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Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Maria Gigante breezes through MWP’s speaking challenge

Vanessa Balbuena - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — Maria Gigante’s first introduction to Cebu’s pageant scene was as a strong Miss Cebu contender back in 2013. But she froze during the final Q&A, and so settled for a second runner-up finish. These days, Gigante is hailed as one who gobbles up a microphone, as they say in sward speak.

The 28-year-old model and events host, who was crowned Binibining Cebu Charity 2017, has been acquitting herself well in the ongoing Miss World Philippines 2022 fast-track events, placing in all three challenges that have concluded as of writing: Top 5 in the Sports Competition, Top 13 in  Beach Beauty, and Top 2 in the Head to Head.

During yesterday’s Round 2 of the Head to Head Challenge where the Top 5 finalists for this event were made to deliver a speech about their Beauty With a Purpose advocacy, and then answer four other questions from the judges and their fellow candidates, Gigante was once again in her element as she became one of last two standing in this challenge that tested their intelligence and speaking skills. The winner, which will be fast-tracked into the semi-finals, will be announced on the June 5 coronation.

Below are some of Gigante’s answers during the Head to Head Challenge:

Her Beauty with a Purpose advocacy:

The greatest threat to our world is the belief that someone else is going to save it. One day, I’m going to have a daughter, and perhaps you will too. And I would like to think that my daughter is going to live in a world that is more open and accepting, one that’s free of possibilities, one that is even better than the one I live in now.

I work as a model and as a host, but I was not always as glamorous as this. When I was 16 years old, I started volunteering for Gawad Kalinga. That’s more than 10 years ago. In a span of 10 years they have trusted me enough in founding my own initiative. I’m also now the founder of People’s on the Go Livelihood Organization. This is an attempt to marry the things that I love most – that is art and fashion, and the empowerment of women and children. The community that I used to take care of in Gawad Kalinga now houses three sewing machines and one edging machine, and it currently produces sustainable material out of upcycled rice sacks and burlap sacks that are used to make reusable napkins, reusable diapers, aprons, totes, and household items that assist a household to live in a more sustainable way. It is a small impact, but it lasts. We have to start simple if we want to change the world. This project is now five years old and I hope that with an organization like Miss World Philippines,

In 2018, the Philippines withdrew from the International Criminal Court, becoming the second nation to do so after Burundi. With a fresh mandate of the new administration coming in, do you feel it is high time for the Philippines to reinstate its membership to the United Nations Criminal Court?

I believe that the conversation of unity has always taken front and center amongst the islands of the country that is the Philippines. And I think in order for us to take unity to the next level, we need to reinforce our bonds with other nations especially in the United Nations. If that should start with reinstating our part in the International Criminal Court, then why not? I mean, we all want to live in a better world and we have to do our part.

What do you think are the best qualities that make an exceptionally empowered Filipina?

The best qualities that I think make an empowered Filipina is someone who is someone who is genuine, someone who knows her purpose [on] why she was put on this earth to do what she does, and does that unapologetically no matter if it’s different from what she sees around her. I think another quality is that she is a risk-taker. One thing you have to be when you are genuine is you have to have the courage to not be the same as everybody else. But you have to know that in seeking your truth, you’re inspiring others to live theirs as well. And there is nothing more powerful than raising up other Filipinas to join you in their ranks.

What would you do if you will not win the crown?

I would do the same exact thing. In fact for the past five years I’ve been working hard on this project, the People’s on the Go Livelihood Organization. And I thought my pageant journey was over. But the reason I joined was because I now have this advocacy that is ripe for the world to know. Prior to this, six years ago in my last stint in pageantry I didn’t truly know what I was put on this earth for. I didn’t know…why am I good in modelling? Why am I good in hosting? Maybe there’s something more that I can offer to the world. And I thought that perhaps the true test of why I lost my first national pageant was to really see what I’m made of, and to see if my purpose was really true to my heart. And it really is. Because I have six siblings and I look up very much to my mother. And so this is all an homage to them – to work on women empowerment and to be able to come up with concrete and real plans. To uplift a community that I have known and loved my entire life has been the greatest honor. And even if I don’t win the Miss World Philippines crown, I’m going to do the exact same thing.

The Philippines is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

What can a beauty queen do to empower Filipinos into becoming more disaster-resilient?

As the next Miss World Philippines, perhaps we can start by making more accessible disaster and risk management information and education on how to handle calamities. As a Philosophy major, and as an academic, perhaps I can contribute by making my research more about the ethics of sustainability. The Green Agenda is very real, and more and more people are starting to pay attention to it because we realize in the consequences we now face – be it higher temperatures during summers or even how we suffered during the throes of the pandemic – it has really affected us and I think everyone is pretty much convinced that this is as real as it can get. As a citizen, we can start by living more sustainably – by reducing our carbon footprint, by using reusable cups and straws and things like that because I think we’ve realized how interconnected our lives are with nature, with animals, and with each other.

MISS CEBU

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