Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Cebu bets gear up for Mrs. Philippines International 2023

Januar Junior Aguja - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  The Mrs. Cebu Philippines organization held a send-off press conference December 4 at Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino as its nine delegates are set to leave for Manila for the Mrs. Philippines International sashing ceremony this Dec. 20.

It was revealed during the event that around 50-55 contestants will be competing in the nationals, much to the surprise of the Cebu candidates.

“That’s quite a lot!”, M.S. Cebu Philippines 2022 Marianne Calinawan reacted. “That’s pleasant to hear…new sisters for us to meet.”

Aside from Calinawan, present were Mrs. Cebu Philippines 2022 Princess Joesel Mae Bajamonde, Mrs. Cebu Philippines Grand 2022 Mary Jade Luna, Mrs. Cebu Philippines Charity 2022 Honeylane Palero Labang, Mrs. Cebu Philippines Tourism 2022 Irma Payod-Bitzer, Elite Cebu Philippines 2022 Liz Tagimacruz-Vecina, and first runner-up Elma Preglo Lavajo.

Mrs. Cebu Philippines Regional Queen 2022 Geobell Abrenica and Ambassador of Goodwill Jen Hecell Rodriguez were unable to attend due to prior commitments.

With a whopping 15 crowns up for grabs in the March 2023 finals, most of the ladies said they are eyeing for no less than the highest title.

“It takes a lot of preparation and determination to do a pageant, so we must have a bigger goal,” Bajamonde, 25, proclaimed.

Bitzer, 38, is preparing for the competition by coming up with costume and outfit ideas.

As for Calinawan, her process is based more on reflection. “I want to wander first, look around and see the root cause of everything because I want my costumes for the competition to be as meaningful as my deepest ‘why’ in joining this pageant,” the Sibonga native said.


Holistic wellness within the family is Lavajo’s advocacy, which was prompted by the passing way of a loved one.

“I want to encourage mothers to balance their family wellness in all aspects because it will greatly play a role in the success of our children, which in turn, contribute to the progress of our nation,” Lavajo, who hails from Carcar City, said. “I assessed myself after Mrs. Cebu Philippines and I realized that God opened the doors wide for me to take my advocacy to the national stage.”

As a clinical psychology practitioner, Luna wanted a different approach to promoting mental health.

“There are different aspects of psychology and I want everyone to be educated when it comes to sharing about psychology, mental health, and the stigma around it,” Luna said. “People around us are very hesitant to seek psychological help, and mental health is equally important as our physical health.”

She added, “If our mental health is damaged, our physical health will be affected as well. So that is my purpose and I want to be a bigger voice for my advocacy and make a difference.”

Labang was enthusiastic that her title matches with her cause of raising awareness for autism spectrum disorder.

“I was able to organize a conference about autism spectrum disorder and it helped a lot of moms,” the 35-year-old said. “I was so happy that there are a lot of moms thanking me that the conference helped them better understand their children.”

After a work trip abroad, Bitzer found a more unique approach to her tourism advocacy. “I was invited to go to Hong Kong to draw up an accounting process for many outlets there and that’s when I thought ‘Oh, this is another way to promote tourism and employment to our Cebuano people!’”, she shared, as she suggested hiring Cebuanos for overseas work can help lure more foreigners to visit Cebu.

“I hope this will be a starting point to promote more of Cebu and improve the economy. At the same time, I am promoting Cebu as a very nice place to visit.”


Calinawan, 24, said she didn’t expect to be part of Mrs. Cebu Philippines’ top nine since it was her first pageant attempt. She feels her win might empower young moms and married women like her.

“I realized that I need to be the voice of young mothers and young married women…that I should be encouraging them that even at a young age, we can already achieve a lot,” she said. “We don’t have to wait years to pass just to make a difference. We can start now.”

Labang, for her part, wants to showcase her hometown of San Fernando, Cebu in her looks for Mrs. Philippines International.

“This is my first national pageant and I want to show people in Manila the best of me,” she said. “I will have a national costume that is based on the Sikoy-Sikoy Festival because that’s the main livelihood in the municipality. I also want my designer for the Barbie-inspired costume [in the sashing ceremony] to be from San Fernando because I want to showcase their talents.”

For Lavajo, it was her first time to win another crown since she was eight years old. “The first thing that came to my mind was ‘Oh my God, may fire pa ako’. I had a lot of achievements in pageantry but I only had two crowns in my lifetime.”

Luna said that participating in Mrs. Cebu Philippines was a way of fulfilling her mother’s dream. “I was about to give up because my mom was in the hospital for cardiac arrest a week before the coronation,” she revealed. “My sisters were encouraging me to continue because my mom really wanted me to be a beauty queen.”

No expiry date

As the main title-holder, Bajamonde told her fellow Cebu delegates to “never quit when something goes wrong.”

“One great example of not quitting is that we are now here, sitting in front of you to represent Cebu for Mrs. Philippines International,” the young mom from Talisay City said.

On why it was important for Vecina, 49, to represent her age group in the nationals, she said,

“It would mean that I am breaking barriers and stereotypes that go with women my age. I would like to be an inspiration that if I can make it, so can they.”

“It really depends on how you will take it,” she continued. “If you feel like you are old, then you are old. It’s your own perspective how you view your life, and how age will dictate how you carry yourself. There is no expiry date for a woman to pursue her dream.”

The ladies admit they feel the weight of responsibility to bring home at least one crown for Cebu. “It’s heavy pressure for us,” said Lavajo, “but I accept it.”

“This is our promise to the judges, the organizers, and everyone else,” said Luna. “We will make sure that we will do our very best to maintain and set the standard higher because we are representing Cebu and we won’t fail you.”


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