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Top 7 candidates stand out in Miss Universe Philippines 2021 interview challenge

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Aug 31, 2021 4:35 pm

The Miss Universe Philippines (MUPH) 2021 Interview Challenge showcased the eloquence, confidence and intelligence of its candidates, seven of which stood out from the 48 who are still vying for the coveted crown.

Hosted by MUPH director of communications Voltaire Tayag, the Interview Challenge was streamed through Empire PH’s YouTube channel.

Each delegate had 45 seconds to introduce themselves. The host then fired up three questions (one of them is the same for all candidates), which the delegate had to answer within 30 seconds.

This round’s panelists include MUPH national director Shamcey Supsup-Lee, style council head and fashion designer Albert Andrada, TV host and Resorts World Manila corporate communications director Joee Guilas, events and fashion show director Jackie Aquino, fashion show director and SAGA events founder Robby Carmona, and MUPH and Empire PH legal counsel PY Caunan.

The panel also included MUPH creative director Jonas Gaffud, business development and marketing head Mario Garcia, head of legal affairs lawyer Nad Bronce, women empowerment and charity head Lia Ramos, and Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo.

Seven candidates stood out, with Caviteña Victoria Velasquez Vincent bagging the top spot. 

Here are the MUPH 2021 Interview Challenge Top 7 highlights.

1. Victoria Velasquez Vincent, Cavite

The Filipino, Spanish, Irish beauty is an architect, who finished a double Masters degree in Architecture and Heritage Conservation at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

For her introduction, Victoria, 25, described herself as a lover of poetry and anything underrated—from food to her travels.

A fun fact about the 5’9” stunner is she has an extremely good memory. “You will never find anyone with a better memory than me whether it’s your birthday, your phone number, or what I had for Christmas lunch in 2012. You best believe I will never forget it,” she said.

She recently left New Zealand to relocate to the Philippines and represent Cavite in the MUPH stage.

Would you rather be an Olympic gold medalist or Miss Universe?

“That’s a hard question because either way, you are bringing so much pride to your country. But for me, I would have to say I would rather be Miss Universe because the prestige that lasts with Miss Universe is so much stronger than what lasts with an Olympic athlete, in my opinion. 

“And with Miss Universe, you only have to do it once, and you bring so much pride to your country whereas with being an Olympic medalist you have to keep improving every year, you have to do better and better. So for me, yeah, I think I’d go with Miss Universe.”

Now global warming has caused dramatic climate changes worldwide, as a beauty queen how will you help in protecting our environment?

“It starts with the changes that you make in your own, personal life, and then extending that and using the platform that we have in Miss Universe Philippines; to encourage other people to do the same thing. 

“So for example, for me, I have actually converted to being 90% vegan because I know that animal agriculture contributes to so much of the issues that climate change causes. So even that minor change, I know I’m contributing to such a large issue and I know that I can use my platform to encourage other people to do the same.”

How has the pandemic challenged you?

“Above all else, the pandemic has challenged me in a way that has made me both stronger and more independent. I spent the first year of the pandemic in New Zealand and had the privilege of having that safety and security, but I still chose to sacrifice all of those things and relocate to the Philippines in January. 

“And if there’s anything that that journey taught me, it’s that you might need to make some sacrifices along the way, and you might need to give up on so many things and let go of so many things in your life. But you should never let anything, not even a worldwide pandemic, get in the way of your dream.”

2. Maria Ingrid Teresita Santamaria, Parañaque City

The 25-year-old corporate professional, who worked in marketing PR and e-commerce, graduated cum laude with a degree in Communications at the De La Salle University.

Coming from a big family, Ingrid was raised to be sociable, where she said her love for community began. She also loves the sun, sand, and sea, and considers the beach her “happy place.”

A leader, an athlete and a writer, Ingrid described herself as “somebody who faces challenges head on” and her MUPH 2021 journey “marks the beginning of my transformation into a phenomenal woman.”

