MANILA -- Over bowls of hot sopas and coffee, Gazini Ganados promised eyeglasses for residents of an elderly home to fulfill a dream she had for her late grandmother who lost her vision.
Raised by her lola, Ganados is a rare "influencer" for elderly care in her quest to succeed Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray and deliver a near-impossible back-to-back win.
"Ang dream ko sa kanya, sana makita niya 'yung sobrang ganda na nakikita ko. Dream ko din sana i-travel siya sa ibang bansa. Kaso, 'yung lola ko wala na po dito. She's already guiding me from up above," Ganados told residents of Luwalhati ng Maynila in Marikina City, home to some 300 seniors.
(My dream was for her to see the beauty of the world as I saw it. It was my dream to travel abroad with her. But my lola is no longer with me. She's already guiding me from up above.)
"With all of you, my angels, with your prayers, I know I can conquer the universe," said the 23-year-old, who represented Talisay City, Cebu at Binibining Pilipinas.
A bank foundation has scheduled an eyeglass fitting and distribution for Luwalhati residents before Ganados leaves for Miss Universe, which will reportedly be held in the US in early December.
From supporters' contributions, a send-off was hosted for Ganados at Luwalhati ng Maynila on Sunday. Unlike other beauty queens who visit the center for one-day gift giving events, it was Ganados' second time at Luwalhati and she promised to return soonest.
She also earlier met with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno to discuss how she could help the center, which is run by the Manila city government.
A Luwalhati resident, 79-year old Natividad Naborte, said older persons need medicine the most.
"Para sa akin, kailangan ng gamot para pampalakas (We need medicine to stay strong)," the former waitress from Matag-ob, Leyte told ABS-CBN News.
Naborte said she hoped to see her children, whom she had not seen for years. "Di ko alam kung saan sila nakatira. Kung magpakilala sila sa akin baka hindi ko sila makilala.)
(I don't know where they are. If they introduce themselves to me now, I might not recognize them.)
Miss Universe-Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados speaks to residents of Luwalhati ng Maynila during a send-off event on Oct. 27, 2019. Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News
INFLUENCER FOR LOLO, LOLA
Ganados said her interactions at Luwalhati ng Maynila and other stakeholders such as the Coalition of Services for the Elderly or COSE will serve as "baon" (gift) when she leaves the country.
Since entertainment company IMG took over Miss Universe in 2015, the pageant has placed more importance on the candidates' social causes on top of looks.
The Philippines has won twice under the IMG, Gray from last year and Pia Wurtzbach from 2015. Gray is an advocate for child education, while Wurtzbach pushed for HIV/AIDS awareness.
"The experience is genuine. I felt it myself," Ganados told ABS-CBN News of her grassroots work.
"I will relentlessly share this to everyone. They will feel that it is true, it is genuine and it is clear," she said.
With Ganados as "ambassador," COSE will reach the millennial generation, said the advocacy group's director, Emily Beridico.
"Mas malaki 'yung hatak, mas malaki 'yung influence. Ang mahalaga dito 'yung younger generation. 'Yung aming sinusulong, inter-generational approach," Beridico told ABS-CBN News.
(There's greater pull and influence. The younger generation is important since we're pushing for an inter-generational approach.)
Ganados' trainer, Rodgil Flores, said his ward's grassroots work would help her become the "complete package."
"Her involvement before was on her own capacity. Now, she has many tie-ups. Before she was just a voice. Now, she's a voice coupled with action," Flores told ABS-CBN News.
"She is in a position of influence. Her involvement is much deeper," he said.
The advocacy work goes hand-in-hand with Ganados' beauty queen training. She said part of it was knowing how to fix herself up and do her own makeup.
Ganados learned of Luwalhati from an undergraduate thesis on the quality of life of seniors in an elderly home. She got in touch with the thesis adviser, Dr. Calvin de los Reyes.
"Gazini's efforts show how research can translate to action from the community," de los Reyes told ABS-CBN News.
"Her advocacy came at a perfect time when our local chief executives and legislators are increasingly advocating for older persons. It will also strength the voice of cause oriented groups such as COSE," he said.