Teen sensation
Vanessa Balbuena (The Freeman) - June 5, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Fourteen and going places!

High-school gal Vanessa Mae Walters towers above most her peers at five-foot-eight; just recently, she stood taller than ever with a glittering green crown on her head after emerging triumphant in the first edition of Miss Teen Earth Philippines.

The new pageant – in search of the most deserving lass who embodies beauty, grace and love for Mother Earth – chose 20 stunning finalists from all over the country whose eventual winner will make it her mission to “spread awareness about environmental issues, organize activities to help preserve nature and be able to mobilize Filipinos to act with love and purpose in creating a cleaner, greener environment.”

Proving once more that Cebuanas are a force to reckon with, Vanessa was declared the newest beauty earth advocate last May 27 in a grand coronation at the Mall of Asia Arena, and also garnered special awards such as Miss Jellybean, Best in Evening Gown, Best in Active Wear and PLDT Home Telepad’s Choice.

The incoming third year high school student at Bright Academy took home P500,000 worth of cash and prizes, and a talent contract  with Captured Dream Productions, which is behind the pageant.  She is also supposed to receive funding for an environmental project for her municipality.

Born in Adelaide, Australia to an Aussie dad and Cebuana mom, Vanessa has been living in Cebu only for the past two years. What she initially thought was a bad move to leave the Land Down Under for her mom’s place of birth, has since been a decision she sees as a blessing in disguise. We caught up with the teen beauty queen during her courtesy call at the Mandaue City Hall, where she transfixed us with that cute Aussie twang and quick mind.

 

How did you come to know of the pageant, and what prodded you to join?

I was walking with my mother in SM Consolacion when we found out there was a competition named Miss Teen Earth Philippines, and I had a big interest to join. The reason for that is, I’m concerned about helping our environment, especially here in the Philippines. Hopefully, by winning this title, I get lots of opportunities in helping out Mother Earth.

This being your first beauty pageant, how did you prepare?

I really didn’t prepare at all on what things I was going to say, or how I was going to present myself to the organization. Basically, we just showed up in Manila and I just said on stage what came to my mind. I was just being myself the whole time.

What was your final question during the coronation night, and what did you answer?

The top five had the same question which was, “If you were to pose a question to Filipino communities, what would your question be?” I said my question will be, “Why are we Filipinos harming and destroying our environment? We Filipinos are experiencing the loss of biodiversity, climate change, floods, air and water pollution…” – I asked the audience why we are doing that.

What are your duties as Miss Teen Earth Philippines?

I will not just be travelling around the Philippines, but around Asia as well – Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, Thailand. They didn’t tell me anything specific yet with regards to my activities, but I’m guessing, I will help spread the organization’s cause of environmental awareness. But of course, my main goal is the Philippines, since we have been experiencing a lot of nature-related calamities. I really want to do my best in educating people about environmental issues.

Is there a project you’d like to implement in your present hometown?

My planned advocacy is a Clean-Up Day. I want it to be permanent, where there’s a specific day in the calendar where people will clean up their communities. It won’t be just in the streets, but in schools and businesses. I just had a courtesy call with Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes, and I am excited with the ideas that he proposed; our mayor is concerned about environmental education within our community and I am willing to act upon the ideas that he suggested.

In the eyes of a 14-year-old, what environmental atrocities have you personally witnessed?

Waste disposal. We’re not disposing our trash properly. We don’t know the value of segregating our garbage. Given the opportunity to educate our community and the entire Philippines, I would like to convince Filipinos to learn how to take care of our environment. We tend to have a lot of floods here, so there is a stronger need for us to learn proper waste disposal.

In your own little way, how do you walk your green talk?

I just do the basic things like reuse, reduce and recycle. At home, I switch off the lights when they’re not in use. I think a lot of people will look up to me if I personally practice that and show concern for our environment.

The Philippines being a Third World country, majority of Filipinos are more concerned about putting food on the table, then doing their share of taking care of the environment such as simple proper waste disposal and segregation.

What would you tell people with this kind of mindset?