If you were asked to give a speech to a group of graduating students who missed school physically and events like the prom and graduation, what is your message to them?

“These are times that are very unpredictable. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but I’m glad that you pushed past boundaries. Learning online is very difficult and as long as you keep on working hard and keep continuing to do your passions, then your dreams will become a reality. So I’m proud of everything that you’ve gone through and more power to all of you.”

Social media networks are intended to bring people closer together but in many dining situations people are more busy on their phones, how do you resolve these conflicting realities?

“Well, social media is like a double-edged sword. I find that although it does allow you to have communication—especially with people far away from you—sometimes it hinders us from being present in the moment. 

“In my opinion, it is just better to put your phone down when you’re enjoying a nice meal with your friends and just be there in the moment. There’s nothing wrong with being online but being present is something that it’s like a gift that you can offer.”

How has the pandemic challenged you?

“Well, being stuck alone in this pandemic, I really had to learn to look inward. I’ve had to learn to love myself and to fully take care of myself. And it’s allowed me to become in tune with my passions and hobbies and I’ve even written down some goals and plans for the future and these things were things that I just enjoyed from the day to day but now I’m a woman who does…”

3. Rousanne Marie Bernos, San Juan City

In her introduction, the social media star opened up that growing up, being the first daughter, granddaughter and niece in both sides of her family, she had to undergo trial and error as she tried to figure out what she wanted to be.

Among the many things that Rousanne dabbled into in the last 10 years include being an Interior Design major, an English major, a working student, writer, content creator, entrepreneur, an English teacher in Spain, and now, a beauty queen.

“So I like to think that I’m more than just a jack of all trades, master or none. I’m also a very determined person with a lot of good stories to tell.

Digital addiction can refer to phone internet or social media addiction. How would you intervene if you feel that one of your friends has digital addiction?

“I would probably become an accountability partner for her. Perhaps, maybe I could check in at night, maybe at 10 p.m. I’ll say ‘Hey, it’s time to stop. Let’s go to bed, girl. And let’s just go have some peace of mind.'”

Is it important to do the right thing or avoid doing the wrong thing?

“I think it’s important, it’s more important to do the right thing because there is such an importance in being proactive about how we go about life. So it’s all about doing being mindful of what impact we have on other people.”

How has the pandemic challenged you?

“The pandemic has made me realize how fast and short life is and how helpless we can be if the basics are taken away from us. And so I really learned to value the people in my life, care for them better and connect with them better—for sure.”

4. Isabelle De los Santos, Makati City

Joining the MUPH 2021 pageant is a first for Isa, who described herself as someone who is interested in trying new things and experiences.

She also revealed in her introduction that she loves Korean drama, which she started watching last year. And with her love for K-drama, she learned basic Korean language.

“What you see is the real me and I hope to enjoy this Miss Universe journey being my true authentic self.”

After having no internet for one week you discovered that you had 1,000 unread emails and can only answer 100 of these, how will you choose which ones to answer?

“Okay so definitely, I will use the flagged important emails so there’s an outlook option. I believe that we can check and filter it in a way that we can choose the urgent ones or the important ones. So I will definitely do that feature for reading my emails.”

If you could change something about yourself, what would it be and why?

“If I could change myself well in terms of physicality, I know there are a lot of things to improve on but I wouldn’t want to change anything because you know, I want young girls to feel beautiful in their own skin no matter what they are given. I just want young girls to feel inspired and empowered in their own skin. So I don’t want to change anything about myself.”

How has the pandemic challenged you?

“The pandemic has challenged me to become a better and more strategic person, especially in the workplace. So as an HR, I’m used to face-to-face assessments, interviews, and engagements. And of course, we had to adapt and learn new ways of working. So I had to, you know, shift and pivot my work into the virtual format. So because of that I became more resourceful and adaptable to the current situation. But yes, definitely, all, everyone, can relate that it has been…”

5. Megan Julia Roa Digal, Bukidnon

The 25-year-old is an Overseas Filipino Worker in Phuket, Thailand, working as a marketing and communications coordinator for a hotel.

