MANILA, Philippines—Another graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman made waves in the international pageant scene after Athena Imperial snagged the Miss Earth-Water title at the 2011 Miss Earth pageant held Saturday night at the UP Theater in Diliman, Quezon City.
Imperial, a Communication Research major, now ranks herself among titleholders from UP who dominated the pageant world in 2011. Fine Arts student Danica Magpantay became the first Filipina to be proclaimed Ford Supermodel of the World early this year, while Architecture magna cum laude graduate Shamcey Supsup placed fourth in the Miss Universe pageant last September.
Ecuador’s Olga Alva edged Imperial off the title and was proclaimed her country’s first Miss Earth winner. The country also had its first Miss International winner this year when Maria Fernanda Cornejo bagged the crown in China last November.
Brazil’s Driely Bennettone failed to duplicate her compatriots’ Miss Earth victories in 2004 and 2009 and settled for the Miss Earth-Air title. Heavy favorite Carolina Medina from Venezuela, a former Miss Hispano-America winner, was hailed Miss Earth-Fire.
Pageant host Sonia Couling explained before the announcement of winners that the “elemental titles” Air, Water and Fire are of equal importance, and thus, have the same ranking.
One of the shortest delegates in the 2011 Miss Earth pageant at 168 cm., Imperial beat the odds and soared in every stage of competition, edging out other leggier and more curvaceous candidates.
With the Miss Earth pageant advocating environmental protection, Imperial trounced the competition with her excellent grasp of environmental issues and impressive communication skills.
This year, the pageant introduced the “Miss Earth Declaration,” a manifesto pledging the support of all the candidates for a common environmental mission to be implemented in their respective countries.
The 84 delegates chose to focus on education as an important tool in the battle to save the environment. This was also the theme of the final question given to the Top 4 finishers during the final round of competition.
When asked why the delegates chose education as the “environmental initiative that world leaders should prioritize,” Imperial said: “It is in education that everyone will be aware of the environmental condition today, not just in the Philippines but in the whole world. We have different environmental issues. We should be concerned of all the environmental issues in the world. And we should act now.”
In her response, Alva said “education is the base for everything” and appealed for a campaign to teach the children, whom she said would manage Mother Earth for future generations.
Alva takes home a $20,000 management contract with pageant organizer Carousel Productions and will have the Oakwood Premier at the Joy-Nostalg Centre in Ortigas, Pasig, as her official home in the Philippines whenever she comes to the country. She also won a slew of other prizes from the pageant’s sponsors.
In an emotion-filled interview with the Inquirer after the pageant, Imperial said: “I’m happy for the Filipinos. I shot for the moon and landed among the stars. Oh my God!”
Imperial confessed that she was saying the rosary whenever she appeared on stage. “While I was smiling, I was praying at the same time. And that gave me confidence, together with the cheers and the applause of all the people in the UP Theater.
She also offered her victory to all Filipinos. “This is not only for me, this is for every Filipino,” she shared, adding: “Patuloy po tayong mangarap kasi naaabot po ang pangarap. Basta manalig lang po tayo sa Diyos (Let’s keep on dreaming because dreams can be reached. We just have to put our trust in God).”
Imperial also praised her fellow 2011 delegates. “Lahat kami magaganda, magagaling (All of us are beautiful and talented). Actually, the choreographer said she had an easy time with us because we quickly picked up the steps. Also, we are very much aware of each others’ environmental advocacies. We know what kind of beauty each one of us possesses.”
Alva, meanwhile, said “all of us deserve to win.” She also invited her fellow candidates to help her in her mission for the environment. “We are all here for a purpose, and we have to continue working for it.”
The Ecuadorian beauty said she saw her crown as “a tool to work, a tool to be heard, a tool to help save Mother Earth.”
This year’s pageant was supposed to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, but the devastating flood that inundated the country in October forced Carousel Productions to move the pageant back to its birth place—the Philippines.
In an earlier statement, Carousel president Ramon Monzon said: “It would have been insensitive, even irresponsible, to go ahead with the event in Bangkok at this time.”
The organization also explained: “With the natural calamities that have befallen Thailand, Turkey and other parts of the world, more than ever this is the best time to stage Miss Earth to call attention to pressing environmental problems.”
Among the judges in this year’s pageant were educator and entrepreneur Vivienne Tan, daughter of tycoon Lucio Tan; Philippe Charriol, founder and CEO of the Charriol Group; Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson; “StarAsia Travel” host and Singaporean singer and entrepreneur Vivien Tan; and college basketball players Dave and Anthony Semerad.