CEBU, Philippines - Newly-crowned Mutya ng Pilipinas Tourism International, Angeli Dione Barbas Gomez, admits feeling a little upset when back in April she ended up among the â€˜thank-you girlsâ€™ at the Binibining Pilipinas Gold pageant.
â€œI knew my chances of winning were not great, but I thought at least I was going to make the top 15,â€ confides the 20-year-old Cebuana. â€œBut I was proud of the winners. I know the girls and they deserved it.â€
After failing to place in the prestigious tilt, Angeli wanted to give it a year or two before trying her luck in a similar contest. She intended to rest, then work on further studies or on her career.
But her handler Jonas Borces had other plans in mind. He convinced Angeli to join Mutyaâ€™s 45th edition, since her training a few months back was still fresh on her mind. She wasnâ€™t sold on the idea at first, until he mentioned that pre-pageant activities would involve a lot of traveling.
â€œThe travel part got me. He said it will be like an all-paid vacation. Screening was already the next day, so I thought about it overnight and decided to go for it,â€ says Angeli, the eldest daughter of a pediatrician and a businesswoman.
Angeli was on a hometown visit last Monday together with a fellow winner who also has Cebuana roots, Asdis Liza Karlsdottir from the Filipino community of Iceland. Asdis, whose mother is from Minglanilla, Cebu, won Mutya ng Pilipinas-Overseas Communities. Joining them was first runner-up Maureen Ann Montagne from the Filipino community of Arizona.
The lovely trio paid a courtesy call to Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III, visited the office of the Department of Tourism, dropped by some famous tourist spots and did a slew of media interviews. This will be a routine the girls will repeat in other regions, according to Mutya president Jacqueline Tan, as the top five embarks on a nationwide tour in the next few months.
Angeli shares that her Binibini stint acclimatized her to the grueling schedule before a big coronation night. â€œIn Binibini, I trained almost every day after an event. So going into Mutya, I was already used to not sleeping a lot. I was no longer affected physically and even my skin still looked okay.â€
Too bad she wasnâ€™t able to display her speaking skills during the Binibini coronation, because Angeli says that unlike many pageant contestants who dread the Q&A, she actually enjoys it when people pick on her brains. â€œI really like Q&A. Iâ€™m a very chatty person and I like sharing my opinion. Iâ€™m not biased to other peopleâ€™s opinions either. The Q&A is really my time to shine.â€
Her Mutya question asked her to cite what Western women can learn from Filipinas. Reflecting on her answer, she says, â€œI wish I had time to elaborate. My answer on values and culture were very broad. What I wanted to specify on was how strong our family ties are. Filipinos are very close to their families, while in Western cultures, they usually search for independence at an early age. We think about family first and what we can do to help them.â€
The Cebuana edge
Angeliâ€™s first pageant was the 2012 Reyna ng Aliwan, where she romped off the victor. â€œI was supposed to join Miss Mandaue, so I trained for that. At the last minute, I decided not to do it because that time, I was still scared of Q&A. Jonas suggested Reyna ng Aliwan. He said it was fun and that I get to wear a costume. It was the first time Toledo Cityâ€™s Hinulawan Festival had an entry. I just represented Toledo though, as I really live in Sto. NiÃ±o Village, Talamban.â€
She joined Miss Resorts World Manila in the same year and bagged the fourth runner-up spot.
Angeli took over the Mutya title won by fellow Cebuana Rizzini Alexis Gomez (not relatives, Angeli says), who stole the hearts of international judges during the Miss Tourism International finals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia during last yearâ€™s New Yearâ€™s Eve.
â€œAt first, we were both laughing on stage while she was handing over her crown. She was saying â€˜I told you, I told you.â€™ The whole time she was telling me I was a winner, but of course she was only saying that to boost my confidence. I could tell that she was very proud of me.â€
She points out, â€œI think Iâ€™ll have an edge in the December international pageant in Malaysia because the reigning queen is from my hometown. I can get personal tips from her and she can really help me get an advantage over the other girls.â€
Angeli noticed that people in the Manila pageant scene have certain expectations once they find out sheâ€™s from Cebu.
