MANILA -- This year's edition of the annual Miss Earth pageant, which continues to push for environmental awareness, will once again be held in the Philippines, this time amid one of the worst natural disasters to hit the country.
International contestants started to arrive in the Philippines on Wednesday, less than a month before the finals night on December 7at Versailles Alabang in Las Piñas.
Among the preliminary activities of the 90 candidates, pageant organizer Carousel Productions told ABS-CBN News, is taking part in relief operations for the survivors of super typhoon "Yolanda."
A number of contestants assisted Thursday in repacking goods at the Quezon City headquarters of ABS-CBN's Sagip Kapamilya, which continues to send aid to devastated communities through its "Tulong Na, Tabang Na, Tayo Na" initiative.
"I can only hope that we can bring as much awareness to it as possible, worldwide, to bring support to the Philippines," Miss USA Nicolle Velez told ABS-CBN News.
"The roads are closed," Miss Guam Katarina Martinez noted, "[so we] can't travel there and help and assist in the way that we want to, so we have to do more on our part."
On its official Facebook page, Miss Earth Foundation said the pageant "more than ever, is not only timely but completely relevant," in light of the recent calamity.
"Miss Earth will show to the world that beauty is not just an eye candy but a tool to help Mother Earth recover from disasters brought about by climate change," it said.
The international pageant, whose slogan is "beauties for a cause," has been held in the Philippines annually since 2001, except in 2010 when Vietnam hosted the finals night.
Carousel Productions earlier announced that the pageant, which will be broadcast in over 50 countries, would highlight eco-tourism "as its contribution to the [Philippines'] efforts to use tourism as a means to help alleviate poverty."
The focus has since included the humanitarian crisis following Yolanda, with awareness about climate change and its effects put at the forefront.
As of Thursday morning, the death toll due to Yolanda was at 2,357, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council. An estimated 11.3 million have been affected with 673,000 left homeless since the typhoon battered parts of Visayas on Friday.
Set to crown her successor in December's pageant is Miss Earth 2012 Tereza Fajksova of Czech Republic, whose one-year reign had her travelling to several countries to promote the organization's environmental awareness and conservation campaigns.
Representing the Philippines in this year's Miss Earth is Angelee delos Reyes, a nursing graduate from Olongapo City with years of experience in the pageant scene.
Her bid for the crown follows several successes of Filipinas in other international pageants, including Megan Young's Miss World win, Mutya Datul's Miss Supranational win, and Ariella Arida's Miss Universe 3rd runner-up finish.