Bb. Pilipinas holds double homecoming celebration for Cindy & Maureen

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Bb. Pilipinas holds double homecoming celebration for Cindy & Maureen
© STAR/ File Bb. Pilipinas holds double homecoming celebration for Cindy & Maureen

The Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI) recently hosted a homecoming party for Miss Intercontinental 2021 Cinderella Obeñita and Miss Globe 2021 Maureen Montagne.

Cinderella or Cindy of Cagayan De Oro City became the second Filipina after Karen Gallman to win at the Miss Intercontinental pageant, which was staged last Oct. 29 in Egypt. And just a week later, during a coronation event held in Albania, the Filipino-American Maureen became the second Binibini after Ann Colis to be named Miss Globe.

Ahead of the socially-distanced celebration at the Novotel Manila in Araneta City, The STAR had exclusive interviews with Cindy and Maureen who relived their crowning moments. Binibining Pilipinas’ double victory both electrified the pageant community and raised expectations over other Philippine bets fielded this pageant season.

Cindy recalled, “I’m really overjoyed by this victory, by this achievement because we made history. And napakaganda ng experiences ko in Egypt and I hope I made the Filipino community (there) and the whole country proud.”

The 25-year-old said she never expected to win. “Super clueless ako. Among Asian nations, in particular, it was very competitive. Thailand, Indonesia, these countries are powerhouses also when it comes to beauty pageants. So, I was so shocked. Even when they announced me as continental winner (for Asia), parang nagwala na ako deep inside, but we had to show poise and calmness. But I was crying when they announced me as the winner.”

As for Maureen, she was already psyching herself as the winner before going into the competition proper. She owed her hunger for the international title after many years in pageantry. “I think when you compete, you need to believe that you are worthy of the crown and you are a winner. I had such a long journey in pageantry. I felt very prepared and deserving to be the next Miss Globe, and one thing that worked was you’d really treat this like a job.”

Among Maureen’s favorite memories from the pageant were the grand tour of Albania, including her visit to one of the highest peaks, Mount Tomorr, as well as the castles and churches. After her big win, she had a meet-and-greet with the small Filipino community there.

Cindy also had an opportunity to do some sightseeing in the Egypt venue, the coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh, during the competition. What stood out in the 20 days she was there was the sisterhood that formed among the candidates.

“Because there’s a misconception that when you join an international pageant… parang they warned me of this, sa mga previous rin na mga girls who competed, not in Miss Intercontinental, but in general na be careful, because may mga mag-sa-sabotage. But then when I arrived there, the girls were so approachable, so respectable, so kind, nawala lahat ng misconception.”

What’s next for the queens?

Cindy was given the option to stay for several months in Spain, the headquarters of Miss Intercontinental, but she decided to make the Philippines her base for the duration of her reign and just travel whenever there’s a scheduled event. She has also resumed her work as tourism operations officer at the provincial government of Misamis Oriental.

She’s excited to start her Intercontinental journey as she will get to “strengthen her advocacy against cervical cancer since I have a bigger platform now,” especially for Crown CDO: A Cervical Awareness and Prevention Circle, an advocacy group she started after people close to her suffered from the disease.

She plans to connect with pageant directors from other countries and find ways to engage more women in conversations on health and wellbeing. She will also be involved in the pageant’s personality development program and will do hosting and judging stints for the organization.

Meanwhile, Maureen’s plans during her reign include stepping up her feeding program efforts. “It’s something I can do globally. And I’ve already been invited to Canada, back to Albania and to Greece, and in April, I’ll be going to the Dominican Republic to judge a pageant.”

The organization also plans to have the next edition staged in the Philippines. “Next (for me) is really just building my legacy. It’s about being the woman I want to be, being a shining example of what a true Filipino queen is. Now’s the time to give back. I’ve been given this wonderful platform. Now, it’s time to use it to walk the walk. So, I will keep volunteering. I’m already planning some things with (NGOs) One Race For Filipino and Hands On Manila, and I want this to be a year of substance, not just being a pretty face.”