â€œItâ€™s because our Cebuana beauty queens have done really well. They expect that we are really good walkers, which put huge pressure on me because I have a record of tripping in Binibini and Mutya. I donâ€™t know why I always stumble. Thatâ€™s one of the things Iâ€™ll really be working on in the next months.â€
They also expect Cebuanas to be good speakers, says Angeli. â€œI donâ€™t know if itâ€™s because in Cebu, weâ€™re used to speaking in English and that gives us an edge. But more than that, Cebuanas have normally friendly personalities and know how to communicate with other people.â€
With her Mutya title comes the task of helping promote Philippine tourism, and Angeli is more than eager to play the part. She wants to begin bragging about Cebu first of course, specifically Moalboal which she hails for being a great dive spot. â€œAlthough I personally donâ€™t dive, I still love Moalboal.â€
Learning about Angeliâ€™s interests, it wonâ€™t come as a surprise if she pursues diving in the future. Sheâ€™s not one to stay idle and indoors, describing herself as a lover of active sports and anything that gets her moving.
Angeli trained in horseback-riding as a kid, and later on competed in polo matches. â€œMy friendâ€™s father was a polo player, and then he stopped for two years. His passion suddenly came back and he was looking for players to train. I have already been horse-riding at 10 years old in Talamban before playing polo. Me and my friends would ride in San Remigio and other paths here in Cebu.â€
That time, Angeli and her family were not yet aware that she had scoliosis, a medical condition where oneâ€™s spine is curved from side to side. Later, they would learn that all her riding made it worse.
During a polo match in Bacolod, she collided with another rider and fell off her horse. Falls were a norm in the sport, so Angeli didnâ€™t mind it. But she was alarmed when the pain in her back didnâ€™t go away after a month.
â€œWhen I had it checked, the doctor confirmed I had scoliosis. For a year, I had to stop riding and not engage into any active sport. I also liked jet-skiing, and I couldnâ€™t do that anymore. That made me cry because I was a very active person.â€
Angeli discovered other forms of physical activities she enjoyed during that time she was prohibited from riding horses. She now does poi, hoops, and contact juggling. â€œI feel I have a lot of energy bottled up inside me, so I found poi and hula-hoops as another outlet. The doctor said I canâ€™t do stuff that will make me bounce. I canâ€™t even jump. When I skip-roped as exercise for my last pageant, my back hurt.â€
On why she decided to enroll in a film course at the International Academy of Film and Television (IAFT) in Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City, Angeli recalled that she was unsure what to do after graduating high school.
She did one term of Biology at the University of San Carlos, then shifted to Interior Design for the next term. â€œI saw myself becoming one of those course-hoppers and I didnâ€™t want that to happen. So I took a few months off. I had a friend who studied at IAFT. She told me it was a lot of fun and you get to make movies. Iâ€™m not an unusual movie buff; Iâ€™m the same as any ordinary person when it comes to following movies. I thought, â€˜Why not?â€™ It was only a one-year course anyway.â€
The course she took counts as one year in a film degree. Angeli says she is bent on completing the full four-year course in the United States next year.
Her dream project? â€œAn action film. Iâ€™m into films that are big on production design, time pieces and those set in the future which are usually action films. That was actually my original thesis script. I made two, and they were both denied not because they thought the story was weird, but because they said I could not pull it off in three days. I had car chases! The next script was set in one place, but the problem was the big cast. I could never find a middle ground, so I ended up with a love story.â€
One movie she just saw and particularly liked was the vampire movie â€œLet Me Inâ€ because â€œthe way it was shot and how the story escalated was just really nice.â€
She names American filmmaker-actress Lena Dunham as her directing hero. â€œI think sheâ€™s in her late 20â€™s. She wrote, directed and starred in the HBO series â€˜Girls.â€™ To think that she did all that, sheâ€™s a superwoman!â€
â€œI heard Cebu used to have a really great film industry, and I want to help bring that back,â€ the beauty queen declared.
For the time being, sheâ€™s making it her mission that the Miss Tourism International crown remains on a Cebuanaâ€™s head. (FREEMAN)