|Bea Rose Santiago of the Philippines walks on stage after being crowned Miss International 2013 in Tokyo on Tuesday. Representatives from 67 countries and regions from all over the world took part in the pageant. Photo by Yuya Shino, Reuters
MANILA – Bea Rose Santiago said the recent events in the Philippines inspired her to do her best in the recently concluded Miss International pageant, where she was crowned the title winner.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News hours after she bagged the Miss International 2013 title, Santiago said she wrote the speech she delivered during the pageant with the typhoon survivors in mind.
The Philippines, particularly the Visayas region, was hit by super typhoon "Yolanda" (international name Haiyan) last month.
"Before pa ako lumaban, I wrote na my speech. Pero before I left, we visited Capiz. It was a life-changing experience for me. I was there, I've seen it. It got into me na my speech should be something about that. I'm very passionate about that, so it will show to everyone in the audience that I'm not faking it, na everything is real," she said.
Early this month, Santiago and fellow beauty queens Ariella Arida and Pia Wurtzbach joined relief operations in Roxas City, where they personally handed goods to typhoon survivors.
"I think that’s also why my speech was heartfelt by everyone. I made it. I wrote it. That’s how passionate I am about helping the Yolanda victims," Santiago said.
For the final round of the competition held at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel Hall in Tokyo, Japan, the remaining five contestants each gave a 30-second speech on the subject, "What I will do if I am crowned Miss International?"
"The whole world saw how my country suffered," Santiago said, referring to the devastation caused by "Yolanda" in parts of central Philippines. "One by one, other countries helped. I would like to thank those who helped my country in our darkest hours. You have opened my heart and eyes on what we can do to help each other."
"If I become Miss International, I would uphold international camaraderie. I will work to sustain the spirit of sympathy and spirit of hope. As long as we work together, there is hope."
Up to this moment, Santiago said she could not believe that she won the title, besting over 60 other candidates from around the world.
She said she dedicates her victory to the Philippines.
"I'm confident and I'm thankful na they are all proud of me and they are happy. I really did it for the Philippines talaga. Hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala. I am with the crown now and the sash and the plaque, but parang it’s still like a dream. I’ve been wanting this for long and when it’s there na in front of you, it’s hard to claim it pala,” she said.
"I’m very very thankful and speechless pa rin ako. Wala pa ngang date noon yung Miss International, everyone has already been rooting for me. Everything is so positive. I think it’s all the prayers, everyone prayed for me na talagang iyon ang nag-force for all the stars to line up tonight. I’m really thankful for all the support," she said.
With a lot of things ahead of her, Santiago said her only desire right now is to be reunited with her family and again visit the Yolanda-hit areas.
“Sana kasi Christmas, I want to spend time with my family. And then maybe I want to go back to Capiz or other places which Binibini is willing to send me and the rest of the queens this year. I really want to continue what I started before I left and that’s to help,” she said.
Santiago is set to return to the Philippines on December 24.
With Santiago's victory, the Philippines now boasts of five Miss International winners. Before the Masbate-born beauty, Filipinas who took home the title were Precious Lara Quigaman (2005), Melanie Marquez (1979), Aurora Pijuan (1970), Gemma Cruz (1965).