save for one, visited The Manila Times offices on July 8 to talk about their feelings on winning, as well as their current and upcoming environmental projects.
“All our lives have changed. People in our respective provinces recognize us now, and we were even given welcome parades at our respective homecoming,” shared Herrel.
“We really feel blessed to have this opportunity to be public figures who can influence people to be more environmentally aware and help them better appreciate the beauty of our country,” added the mestiza Cebuana.
After coronation night, the five ladies immediately set to motion a campaign that reflects their concern and love for Mother Earth. Called “Think Twice,” the project encourages Filipinos to think twice before doing something that may harm the environment.
According to Herrel, Think Twice is actually Querer’s personal advocacy.
“We chose Diane’s Think Twice project because it encapsulates all our individual projects for the environment,” Herrel said.
Querer agreed, “What we really want to say is that everyone must think twice before doing things. For example, if everyone uses the stairs instead of the elevators, that is just a small act in conserving energy, but if taken collectively it makes a big difference.”
As of the moment, the winners are busy touring public and private elementary schools to impart the campaign to children. In their talks, they teach different ways to care for the environment, as well as answer questions from young minds.
“Though ‘thinking twice’ can be applied to everyone, our main target now is the children because they are easier to influence and inspire,” Querer noted.
Besides their collective campaign, the women also took on the responsibility of “promoting beautiful places in the country.”
For Querer, the best-untapped and naturally beautiful areas are in Cebu, Iligan, and Romblon, which are some of the places that the beauty queens have toured as part of their Miss Earth duties.
“I especially enjoyed seeing Maria Christina Falls in Iligan. It is such a beautiful place. Also in Romblon, where places remain undiscovered and under appreciated,” she said.
“There’s a sense of pride [to be a Filipino]when you visit these places. That is why it is also important for Filipinos to travel around the Philippines to be more proud of their heritage and culture,” Querer added.
Differentiating eco-tourism from commercial tourism destinations such as Boracay, the women explained that the previous focus on infrastructure developments in far-fetched places, and at the same time provide livelihood for the local community, without damaging nature’s beauty.
“Unlike in commercial tourist spots, we call on the local government pursue proper planning in developing their community as eco-tourism destinations for easier access and better facilities. However, they should be also be conscious in using only environmental-friendly materials, employ people from the local community, and build local brands and establishments instead of having big, international brands that only focus on profit,” said Covert.
Duties and preparations
In hoping to affect different sectors in society, the Miss Earth-Philippines winners now continue to study, attend trainings and seminars, and travel around the country to become better equipped as environmental advocates.
“We have to study more because people ask more challenging questions nowadays. When we conduct inspirational talks as part of our school tours, we want to influence and inspire children to become active stewards of the environment,” Manuel said.
In preparation for the upcoming international competition of Miss Earth on Herrel’s part, she further attends trainings, reads up on global environmental issues, and thinks of unique ideas that could better promote environmental awareness.
“Of course it would be nice to have the pageant here [in the Philippines]so my family, friends, and Filipinos could watch me and cheer for me. But as long as I keep my focus and work hard, I am confident I will be able to represent the Philippines as Miss Earth anywhere in the world,” Herrel concluded
The Miss Earth 2014 coronation night is set on November 29. Organizers have yet to announce venue of the international pageant.
WITH A REPORT FROM EUDEN VALDEZ