Beauty is nature; brains, nurture. At least that’s the common perception.
This also depends largely on whose definition of beauty and brains one is likely to believe. For the sake of this column, let’s take their simplest, most obvious meanings: beauty as physical attractiveness, brains as intellect.
People say that these two qualities rarely combine harmoniously in one person. But in the recent Miss World Philippines beauty pageant, we saw the two merge and fit perfectly like ammunition clip on a .50 caliber rifle.
When the question was asked, “Would you rather live in a world without the pandemic or without corruption,” contestant Michelle Arceo replied, “I would pick a world without corruption because we are surrounded by it every day, everywhere we look.”
She adds, “People every day suffer from it, and if we can eradicate that, we can solve so many problems and we can get through a pandemic easily the next time we go about it.”
In less than a hundred words, Arceo sums up a political commentary best fit for the pages of The New Yorker. It was crisp, clear, and right on the money. Not only did it hone in on the problem at hand, what with the botched pandemic response, it also zeroed in on best practices: eradicating corruption as a way to solve our other problems.
Let’s stop here.
Beauty pageants are almost always graced by political luminaries. That’s a given. Imagine Palace spokesperson Harry Roque and actor-cum-senator Bong Revilla cringing at their seats as the lovely Arceo hurled her arrows.
Let’s admit it, after Q&A, Miss World Philippines has more substance & intelligence than the forgettable edition of #MissUniversePhilippines2021— MM&RR (@s_ayvee) October 3, 2021
Michelle Arceo - Candidate 10 #MissWorldPhilippines2021 pic.twitter.com/Vh8NLLxOal
And why shouldn’t they? Roque had defended the controversial deals made by the incumbent government with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation where the latter bagged P8 billion from a start-up capital of a little over P600,000. Magic? You can bet your Tootsie Rolls it is.
Revilla, on the other hand, once faced 16 counts of graft worth P124.5 million in discretionary pork barrel funds. He was later cleared by the Sandiganbayan.
How politicians can keep a straight face despite the shots fired by a beauty pageant contestant soon became the stuff of internet memes.
Surely, this wasn’t the first. There have been iconic answers to some of the most difficult beauty pageant questions. While not all of them are political in nature, the answers themselves provided a retinue as to how Filipina beauties fared during the competition.
In 1969, we saw Gloria Diaz put her brains on display when asked, “If a man from the moon landed in your hometown, what would you do to entertain him?”
She said, “Just the same things I do. I think that if he has been on the moon for so long, I think when he comes over, he wants a change, I guess.”
At the Miss World 1993, Ruffa Gutierrez wowed her audience with an answer to the question, “What would you tell a girl who’s suffering from low self-esteem to make her feel better about herself?”
Check out photos of Miss World Philippines 2021 Tracy Maureen Perez and her court.— Missosology (@missosology) October 3, 2021
Photos by Ameer Emir/Missosology#MissWorldPhilippines #MissWorldPhilippines2021 #MWP #MWP2021 #MissWorld #70thMissWorld #MissWorld2021 #MissosologyBig5 pic.twitter.com/dpDqP0QDjr
She said, and with a quote from French writer and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “I’ll tell her to believe in herself, because it’s not only physical beauty that’s important but also inner beauty. Like what the Little Prince said, ‘What is essential is invisible to the naked eye.’ And I believe that character and personality are more important than physical beauty.”
There is likewise no dearth of wit during the dreaded Q&A, with Charlene Gonzales gracing the 1994 Miss Universe, confidently answering the question, “How many islands are there in the Philippines?” with “High tide or low tide?”
Arceo may not have won the Miss World Philippines 2021 title (it went to Tracy Maureen Perez), but her answer to the question will remain as an example not only of a beautiful mind but of an equally beautiful courage.
Courage because in this country where people who speak truth to power are easily tagged as either communists or terrorists—the prime example being Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray—the red die is cast.
I wouldn’t be surprised if sooner than later, the incumbent regime will outlaw beauty pageants altogether all because 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach looks utterly stunning in her bright red latex corset.