Firstly, everyone’s family in the Philippines is a number one priority and we need to take care of our family first, but it is the simple basic things that can help contribute to our environment. Like for instance not littering everywhere and having proper waste disposal. The more we help our environment the more it’s beneficial to everyone.

Australia being a developed country, I imagine it has a highly-efficient waste segregation and environmental protection system.

What practices/system do you have back there that you wish to see implemented here in the Philippines?

In my humble opinion, I would like to impose environmental education within the youth. In Australia, the people have the tendency to be in the habit of using reusable bags for daily needs, for instance shopping. I would personally like to implement this sort of action here in the Philippines.

How was your baptism of fire, so to speak, to the world of pageants?

This is something I’d like to do more of in the future. It was very fun meeting the other candidates. To be honest, they’re nice girls; they were not very competitive. After our pageant duties, we spent a lot of time bonding with one another.

What did your mom and dad first tell you, immediately after you won the crown?

My parents first and foremost congratulated me and they were very proud of me. They always told me even before I was crowned to always be humble, to value the little things in life and to always keep my feet planted in the ground.

What do you plan to do with your prizes?

I really don’t know yet…I’ll probably give them to my mother. One of my winnings is a four-year college scholarship for an academy in Manila.

Do you already have a college course in mind?

I’ve always planned to take Broadcasting, because I’ve always been interested to be in Media, and work either behind or in front of the camera.

How were you discovered as a model?

I’m one of the youngest members of MAC. They were doing a summer workshop in my school, so that’s how they discovered me. They taught us how to be confident, how to walk like a model, how to pose, and how to project on stage. I really learned a lot from that, and I think my MAC agent is seeing a lot of potential in me.

Can you recall your very first catwalk gig?

That happened last year, and to be honest, I wasn’t really nervous because I wasn’t taking it that serious. The time I got nervous was backstage, when you’re getting dressed up so quickly. When I’m on stage, that’s when I loosen up. I’m very confident and I become a different person. During the next shows, that’s when I felt nervous, because I realized the events were getting more important and the designers more high-profile. I’ve had stumbles here and there, but I get over it quickly.

Are people usually surprised to find out you’re still 14?

Yes! They mistake me sometimes for a 20-year-old, more so when I’m wearing makeup. I guess that’s how it is. I think I’m also mature for my age.

Who are the models or beauty queens you admire?

There are so many actually, especially after my Miss Teen Earth Philippines experience, where I got to meet beauty queens who worked with the organization. I really look up to Megan Young, Shamcey Supsup, Venus Raj. Also Carla Abellana, who looked very stunning during our finals night.

One perk of being a young model is earning your own money. How do you spend or handle the talent fees you receive?

To be honest, like any average teenage girl, I would personally treat myself to a little shopping with my mother. I also treat my baby sister with Jollibee and toys. And when I see my Lola and Lolo, I would give them money as well.

There’s a stereotype of models being superficial, divas or airheads. Any thoughts?

Not all models are like that, I think. I think it depends what society you are in. When you’re a very big model and part of the very high fashion industry, maybe there is the tendency to think that you’re the big one. But where I am, here in Cebu, this is just a beginning for me. I’m really having a good time. 

You have the best of both worlds being a half-breed.

What traits from your Australian side do you think you inherited, and what distinctly Filipino characteristics do you also have?

In Australia, the citizens and I personally value the importance of having a green and clean environment. Here in the Philippines, we value the importance of family.

How are you at home? Do your parents make you do household chores?

I am like a normal teenager at home; I do normal things around the house. One of my chores is recycling our household waste and every Sunday, I wash my dad’s car.

What made your family decide to move to the Philippines?

It was actually my mom who decided to live here. To be honest, I disagreed with her because I felt Australia was a better place to live in. I was culture-shocked in the beginning. But moving here, I’ve noticed a big change in myself. I’ve become more adapted here. I love how the people are. There’s a lot more hospitality here, compared to in Australia. Everyone is just amazing!

What do you do for fun?

I do a lot of modeling here in Cebu, and I just spend a lot of time with friends and family. I love being outdoors. I like going out and have some fun. Not the partying kind of fun; but more of hanging out in the malls.

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