MANILA -- Most pageants are defined by their advocacies: Miss Earth is famed for its environmental efforts, Miss Universe for its HIV-AIDS campaign and the others are usually all about tourism and world peace.
But for Miss Scuba International (MSI), the under-the-radar pageant wants its contestants and fans to see the world from underwater. Its battlecry: save oceans through beauty.
Admittedly, when I first heard about Miss Scuba, I thought it sported a tacky name. But when I got to know more about it, I honestly think it’s one of the coolest beauty competitions out there.
I assume anyone who has gone scuba diving or even snorkeling would agree. The world is at least 70% water which means much of our planet’s beauty is hidden within its oceans and seas. The sad thing is that not everyone has a deep appreciation for our bodies of water. And part of that may be because they haven’t seen underwater nature up close.
And that’s exactly the gap which Miss Scuba is trying to bridge. By bringing the attention to the underwater world, the pageant hopes to protect it.
Besides, it’s also a welcome excuse for adventure-seeking beauties to participate in one of the most pleasurable water sports.
To know more about Miss Scuba, I sent some interview questions to the pageant’s first Filipina winner turned national director for the Philippine franchise Cindy Madduma.
Q: What is Miss Scuba International and what makes it a different pageant?
A: Miss Scuba International is a pageant that celebrates the inner beauty and courage of today’s modern woman and simultaneously advocates worldwide marine conservation and safe diving practices to elevate international tourism and cultural appreciation. There are a lot of pageants nowadays but none of them focused on our oceans. Another thing is that all international candidates are certified scuba divers.
Q: Tell us about your journey in the pageant.
A: I’ve heard about this pageant in 2011 when my kababayan from Palawan, Janicel Lubina, won the first national title. Then in 2013, my pageant contemporary Christine Paula Bernasor won first runner-up in MSI. After a year, she became the national director and handpicked me as the country’s representative. My 27-year-old aspiring beauty queen self couldn’t say no to a great opportunity and gave it a try. Luckily, I came out to be the first Filipina Miss Scuba International in 2015.
Two years after my reign, the international organization awarded me as national director for Miss Scuba Philippines. It was another leap of faith for me but I took the challenge and responsibility. I know, this is something I’m passionate about. It is all by faith and by fate.
Q: What are you doing outside of Miss Scuba International?
A: I am practicing my profession as a nurse but on an on-call private duty capacity. I am also still doing modeling jobs. I also host a TV show dedicated to diving.
Q: What was it like getting your professional divers’ license?
A: Getting a scuba diving certification is like getting a drivers’ license. It has many levels from beginner to professional or recreational to technical. Your certification allows you to dive independently (with a certified buddy). Diving is not new to me though. I had my first discovery diving experience in 2008 and then in 2013. But those were nothing compared to the proper dive trainings and experiences I’ve had with and after MSI.
My first underwater entry was amazing. It’s calm and so peaceful down there. It’s like going to a whole new dimension far beyond your wildest imagination and perceived expectation. But to avoid any accidents one must have proper dive training. I was certified open water diver in Bohol, advance open water in Batangas, rescue diver and dive master in Malaysia.
The most challenging was the dive master training course because it’s the first stage at the professional level. You are not just responsible for yourself but with the divers you guide and assist. I am planning to take my Instructor Development Course next year so I could teach and certify divers.
Q: Where were the best scuba sites you’ve explored?
A: I had the privilege of exploring some of the best dive sites in the world. Sipadan island and Mabul island in Sabbah, Malaysia; Lembeh in Indonesia; Batangas, Bohol, Apo Reef, Puerto Galera and Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
Q: What are your dream dive sites?
A: Our very own Tubbataha reef in Cagayancillo, Palawan is No. 1 on my list. And then, of course, Malapascua, Rajah Ampat in Indonesia, Palau, Galapagos, Great Barrier Reef and Maldives
Q: How important is Miss Scuba as a pageant in the Philippines?
A: We believe that it is the perfect time to introduce a pageant in the Philippines that has a genuine advocacy and is devoted to help safe our oceans through the beauty of this passionate and empowered women. We want to be an agent of change and the voice of our oceans.
Q: You’ve also designed the crown Miss Scuba. Please tell us about that.
A: I am an artist by heart and I got to design and conceptualize the crown of Miss Scuba Philippines. I designed it as a representation of the beauty and wonders of the Philippine oceans. But the actual crown was executed by my crown designer Manny Halasan. It is made up of rhinestones, accentuated with genuine fresh water pearls.
Q: What is the state of Philippine oceans? How does it compare to others?
A: Philippines as an archipelago is blessed with many breathtaking sights and premier dive sites. We are situated at the epicenter of the coral triangle, i.e. the center of the center of the world’s richest biodiversity. However, ocean conservation remains to be a challenge up to this day. In every dive I’ve done, I have seen and collected plastic trash, evident coral bleaching, damaged reefs, runoffs and unregulated tourism. We are among the world’s biggest ocean plastic dumper. This is not just an economic problem but a global problem that calls for a direct action/solution. But there is still time to reverse this destruction through our collaborative efforts.
Q: What do you want to tell ocean travelers and tourists?
A: I have a lot to say. First of all, if we love the ocean, we should protect it from anything that may harm it. Let us enjoy the beach with love and respect.
1. Be a responsible traveler. Switch to eco-friendly alternatives to lessen your carbon footprint.
2. Please, please, please mind your trash. Carry it as you leave and pick up any trash that you see.
3. Do not harm any marine creatures and do not step on the corals.
4. Use a coral-friendly/reef-safe sunscreen. Check if the ingredients list does not contain oxybenzone which is potent chemical that can harm or kill corals.
5. Follow the rules and regulations of a place and be culturally sensitive with the people.
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