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It’s Nothing Major, Major…Already Then!


by Nelia Dingcong Bernabe

Aug 27, 2010

Reactions were swift. Com ments spread like wildfire. Tongues wagged. Some snickered, a few thought it was a dumb answer, some were sympathetic, a lot of people thought she blew her chance, and then there were those who thought it was the end of the world.

Ah, the Miss Universe beauty pageant never disappoints! Even better, the Philippines’ sash-bearer in this case came out victorious on two fronts being 4th runner-up is something that you can’t thumb your nose at and the noise she created after her turn at the Q & A portion, again, is something that could not to be scoffed at. Now let’s be honest. For those of you who watched the pageant this side of the big ocean and rooted for the Mother Land beauty from the get-go, how many started to cringe, hide under the covers, cover your ears, grimace, or walk away as she got ready to answer her question? Do I see a lot of raised hands? First off, I thought she was stunning (with an insane 22-inch waist I hear!) and as a side note, it seemed like the “exotic look” was a running theme this year.

Anyway, I read snippets of the pre-pageant analyses (Yes Virginia, it’s that serious!) and thought she had a great shot at the crown after surveys upon surveys came back that had her as a front runner. Cool, I thought, and mentally wished her luck. Let’s backtrack a little bit. Watching a Miss Universe beauty pageant, or any televised beauty pageant for that matter, is a favorite Filipino thing to do. Growing up back in the islands,my mother and I religiously watched it, picked our favorites and made bets. It was one of the things that we loved doing together so of course after moving here, the tradition continued. Well, sort of. Monday’s live telecast was no different. I watched, though randomly, the highlights swimsuit, gown, Top 15, Top 5 and then the Q & A portion. When Miss Philippines came out ravishing during the swimsuit and gown competitions, I thought she had a great chance to make it to the Top 15.

When she did, I thought she’s for certain be one of the Top 5. When she did, I thought this is great. Then I started thinking: Here comes the question and answer portion. I hope she’ll do really well, for her own sake. “What is one big mistake that you’ve made in your life, and what did you do to make it right?” William Baldwin asked.

Oh boy! The question was easy enough, right? We’ve all made mistakes in our lives; we’re not perfect so how hard was it to come up with a knock-themdead answer? There are people out there, including me, who believe that mistakes are really not mistakes but lessons to be learned. Simple, right? She’ll kill this one, I thought. Wherever you were that night, I bet you snapped your fingers and came up with an intelligent answer of your own.

We definitely took potshots at the best answer to the million-dollar Baldwin question. From the lighthearted, to the philosophical, and to the downright serious, our answers ran the whole gamut. Except…yes, except the one difference is we’re not competing, much more have a gazillion pairs of eyes glued to us, and with bated breaths, as we fumble for the best answer.

Where’s our compassion, people? I could not even begin to imagine how nerve- racking that must be to even just stand on that stage at that moment or attempt to breathe, much more answer a question knowing very well that it’s do or die, or now or never time. There’s one reason why we see those big smiles from the contestants, as they get ready to answer. They need to flash their pearly whites to camouflage their tethering nerves. And smile the big smile she did. “You know what, sir, in my 22 years of existence I can say that there is nothing major major, I mean problem that I have done in my life. Because I am very confident with my family, with the love that they are giving to me.

So, thank you so much that I am here, thank you, thank you so much,” Miss Philippines Venus Raj said. Then just like that, it was over. The bubble burst! Months and even years of preparation to find that one contestant who can bring home the bejeweled crown, the most desired sash and the unspeakable pride of an entire country went to naught. The Miss Universe dream got shattered in just a few minutes by an answer that doused any chance and hope of coveting the prestigious title. What happened? Was her answer a result of arrogance or overconfidence? Was it a bout of the jitters? Was she ill prepared, even uneducated as some people pointed out? The “what ifs” are endless and hindsight is always 20/20.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing – who she really is. She gave it her best shot. She can only pull from what she knows regardless of the painstaking prep work that her handlers have done and the amount of memorizing she has done.

When you set foot on a pageant stage, or any stage for that matter, and get ready to answer a gamechanger question, you represent nobody else but you – your smarts, wit, life experience, education, grasp and ease of the English language, social skills, and everything else that represent a well-balanced, empowered young woman. Not just someone who is representing a country because of her looks. And unless the contestant is really fluent in the English language, the question begs to be asked.

Why not opt for an interpreter, like the other contestants, if you’re having a tough time? It looks like the Binibining Pilipinas (Miss Philippines) organization has work to do and a lot of thinking to make. The country almost got their third Miss Universe if we believe the surveys early on. If there’s one good thing that could come out of Raj’s experience, it is allowing the organizers to see where they can improve. Otherwise if they don’t learn from this, it would be a major, major mistake. Already then!



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