Whatever happened to 1976 Bb. Pilipinas-U Lizbeth de Padua?
FUNFARE (The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2016 - 9:00am

One of those sorely missed at the Grand Homecoming Special in honor of 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach (who left for the US Sunday night) was 1976 Bb. Pilipinas-Universe Lizbeth de Padua who is now a successful neurosurgeon in the US. Lizbeth was a UP honor medical student when she joined the Bb. Pilipinas pageant.

Beauty-contest fans must be wondering whatever happened to Lizbeth. Funfare’s “other beauty expert” Celso de Guzman Caparas has the answer. He chanced upon a recent article about Lizbeth in The Morning Call, a daily newspaper based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Here’s the article titled Accidental beauty contestant: Dr. Lizbeth de Padua was Miss Philippines 40 years ago” written by Jennifer Marangos:

“I have one message for today’s youth,” says Dr. Lizbeth de Padua. “Be careful of what you do when you are 19 because it will come back to haunt you 40 or 50 years later.”

It’s not a typical teenage act of rebellion that is trailing de Padua in her current life as a physician with St. Luke’s Neurology Associates. It’s her time as a contestant for Miss Universe 1976, representing her native Philippines.

Being a former beauty queen isn’t something that de Padua, a neurologist specializing in treating patients with epilepsy, has readily talked about through the years. But, thanks to the Internet, it is a part of her past that still manages to pop up.

“When I came to St. Luke’s, one of our staff members said, ‘Oh I Googled you and guess what I found?’” de Padua says. “You can’t hide anything now. Patients now are very computer savvy. They look up their doctors before they even see them. There is really no hiding.”

Pia’s breaking the 42-year Miss U drought by bringing back the title prompted Lizbeth to share her own experience after keeping herself “hidden” from the media, saying she agreed to be interviewed to show people how they are caring for epilepsy patients.

“We have all the equipment to provide for epileptic patients in the Valley that otherwise they would have to go to Philadelphia or New York to get,” said de Padua who went to St. Luke’s from a job in Minnesota about two years ago… “And I liked the way that St. Luke’s is being run. That sealed the deal. St. Luke’s has management that is focused on doing the best for the patients and the doctors.”

And it was a desire to impact patients that brought de Padua to her specialty in epileptology to begin with. When she began her residency at Temple University, she recalls, treatments for other neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis or stroke or Alzheimer’s disease really didn’t exist.

Lizbeth said that it was never her plan to join the Bb. Pilipinas pageant. At that time, she had just graduated from college and was preparing for medical school

“It was really nothing that I ever planned to do,” de Padua recalls. She had graduated from college that spring and was waiting to start medical school in the fall.

“I got a letter from a fashion magazine. Someone had sent them my photo and they wanted to do a story on me. I had graduated summa cum laude and I am sure that was part of the interest. The letter said to go to this beauty salon to get my hair and makeup done for the photo shoot. The owner of the salon was also a talent scout for the pageant.”

He asked de Padua if she would be interested in competing for Miss Philippines, adding that he wasn’t even sure it would be possible since the judges were in the process of evaluating contestants. He told her that that day, something called the “press presentation” was happening.

“That’s when the candidates walk around a swimming pool and if they get a good response, they get let in. I had nothing to do that day, so I went. They let me in,” de Padua said.

She enrolled in a medical school in the Philippines a year later and then completed residency training in the United States.

“Winning Miss Philippines was kind of a blessing and a curse,” she says. “As much as I try to downplay it now, it gave me name recognition in the Philippines. After I was done with it, every department I was in in medical school, someone said, ‘Oh you are Miss Philippines.’ Sometimes, it was unwanted attention.

“I met women from all over the world. It changed my life actually. Beauty pageants are a big deal over there,” says de Padua, whose only regret in entering the pageant is that she feels that she didn’t do such a great job representing her country at the international level.

“Entering the Miss Philippines pageant was kind of an accidental thing,” she says. “I didn’t serve very well. A lot of the contestants put a lot of time and effort into winning beauty pageants. Miss Universe was in July. I won Miss Philippines in May.

“I was 19 years old at the time, and a nerdy biology graduate. They gave me some lessons in how to walk and that kind of stuff. There was a lot of pressure from the whole country.

“I was the first one who had gotten the title who had a full college degree, and I had graduated with honors and everything, so everyone thought we had a good chance of winning. I had qualifications that most beauty contest winners don’t have. I didn’t even get to the Top 15.

“If you want someone to win a beauty pageant, you need someone who is interested in winning beauty pageants,” she says.

(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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