MANILA, Philippines – It's that time of the year once again as beautiful ladies from different parts of the world come to Manila to promote beauty and love for the environment.
But this year, candidates of the Miss Earth beauty pageant are also inclined to promoting goodwill among countries – Miss Philippines Angelee de los Reyes and Miss China Lisa Xiang Yang in particular.
Though their countries are involved in a territorial dispute which turned bilateral relations cold, the two candidates say they are far from what is expected of them.
"We're friends!" exclaimed Yang during an interview during the presentation of the candidates to the press on Thursday, November 21. The two were even group mates during an environmental seminar and Yang was all praises for de los Reyes, saying she did a good job as their group's speaker.
However, Yang shares that most of the people she knew back in China had some apprehensions about her joining the pageant that's based in the Philippines.
"When people in China found out I will be in the competition, lots of people said just go to the Philippines and enjoy. Don't expect to win," Yang said. "But when I came here, I don't feel that. The people are really warm and friendly to me."
Both de los Reyes and Yang hope to show their countrymen that being friendly towards each other, despite the territorial disputes, is possible.
"I think it can show to the people who see us can see us, that we're friends, can hopefully realize that Chinese people and Filipino people can get along together and they can work out their differences," de los Reyes said.
Other candidates, meanwhile, used the opportunity to empathize with the Filipino people affected by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and encourage them to get back on their feet.
Punika Kunsuntornrat who represents Thailand in this year's pageant teared up during the interview when she narrated her country's experience with severe flooding in 2011, relating it to the experiences of Filipinos in areas affected by Yolanda.
Because of these effects, she urges people to be more aware of climate change.
"I think climate change is something you cannot control. But people have to prepare for whatever happens. If you care about the environment enough to learn from it, you will be mre aware of climate change and its effects. And you can start helping to stop it and take care of the environment more," Kunsuntornrat said. "If you give something nice to the environment, it will go back to you."
Japan's Yu Horikawa meanwhile urged Filipinos to be strong and to help each other. Horikawa narrated how a friend of hers lost her home and everything she owned during the earthquake and tsunami in Fukushima. "She is alright now. With the help of our friends, she feels better and she is able to get back on track."
Looking for Manny
Miss Mexico Yuselmi Cristal Silva meanwhile has one thing in her to-do list while she's here in the Philippines: to meet Filipino Champion Boxer and Congressman Manny Pacquiao.
"I'm so proud of the Mexican boxer Brandon Rios but here in the Philippines, it's all Pacquiao. And I hope to see him because in Mexico, boxing is a big thing."
Other than Pacquiao, Silva also wishes to see beautiful places in the country and have the time to extend help to the Filipios affected by typhoon Yolanda.
This year's pageant is promised to be unique. With the event scheduled to be broadcast worldwide, pageant organizers will take the opportunity to promote the country as a top choice for eco-tourism.
Miss Earth Executive Vice President Lorraine Schuck said, "The show will feature the most breathtaking eco-tourism places in the Philippines and will be our way of giving back to our country."
Even the crown is eco-friendly and unique. Designed by environmentalist jewelry designer Ramona Haar, each crown is made 100% of recycled precious metals,14 karat gold, and argentums sterling silver.
The crown is also adorned with gemstones which are both precious and semiprecious stone. All of them were donations from over 80 different participating countries.
"I'll be honest, I feel pressured of course," de los Reyes said. "But I take it as a challenge and an inspiration. I want to be like the girls who won and gave honor to our country."
The Miss Earth 2013 Coronation night will be held at the Versailles Alabang in Las Piñas on Saturday, December 7, at 8 pm. - Rappler.com