Freeman Cebu Entertainment

An indomitable spirit, ‘til the very end

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – Her New Year’s Eve coronation in Malaysia seemed a portent of what was to be a triumphant year among Filipina reps in 2013 international pageantry. She began the year with a bang, and the momentum rubbed off on the rest of the girls, we reckon.

Rizzini Alexis Gomez, then 22, was hailed Miss Tourism International 2012/2013 in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, besting 54 other candidates from all over the world.

The following year, succeeding her in the same pageant was another Cebuana who shares her surname (although they are unrelated). But Rizzini was nowhere to be seen in photos crowning an elated Angeli Dione Gomez in Malaysia. Notwithstanding that the beauty tilt wasn’t among the Big 4, that moment would have been one for the books: from a Cebuana to another Cebuana, in an international stage.

A quick inquiry then to Mutya ng Pilipinas president Jacqueline Tan was how we learned she was feeling too ill that time to fulfill turn-over duties.

Even then, there had been no cause for alarm for us who closely followed this eloquent lady’s pageant journey that there was something else brewing beyond the normal bug. It would only be a good few months after that rumors of Rizzini’s lung cancer diagnosis would circulate.

Yesterday at 8 a.m., the unica hija of a former PBA player and a nurse succumbed to lung cancer at Perpetual Succour Hospital. She was 25.

“No words can describe the loss we feel for the untimely passing of Rizzini Alexis Gomez, Mutya ng Pilipinas Tourism 2012 and Miss Tourism International 2012/2013,” says Mutya ng Pilipinas president Jacqueline Tan in a statement sent to The Freeman.

“She was a woman of indomitable spirit and her legacy in Mutya ng Pilipinas will live on in all of us. Thank you Rizzi, for being truly beautiful inside and out. You are one of a kind.”

Tan further lauded Rizzini’s innate poise, modesty and the rare courage she displayed despite her health crisis. “She was really a joy to work with. Every time with her was always a great memory,” Tan said.

“From the time she tripped in an event in Cebu and she pulled herself up with grace, to the time she won as Miss Tourism International and how she brought pride to Mutya, Cebu, and our country, but she remained humble despite it all…how when she was already in the hospital diagnosed with cancer, she was the one who even told me that everything was going to be okay.”

The Cum Laude graduate from the University of Cebu (UC) was last seen in a major public event during this year’s Sinulog program at the Abellana grandstand, where she joined other Cebuana pageant title-holders in a dance for Cebu’s patron saint, Señor Sto. Niño. She reportedly flew in from the United States specifically for the event, to pay tribute and pray for intercession.

A registered nurse like her mom, Rizzini is the 16th Miss Tourism International winner and the second Filipina to clinch the title, after Maria Esperanza Manzano earned the honor back in 2000.

The Malaysian press described her as “an obvious choice with her warm persona and her model-like looks.”

2012 was an eventful, albeit bittersweet year for Rizzini, whose attempt at a national crown began when she screened for that year’s edition of Binibining Pilipinas. While she already had three pageant titles, namely Miss Mandaue 2008, Miss Cebu 2009 first runner-up and Aliwan Festival Queen 2010, Gomez failed to snag an official Binibini finalist slot.

She next tried her luck with Miss World-Philippines 2012, where she became an official candidate but was shut out of a semi-finals placement.

Rizzini dusted herself off quickly from the back-to-back letdowns by swiftly signing up for Mutya ng Pilipinas 2012. Lady luck finally smiled down on the statuesque charmer, as she was declared Mutya ng Pilipinas Tourism International 2012, earning the right to represent the country in Malaysia.

The eldest of three children of former Alaska Aces player and UC basketball team coach Rhoel Gomez, Rizzini was described by her father in a previous      interview with The Freeman as “respectful, religious, loving, family-oriented, a wide reader and a lover of the outdoors.”

In a TV interview immediately after winning Miss Tourism International, Rizzini expressed a desire to pursue Law studies, saying she wasn’t too keen of the typical showbiz path other beauty queens take after serving their reigns. — VAB

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