Nathalie Tomada – The Philippine Star

February 21, 2022 | 12:00am

Beauty queens Rabiya Mateo, MJ Lastimosa and Michelle Dee have welcomed changes happening in the country’s pageant scene, but are also hoping to see more.

The country is about to enter the national pageant season with Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) officially announcing its call for applications. Other major pageants like Bb. Pilipinas, which has begun teasing fans and hopefuls on social media, are expected to follow suit soon.

The STAR recently asked the three titleholders — who are part of the lead female cast of Sen. Bong Revilla’s TV comeback, Agimat ng Agila Season 2 (airing Saturday nights at 7:15 on GMA) — to share their thoughts on certain developments in the pageant scene.

“I am happy with the pacing when it comes to beauty pageants, dahan-dahan nag-open,” MJ said in a response to this paper’s question during a virtual interview.

“A few years ago, we had Miss Canada, she was… her size was not the norm but she penetrated until the Top 10, which means nalagpasan niya yung swimsuit competition. Because, of course, may expectations ang mga tao, di ba?” said the former Bb. Pilipinas Universe, referring to Siera Bearchell, Canada’s bet to the Miss Universe 2016 held in Manila.

MJ also lauded the removal of the minimum height requirement. To recall, the MUP Organization took out the requirement for its applicants last year.

“Because naalala ko before, I did Bb. Pilipinas thrice, talagang grabe kami magsukatan ng height. Kailangan pumasok sa four-point something. ‘Pag hindi, ekis talaga, wala,” she said.

According to MJ, she previously encountered ladies who had the potential to represent the country internationally, but their height prevented them from making the cut.

Another development she hopes to see on a national level is something similar to the pageant for indigenous peoples in Davao. “Matagal na pong inclusive ang Davao. Fiesta ng Kadayawan, we have two major pageants — we have Miss Davao where I won and Hiyas ng Kadayawan which is actually dedicated to the tribes, sa mga tribo na pinangangalagaan sa Davao,” she said.

“I would be very happy to see one day na ang isang katutubo ang mag-represent ng Philippines with her natural hair, natural skin color, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from, kung ano man family background mo or story mo.

“Ang gaganda ng story nila. Kung mabibigyan lang ng chance sa national and then represent the Philippines on the international stage, I’d be very happy to see them,” she added.

As for Rabiya, she said she started to experience changes during her reign as Miss Universe Philippines 2019.

“Siguro isa na din… it started with me because I was one of the shortest Miss Universe Philippines (representatives) sent to (Miss Universe),” the 5’7-tall Ilongga beauty said.

But aside from the height, she hopes weight will bear less importance in pageants.

“Because at Miss Earth USA, you know, different sizes. Yun nga ang tinatawag nila na real beauty. Hopefully, next time, different molds naman yung makikita natin. Because beauty has no form, it has no size,” she explained.

“So, hopefully, here in the Philippines, unti-unti na makita natin. And it’s a beautiful message, especially to the young ones that anybody can be Miss Universe,” added Rabiya.

As for Michelle, who after this interview, announced on social media that she applied for this year’s MUP, also shared her observations on what she has called a “pleasing trend” in local pageantry.

“My opinions right now on beauty queens, it’s so different na sa mga (naunang) beauty pageant, you know, galawan natin. And it’s really emphasizing kung anong mao-offer ng isang babae on the inside,” she noted.

“It’s not just the physical. But, like what MJ said, it’s really what we have on the inside. Because I really believe anyone can become a beauty queen naman. It’s just about what they believe in, what their stands are.”

“Right now, yung mga nananalo, it’s just really a symbol of what everybody can achieve also. I am happy na lumuluwag talaga yung rules because, you know, sayang din eh,” the daughter of former Miss International Melanie Marquez further said.

“Ang dami talagang mao-offer yung mga babae that just because of a mere height requirement, hindi nila mabibigay yun? Hindi nila masasabi yung mga stories nila? So, it’s really a pleasing trend in pageantry right now.”

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