2015 Miss Earth Angelia Ong ‘We will because we can!’

CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

When Angelia Ong was asked by a judge during the final Q&A what slogan for Miss Earth, the beauty pageant “with a cause” (that is, to save Mother Earth), she answered without missing a beat and with a wide smile, “We will because we can. I want everybody to know that all things are possible and things are feasible if we work together. We will because we can.”

With that much-applauded answer, Angelia not only won 2015 Miss Earth last week in Vienna, beating 82 other hopefuls, but also set a record in the pageant’s 15-year history by scoring a back-to-back win, regaining the honor from Jamie Herrell, last year’s title-holder from the Philippines. The first Filipina winner was Karla Henry, also a Cebuana like Jamie, in 2008.

Angelia’s Elemental Court was composed of Australia’s Dayanna Grageda (first runner-up), USA’s Brittany Ann Payne (second runner-up) and Brazil’s Thiessa Sickert Ferreira Veloso (third runner-up).

A La Salle Marketing Management senior (all she needs to graduate is a thesis) born in Iloilo City on June 27, 1990, Angelia Gabrena Paglicawan Ong, half-Chinese, hasn’t always been a winner. In 2009, she joined the GMA talent search StarStruck, reached only the Top 60 and lost to Sarah Lahbati and Steven Silva. (Among those also eliminated early on was Alden Richards who is the most popular actor today, proving that losers can eventually be winners.)

In 2011, Angelia represented Iloilo City in the Bb. Pilipinas pageant and lost to Shamcey Supsup who finished third runner-up in that year’s Miss Universe pageant. Last year, Angelia competed in the Miss Manila contest and placed second runner-up. Undaunted, she tried her luck again in this year’s Miss Philippines-Earth search. The rest is, as they would say, a beautiful history.

As the slogan of Manuel Uy, known as the “winningest” Philippine sweepstakes agent, aptly put it, “A quitter never wins, a winner never quits.”

In a field of 83 beauties, how did you feel was your chance, especially since the reigning queen was a Filipina?

“To be honest, kinabahan talaga ako. I was told that it was impossible for another Filipina to win the crown twice in a row. Why would Carousel go to Vienna just to crown another Filipina? That was what my detractors were saying. I was just thinking that whatever happened, lalaban pa rin ako. There were really so many beautiful contestants but I think that my fighting spirit helped a lot.

“I guess that my edge was the inherent Filipino friendliness, ‘yung marunong makipag-usap, so kausap lang ako nang kausap sa lahat ng mga taong mami-meet namin sa mga events, not knowing that many of them were members of the board of judges. Nalaman ko ‘yun on coronation night. They were out pala to know us personally.”

Who among the other beauties did you think would win?

“Medyo kinabahan ako kay Miss Mongolia (who finished a semi-finalist). She was really a total package. But you know, I kept in mind what Jamie had been telling me — you know, positive thinking. So I didn’t imagine the crown to be on somebody else’s head but my head. Jamie was right about the law of attraction. Stop being negative, keep on being positive.”

During the final Q&A, you gave an impressive answer. Was it impromptu?

“Actually, hindi ‘yun ganoon ka on-the-spot. Even during the Miss Philippines-Earth pageant, that was already my tagline; I would always say that line because that’s part of my advocacy. I would always end my statements with ‘We will because we can.’ So when I was asked that question during the final Q&A, the first thing that came to my mind was that tagline, so I delivered it as naturally as I could. I was lucky to be asked that question. Ang dami namang ibang questions, bakit ‘yun ang napunta sa akin? May divine intervention, I guess.”

How did you train for the Vienna event?

“Very intensive. For Miss Philippines-Earth, there were many of us being trained by Kagandahang Pilipina (headed by Rodgil Flores). I concentrated on my walking kasi nga hindi masyadong maganda ang paglakad ko. Other than that, I was okay.”

Any memorable experiences in Vienna aside from winning the crown?

“Well, it was my first trip to Europe and I was able to see snow. It was very beautiful! I made my first snowman, my first snowball. We also went up to the glaciers. I took advantage of the chance to see as much of Austria as I could.”

Who was your roommate?



“Miss Romania. I was lucky to have her with me. We were like sisters. We didn’t treat each other as competitors; we helped each other. We were honest to each other, ‘Your dress is not so nice, change it.’ Things like that. We even borrowed each other’s make-up and other accessories.”

Our kababayan in Vienna gave you full support. 

“You know how we Filipinos are, anywhere we go our kababayan are there to support us. Every day, they brought me food. I didn’t bring thick clothes, so they lent me some. Before the finals, they even showed me around. Last night, they invited me to their Christmas party and I brought along my Elemental Beauties. I felt like I found so many families here.”

Your motto in life must be “never say never” because you didn’t give up even when you failed in your first tries.

“During the 2011 Bb. Pilipinas pageant, some of us didn’t win but eventually succeeded on our second try. The winner at that time was Shamcey Supsup (who placed third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant that same year). Janine Tugonon was first runner-up and the next year, she won and placed first runner-up in the 2012 Miss Universe pageant. MJ Lastimosa was also a runner-up and last year, she represented the country in the Miss Universe pageant. Another runner-up won the next time she competed and represented the country in the Miss World contest. I think may magic ang batch na ‘yon.”

When did you become aware about climate change?

“I would read about climate change in the news but it was only when I joined Miss Philippines-Earth that I really became aware of it. The pageant is not just about beauty; it has a purpose and that is to take care of the environment. Jamie and I were lucky to have spoken about climate change at the UN headquarter in Vienna. I was tapped as representatives from Asia. I would have loved to attend the recent climate change summit in Paris if I had the chance.”

What was the gist of your speech?

“It was a long speech. It was part of Miss Earth’s competition among continents. What I said was, ‘Asia is the hotbed of climate change. We are surrounded by the Pacific Ocean so we are hit by natural disasters more often and harder than other countries.’ Something like that. We all know that the Philippines is a typhoon haven, di ba?  So each one of us should be involved in taking care of Mother Earth.”

When you are caught in a traffic jam in Manila, what comes to your mind?

“The air pollution. You know, during the Miss Philippines-Earth contest we visited the Lung Center where they have this gadget that measures the volume of air pollution. The worst pollution is along EDSA.”

What did you learn about climate change in Austria that you might apply back home?

“You know, I’m so amazed with Austria. It’s a clean country. Did you know that you could drink water straight from the pipes? ‘Yung mga public vehicles, there’s no smoke belching. The garbage is segregated. It’s so organized. As I said, it’s attainable. Yes, believe me, we will because we can.”

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

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