MANILA — Over a decade since turning her back on the world of pageants, Janina San Miguel has broken her silence on what pushed her to hand back her Binibining Pilipinas crown.
San Miguel, perhaps best known on social media for the enduring meme drawn from her Q&A performance in the pageant, was interviewed in a recent CNA Insider documentary about the "hidden side" of beauty competitions in the Philippines.
San Miguel was 17 when she was crowned Binibining Pilipinas-World in 2008. She was a frontrunner in that batch, having won both the long gown and swimsuit awards.
It was her first pageant ever, San Miguel noted in the question round, in words now immortalized as the oft-parodied meme online.
A neophyte in the pageant scene, San Miguel was admittedly caught off guard by what she now described as "indecent practices" that smeared the industry.
"Noong nandoon na kami, sinabi na 3 million (pesos) for a one-night stand. 'Yung 25 million (pesos), gagawin ka niyang girlfriend, bibigyan ka niya ng car, condo, resort, lahat," she said.
"Iyon na nga 'yung maduming kalakaran nila. Ang dami talagang gustong maging girlfriend or wife ang isang beauty queen."
San Miguel also recalled the rigid standards of being a reigning queen. During her preparations for Miss World, she was disallowed from seeing her family and was also barred from using a phone, she claimed.
"There's a point in time na nandoon na 'yung brother ko at saka 'yung daddy ko sa labas, pero sabi ng guard, 'Since wala kayong appointment, umuwi na lang kayo,'" San Miguel narrated.
At the time, she overheard that her grandfather had fallen ill and was in grave condition at the hospital.
"Ang balak pa nila, ayaw nilang sabihin sa akin na 'yung lolo ko mamamatay na because I'm in the middle of training. Ayaw nilang ma-distract ako," she said.
Three months before the 2008 Miss World pageant, San Miguel resigned as the Philippines' representative. A Binibining Pilipinas runner-up was instead sent to the international competition.
"To tell you honestly, I'm really not happy during that time," San Miguel said.
She realized then that she much preferred having a job away from the limelight. Upon the advice of a relative, she removed any mention of her being a beauty queen in her resume when she started applying for work.
San Miguel is currently a call center agent, and is now a wife and a mother — a private life far removed from the "mess" of showbiz.
For San Miguel, the decision was simple, fueled by a reason that circles back to her memorable statement in 2008: "Much important 'yung family ko, rather than wealth and fame."