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Tourism's new muse

CEBU, Philippines - The recently crowned Mutya ng Pilipinas Tourism winner says she has always been an active believer of education, and thus feels it is through educating others that she can best help further Philippine tourism.

Cebuana beauty queen Rizzini Alexis Gomez, who snatched one of the major titles in last month’s Mutya pageant by impressing judges with her projection and eloquence, tells The FREEMAN, “I’d do it through education because it allows us to get acquainted with our beautiful past, helps us learn and appreciate our present and lets us plan for a bright and better future. It will open up opportunities that can help our nation move forward and make the world a better place to live in.”

To say that Rizzini is looking forward to the months ahead is an understatement. The svelte 21-year old says that with her title comes the responsibility of exploring and learning more about the beauty of our country, especially our tourist spots, and make them known to the world. This translates to a lot of travelling, something that Rizzini is quite excited about.

“I’ve always wanted to travel all over our country, and some of our destinations during the pre-pageant have been my first time,” she enthusiastically recalls.

“One of them is Palawan, where we went to the underground river in Puerto Princesa – the new seventh Wonder of the World. And my goodness, I was very happy and excited! I felt like I was in one of my favorite novels! We also went to Las Cazas in Bataan. It was like stepping back in time. It was so beautiful! I felt like wearing a Filipiniana, standing over a balcony and just enjoying the day.”

She adds, “There are definitely many places in our country that are worth seeing and sharing to other people.”

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Those trips she considers her most fun and memorable aspect of joining Mutya. Small wonder she had no trouble answering her make-or-break question during the final round, which delved on her learnings during their out-of-town excursions.

All 30 of them contestants had the opportunity to travel to Bataan, Pampanga and Cebu. Rizzini was asked the most important thing she learned from those trips.

Without hesitation, she cited the importance and value of preserving the culture and heritage of our country as the most significant lesson she picked up.

“We wouldn’t want to only show other countries that we are very vibrant, but we are also home of the world-class and skillful Filipinos that help bring about the best of what our country has to offer and we can proudly say, it’s more fun in the Philippines,” was her complete answer.

Rizzini was at that moment a picture of confidence. But she admits to have been trembling on the inside while anticipating her question.

“My heart was actually trying to beat out of my chest!” she exclaimed.

Her father’s constant reminder and the public speaking training she received from the Toastmasters of Cebu were what got her through with flying colors, according to Rizzini.

“I always remember what my dad often tells me: to listen and to absorb the question before answering. I try to understand what the question is first, and then I answer. Thanks also to the Toastmasters of Cebu! Their advices from my Miss Mandaue and Miss Cebu days have been very helpful. I’m no expert, but as for tips, just stay calm so you can organize your thoughts more properly. You need to read so that you’ll always be updated about current events, for instance, about the state of our country’s tourism.”

In relation to her answer during the Q&A, Rizzini added through this interview that she feels we should maximize “fast-rising technology to discover and learn more about our historical sites and places. We need to have a good foundation in history to make others better understand and see the genuine beauty of our country.”

Rizzini – who also won Mutya 2012’s Best in Swimsuit and three sponsor awards namely, Mutya ng Imperial Palace, Mutya ng Midas Hotel and Mutya Zen Institute – will be off to Malaysia come December to represent the Philippines in the Miss Tourism International contest, happening on New Year’s Eve. That’s four months from now, and knowing Rizzini’s determined spirit, she’s working hard this early to be in fighting form for the international stage.

Win or lose in Malaysia though, Rizzini says she’s already happy to be living out one of her dreams. She still has numerous aspirations in her check list, apparently.

“When I was little, I wanted to be many things when I grew up. My parents have always been very supportive of what I wanted to become in the future: doctor, nurse, actress, singer, reporter, lawyer, athlete, beauty queen. I’m very happy to have achieved two of them. And it’s never too late to reach the rest of my list.”

That other goal she’s proud to have achieved is becoming a registered nurse. She says that she definitely plans to practice her profession here first.

“I want to know what our country can offer up to nurses here. Of course, the practice is different here compared abroad. Then if the opportunity comes, I’d like to follow my mom who’s working as a nurse abroad.”

Here’s something surprising: while height is might especially in the business of beauty pageants, Rizzini had not always felt that towering above most of her peers was to her advantage. Like typical teenagers who go through a stage of harboring insecurities, she also went through that awkward tall-girl phase.

“When I was young, I was always the tallest in class. I’m always placed at the back in lines or during lectures. There was even a time I wondered what it would be like to be the small and dainty type,” she says.

“But then, I got to see being tall as a blessing because it’s a plus factor in sports. Now in beauty pageants, I’m also happy to have that advantage. So yehey to genes!”

How does she deal with the bashers, we asked, mostly made up of zealous pageant followers with their own strong opinions? For instance, there were the few who expressed how the pageant she joined after an unsuccessful attempt from the previous was a downgrade in terms of prestige (from Binibining Pilipinas, to Miss World-Philippines, to Mutya ng Pilipinas).

“Criticisms are always present in the beauty pageant arena. People will always have their own opinion and they say it freely, whether in the newspaper or Internet. For me, I just don’t mind them. I don’t read those websites and the comments, because I know there will always be the bad and the good.”

“All I know is that, I know who I am. I’m proud of what I’ve become and what I’ve achieved so far. I’m proud of my family and where I came from. And I’m going to do my best to give them the honor they deserve and represent our country with pride and joy,” Rizzini ends.

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