Shine bright like a diamond
Cate de Leon (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Janine Mari Tugonon — she of the luminescent earth-toned skin, the stand-out bone structure, and the fluid cobra walk. Despite her grace, we can imagine she inspired fantasies of a mass man-handling of the crown a-la Miss Congeniality among her passionate gay supporters. We were also issued warnings via Facebook and Twitter not to head to the parlor the day her name wasn’t called lest we accidentally get part of our ears chopped off. “Galit ang mga beki.”


But there’s always much more to a woman than a successfully bagged crown. And what a woman—which is why it was such a tragedy for her to lose against an utterly inane “I used to tease my siblings” answer. Please, do tell us more about the uniqueness of your family life. But we’re not bitter! Swear. Why else would we be asking Janine another set of beauty pageant questions to prove that she’s better? We’ve so moved on.

otos by dIX PeReZ Produced by daVId MILan

SUPREME: Are beauty pageants still relevant in a world where women are taking more functional, “empowered” roles in society?

JANINE TUGONON: Yes of course. One thing people don’t know about beauty pageants is that they’re not just about flaunting your body and face. They are more about showcasing your personality to the public and to the judges. It’s a (whole) package, both inside and out.

As someone who represented the country, who do you think Filipinos are for the world?

While I was competing, I saw how they liked Filipinas, not just for their beauty, but also their attitude. Wala silang pintas sa Filipina candidate. We were regarded as beautiful inside out. So for me ang Pilipino hindi lang maganda, magaling din.

If you could pass any law for the Philippines, what would it be and why?

Something that will oblige parents to feed their children and send them to school. There are too many street kids na limos ng limos. If we had such a law, pwede silang i-demanda to instill in us a sense of responsibility. Hindi lang yung gawa nang gawa ng anak. Teach them to become positive contributions to society.

What is the essence of beauty?

Beauty for me is being able to carry yourself and show the world what’s inside you. It’s about your values and principles emanating from your soul. Do you think beauty pageants contribute to the objectification of women?

For me, they don’t. People will always have their own perceptions, but from a woman who competed internationally, I can say that they’re not only after the body and the face. Miss Universe is very critical of your personality and what you can show them intellectually. Napaka-importante kung anong meron ka sa loob mo. It actually uplifts women because it shows that we’re not just pretty. We’re also independent and have a lot to contribute.

If not, how do you think pageants portray them?

Cite a mistake you made in the past, which you learned from the most.

I wasn’t able to say goodbye to my grandmother before she died. I was in Manila taking exams when she was sick. When I went home, nobody told me she was critical so I left without telling her anything. She passed away and I didn’t get to tell her I loved her. It made me realize we should make the most out of every second we have. You really don’t know what might happen.

How exactly do you intend to inspire the Filipina?

For me, you can inspire people even in your own simple way—with what you say, what you do, what they see and hear from you. Of course, social media helps. Twitter pa lang ang laki na ng magagawa. Basta ipakita mo yung pagkatao mo.

Is there room for a beauty queen to be an authentic human being, con- sidering that she has to be a role model?

Of course! Importante pa rin sa lahat na ipakita mo yung totoong ikaw, the genuine you. Everybody has his or her own set of weaknesses, and I can say that I’ve learned from mine. I’m not afraid to tell the world how I used to be and what I learned from my weaknesses. I think that’s even more inspiring.

As someone who said that being able to speak English shouldn’t be a prerequisite to being Miss Universe, what can you say about the wrong- grammar stigma here in the Philippines?

I admit my grammar is awful talaga. But I noticed that they’re not strict about it in the US. We Filipinos unfortunately have a very critical attitude towards it. I hope we try not to sensationalize too much, yung may masabi ka lang na mali, big deal na. We all speak different languages and know different things. Just because someone makes grammatical mistakes that doesn’t mean they’re stupid or not intellectually able. It all boils down to respect.

Can something good come out of losing the crown?

On my part, I realized that while that was what I wanted (to win the crown) God had a different purpose for me. My purpose is to stay in the Philippines and influence people here. Yes, I didn’t get the crown. Pero marami pa rin akong magagawa bilang first runner-up. I learned to accept and make the most out of what He has given me.

Do you think it’s possible to attain world peace?

Yes. It will start from us, the hearts of the people, the moment we become selfless and stop being indifferent to the feelings of others. I still believe we can.

What’s next for you?

I would still love to study and have my own business. At the same time I’m open to different projects, including opportunities in showbiz.

Tweet the author @catedeleon.


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