LOS ANGELES – Miss Universe 2012 first runner-up Janine Tugonon left the Philippines in tears last September, but she has found a reason to smile again in the United States, where she currently lives.
"I'm so happy here, sobrang saya ko rito kasi siguro sa mga tao rin. I have new friends here, some Pinoys and some are not Pinoys and they're very, very nice. They're very, very kind to me. Andaming Pinoy na tumulong sa akin dito,” she told ABS-CBN North America News Bureau.
“Right before I left the country, I was very sad,” she added. “Something happened that made me really sad and I cried and I cried and I was like, 'Lord, is this really what you want for me. Do you really want me to go?'"
The beauty queen admitted it was difficult getting over the harsh criticisms she received after her controversial breakup with ex-boyfriend Jaypee Santos.
But she has learned to let go.
“Oo naman, of course, and I'm here now in the US and people here are very different. Mas pareho sa personality ko na very straightforward, very spontaneous,” she said.
Asked if she has a new boyfriend, Tugonon only said, "Wala, wala.”
The Bataan-born beauty said she regrets just one thing out of the whole experience.
"The only thing na hindi ko na gagawin is yung ginawa ko sa 'Kris TV.' I think I made the right decision, for me ha, we made the right decision of ending whatever we have. ‘Yun nga lang, ‘yung 'Kris TV' interview ko… Oh, man, jeez. I was so stupid. I admit I was stupid,” she said, laughing.
Tugonon now enjoys being a student in Los Angeles.
"I'm actually studying acting sa New York Film Academy, kasi sponsor sila ng Miss Universe. And I'm loving it. I'm loving it here, actually. I'm always interested and intrigued and challenged sa acting eh, so gusto ko lang i-try. And nag-e-enjoy ako, so malay natin, ‘di ba, why not? But right now I just want to learn the basics," she said.
Aside from studying, Tugonon still does modeling. She was handpicked by fashion designer Alexis Monsanto at the recent “Designer and the Muse” event, where Monsanto was the only featured Filipino designer.
Tugonon will go home to the Philippines in November to fulfill some pending commitments, but she will return to the US to resume her studies in December.