The Philippines proves yet again that when in comes to pageantry, our international campaigners are unstoppable. On October 3, Olongapo City’s Alexandra Faith Garcia, 28, was crowned Miss Aura International 2021 in Antalya, Turkey. On October 17, Leonard Kodie Macayan, 31, of Quezon City, won a pandemic-delayed Mister Gay World 2020, in a virtual competition.

On Saturday dawn, October 30, Cinderella Faye Ello Obeñita, 25, was crowned Miss Intercontinental 2021 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Before she won Binibining Pilipinas Intercontinental, Cindy was Miss Camiguin Tourism 2015 and Miss Cagayan de Oro 2019. This is the country’s second victory after Karen Juanita Gallman of Bohol won the Intercon crown in 2018.

The Contenders

Cindy bested more than 70 contestants, including Filipino-Kiwi Arielle Keil, a transwoman from New Zealand, and Andreia Correia of Portugal, who crowned our first Miss Aura, Alexandra Faith. Cindy’s court is composed of first runner-up – Mexico’s Paulina Uceda; second– England’s Romy Simpkins; third–Seychelles’ Kelly-Mary Anette; fourth– Canada’s Kaitlyn Li; and fifth – Colombia’s Maria Paula Castillo Lopez.

Fanni Miko of Hungary, the 2019 winner, relinquished her title to Cindy. To date, the most famous alumna of the pageant is India’s Lara Dutta, the 1997 winner who later on became Miss Universe 2000. Powerhouse Venezuela boasts of five winners in 49 editions of the self-proclaimed “United Nations of glamour and beauty,” which “started in 1971 as a promotional event for the tourism industry in Aruba.”

Miss Intercontinental looks for “the most beautiful woman of all continents”: Each contestant has to be confident. She must be able to show authenticity and express herself and articulate her ambitions as a titleholder. The pageant showcases and evaluates the contestant’s aspirations.

The Question

A masscomm magna cum laude graduate at Liceo de Cagayan, the cancer-awareness and campus press advocate nailed the pivotal question-and-answer portion. Cindy’s question was similar to Janine Tugonon’s at Miss Universe 2012: “As an international ambassador, do you believe that speaking English is important for Miss Intercontinental? Why or why not?”

Without skipping a beat, Cindy delivered: “As an ambassador, I don’t think that speaking a specific language is very important here in Miss Intercontinental or any pageant at all. As long as that woman is a woman of power and grace, commitment, and intelligence, no matter what language she speaks and that woman is actually a woman of style and substance then she can win any pageant or any endeavor that she is into.

“Also, it’s very important, I have learned here actually in Miss Intercontinental that a woman should be or should possess power of substance and I believe I am that woman because that is the essence of a modern-day Miss Intercontinental, that we are living in a world wherein it’s very hard to survive. And as Miss Intercontinental, I would like to be that source of hope, that source of inspiration on the true power of beauty and that is felt on the kindness of our hearts and definitely on the sincerity of our loving actions.”

The Team

As soon as she arrived at the pageant venue, an organizer gushed: “Finally, the famous Cinderella of the Philippines!” Her team knew then that every time Cindy steps out, her style and persona were under public scrutiny. That sealed her status as front-runner.

Odelon Simpao, the stylist and CDO-raised designer, created the national costume design called “Diwata,” a gold ensemble with beaten brass by Ben Torres, neck piece by Tres Cartera, and ALjethro Amorin Sebastian doing the leaves fabric manipulation. It reminded me of Akasha, the “Queen of the Damned,” who ruled over what became Egypt in Anne Rice’s book series The Vampire Chronicles. A prescient sartorial decision, as Cindy was soon crowned in the Land of the Pharaohs.

Simpao called his evening gown “Kislap,” a sparkling corset fully embellished with crystals and semi-precious stones that follow the pattern of sun rays on the bodice. At the end of the night, the Intercon crown on Cindy’s head completed the glitzy look.

Cindy is a relative unknown in the national pageant scene. It indeed took a village to make her a beauty queen. She’s blessed with the help of Anan Capal Ampaso, her private tutor on basic Arabic language; Francis John Calotes, instructor on Egyptian literature;  June Merriam Sayson Peliño, prayer-partner and mental health counselor; Aces & ueens, her beauty camp; and Michael Solis Villamor and Edzen Espina of The House as her mentors/trainers.

Before her pageant journey, Cindy was busy as a provincial tourism operations officer II in Misamis Oriental under Atty. Jeffrey Saclot. Through him, Gov. Bambi Emano extended his congratulations for Cindy:

“I am beyond grateful and proud that our very own Cindy Obeñita won the Miss Intercontinental 2021 title. Her victory is something worthy to be shared by all Misamisnons, and the whole Philippines in general. I am optimistic that she will continue to be our tourism ambassadress, promoting the Province of Misamis Oriental to the whole world! “

The Clincher

I knew Cindy since 2016, when we did a pictorial for this paper showcasing the designers of CDO. Then working as a model while studying, she knew how to project for the camera. Her gift of gab would be evident in later years. As it did on the Binibining Pilipinas 2021 finals night when as a wild card, she snatched the crown from the much-ballyhooed candidates by giving a now-iconic response to how important are luxury items in an economic downturn.

For a virtual presscon after her coronation, I asked for clarification about her winning answer: How will you “comfort the afflicted” and “afflict the comfortable”? Her explanation should be the gold standard:

“I’m so happy that this line has made an impact on a huge number of people. Actually when I answered the question, what I meant was there are different levels of comfort. What I say when I mean comfortable are those actually people in power, people in government, people in business institutions or communities who have overflowing resources. So I think to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable is to really help the marginalized communities. The point of what I was trying to say is that we really need to shake up the status quo that it is dangerous for our brothers and sisters who are suffering from injustices and inequalities. If we have the resources and if we have the power, we can make an impact in their lives and we could also make meaningful ways for our lives to be productive.”





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