The island life taught her to be grateful, live in the moment and make the most out of every situation that life presents her.

“Just like right now, I am in quarantine but I am making the most out of the very limited resources that I have. Also aside from being very spontaneous, it has taught me to be determined and persistent.”

What event in history would you have loved to experience yourself?

“One event in history that I would have loved to experience is the Battle [of] Mactan in Cebu. Because a lot of people have different versions of it. And for me to be able to see that historic moment is probably one for the books.”

How would you encourage someone who doesn’t care about pageants to help with your cause?

“To encourage someone who doesn’t care about pageants, to support me in my cause is to tell them that being in a beauty pageant gives you a great platform to voice out all the things that you are passionate about. In my case, it is diversity and inclusion when it comes to beauty—for us to be able to acknowledge and to be more accepting to the different beauties of the Filipina.”

How has the pandemic challenged you?

“This pandemic has indeed brought a lot of challenges and hurdles to me, however, it has made me stronger, more resilient, and more persistent. And it made me be a beacon of hope to the people around me, especially now in this situation. 

“I was able to get out of Thailand and find a way to make it here, to the Philippines, despite all the protocols and changes in rules and the canceled flights. It has been like a story of hope for everybody out there.”

6. Beatrice Luigi Gomez, Cebu City

The 26-year-old Cebuana is a sports enthusiast who loves the beach, water sports like scuba diving, and working out. 

In her introduction, Beatrice brought up that she is in an almost seven-year relationship with her girlfriend, Kate.

If you have the opportunity to live for 200 years, would you do it?

“If I had the opportunity to live for 200 years, I would definitely do it. In just a few years time, we try to crunch everything that we can, to be able to do a lot of things and imagine the things that we can do if we live for 200 years, so I definitely will.”

Do you think that being a role model gives the people the right to know everything about your personal life?

“I believe they only need to see the goodness in me and not literally everything, especially not my personal life. But they just have to filter out the things that they can learn from.”

How has the pandemic challenged you?

“The pandemic really did challenge especially my mental health in the past year. And this year, I struggled a lot and I wanted to overcome all of those weaknesses, especially my social anxiety. I had overcome it in Binibining Cebu and when we were in a lockdown, I was forced to retract from society again and now I’m glad to be able to be in front of everyone again through Miss Universe Philippines.”

7. Simone Nadine Bornilla, Marinduque

Nadine is proud that she was raised by two gay men and she stands as an ally to the LGBTQ community.

The 18-year-old, an incoming Medical Biology student at the De La Salle University, has tapped on her creativity ever since she was young— from ballet, musical theater and choral competitions.

Prior to joining MUPH, Nadine has represented the Philippines in the Miss Teen International 2018 held in New Delhi, India. 

Do you think that today’s youth are facing greater pressure than previous generations, if so in what way?

“I think that today’s youth is definitely experiencing much more pressure compared to other generations, especially with the advancement of social media, of technology in overall. Because, you know, we’re more exposed to the ideal standards that society put up as to how a person should be and that’s why I think that, you know, that’s it’s more difficult right now for us.”

Who do you think is the most influential Filipino today?

“I think that the most influential Filipino today is, I still think it’s Miss Pia Wurtzbach. Of course, I remember how she competed, and she was very much persevering through it all. And I think that that’s something that I really admire. It’s something that every young girl admires from her, she taught me a lesson that I could apply in my everyday life, and that’s to never give up on something that you really want.”

How has the pandemic challenged you?

“I think that the pandemic has definitely challenged everyone because it changed the way that we live our everyday lives and so although it may be, it may have been challenging, I think that it’s also refreshing because it gave us a new perspective as to how we can go about doing things.”

Banner and thumbnail images from Miss Universe Philippines 2021