If there’s anything to learn from Cindy and Maureen’s stories, it’s that perseverance and hard work truly pay off.

A wildcard finalist at Binibining Pilipinas, Cindy put to good use the discipline she learned from being an academic scholar from high school to college (she graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Mass Communication from Liceo de Cagayan University).

Cindy said she and her team studied the competition and the kind of winner the organization was looking for. “In retrospect, I may not have that common rags-to-riches story but my ‘Cinderella story’ was made into our reality, I think, by perseverance and hard work. I was an academic scholar from high school, so yun ang naging hunger ko to achieve more in life, and since I have experienced also what it means to have less in life. That has been my motivation to do more, to work well, to deal well with people.”

She added, “I’d like to say, talagang magical yung journey ko in pageantry. I really have with me real-life fairy godmothers, my team and the support of my family. To make (anyone’s pageant journey) magical, we should be able to stick to our character, we need to be humble and be kind. Whatever challenges that we face, we need to stay grounded. I think that’s what is important — know how to look back to those who helped us come this far.”

Maureen also attested to this combination of hard work and perseverance. “When I entered Binibining Pilipinas, I wasn’t aiming for Globe, I was aiming for International. As we all know, it was postponed (to 2022) and as someone who’s 28, if I had ever won that title, I wouldn’t be able to compete. So, really everything happens for a reason. So, trust the process. I was first runner-up so many times so that I could win Miss Globe. I declined a crown for another international pageant so I could be Miss Globe. So, it really felt so fulfilling (to win Miss Globe).”

She also cited the people who helped her along her journey. During the competition, she said her social media exploded, especially as the likes of former titleholders Catriona Gray, Maggie Wilson and Megan Young also threw in their support. “I felt like the full support of the Philippines came to help me and it’s part of the reasons why I won.”

Like Cindy, Maureen gave credit to the support of her parents, who are US-based. She hadn’t seen them for three years now due to the pandemic. The model came to the Philippines because she wanted to rediscover her roots. What was supposed to be a three-month vacation in 2017 became a life-changing decision to make the Philippines her home. “I think this is where I belong. This is my home now and I’m glad I took that leap of faith.”

Meanwhile, the queens are both happily taken, laughing off the supposed superstition about candidates’ love lives after winning a crown. As for Maureen, who’s been in a relationship with Dan Bradbury (a former model who is now in finance), said she’s aware of the “superstition.”

Maureen said, “Even his mom is like, oh, you better watch out, you know what they say? But, no, he’s been such a big support. Even during the pandemic when I was stuck in Siargao, I didn’t know if I could continue (with Binibining Pilipinas) and I remember crying to him so many nights like I don’t know if I can afford it… And he really said, Maureen, I will support you, so stick with it, follow your dreams, don’t give up now. So, I’m really lucky I had him as a support system, especially because in Siargao, I had no work. He’s been nothing but kind and proud. He is also calling himself Mr. Globe.”

Cindy, who’s in a four-year relationship with Henry Lopez, a businessman in CDO, could say the same thing about her boyfriend, who travelled all the way to Egypt with her to show his support.

“I think the main ingredient of a very successful relationship is understanding. I have been in the pageant industry for quite a while now and he has been so supportive of my journey,” said Cindy, who admitted that they’ve had talked about marriage.

Both Cindy and Maureen said that these are their last pageants. Moving forward, they are open to exploring other worlds.

Cindy is on track with her future plans to pursue a career in public service in her home province.

Maureen is, on the other hand, interested in showbiz because she enjoys hosting. In the past, she signed up with ABS-CBN’s Star Magic but had to give that up to pursue her pageant dreams.

“I’m open to any opportunity that presents itself. I think I have a very expressive face. Whether that’s good or bad for showbiz, because if I’m upset or thinking something, you see it. So in short, yes. I’d love to be on a teleserye, where I’m the kontrabida. It just seems like fun.”

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