Mirjan Hipolito of Angeles City, Pampanga got everyone’s attention in the Miss Universe Philippines pageant because of her resemblance to two beauty queens. But the financial writer (she writes about business and stock markets among others) is more than just a face. She is a former flight attendant and was a regional awardee as one of the Top 10 Outstanding Students in the Philippines in 2017.

For our third Miss Universe Philippines profile, we ask Mirjan about Pampanga’s love for pageants, favorite TV shows, and debunking beauty queen myths.

Qrown: What particular insecurities did you have to overcome before deciding to join the pageant?

Mirjan: I never really considered myself as a conventional beauty. Whenever I run errands with my mom and come across people she knows, the first and only thing that they notice about me is my height. I always hear ‘Oh, your daughter is so tall’ but never ‘your daughter is beautiful.’ Such a series of encounters really inculcated in my mind that maybe I will never be easy on people’s eyes.

I became empowered when pageants evolved into platforms where women could speak their context. It is amazing to see girls be heard about their stories, far better than what they are on the outside.

Qrown: Pampanga has produced several titleholders in the past years such as Emma Tiglao, Francesca Taruc, and Cyrille Payumo. How big is the culture of pageantry in Pampanga?

Mirjan: Our province weathered a lot of very painful experiences in the past; volcanic eruptions, political upheavals, economic shocks, among others. With this, pageants have become a source of happiness and inspiration among Kapampangans during the most trying times.

It has been an unwritten law on every household to support our pageant candidates as they carry with them the story of Pampanga on every stage that they take.

Qrown: What is the one memory you cherish the most growing up?

Mirjan: When I was young, my siblings and I will gather around a box of chocolate sent by someone abroad. Even when this is a rare occurrence that we would get overly excited about eating sweets for the first time in a long time, will patiently wait for every family member to come home before we open the treat.

The chocolates will then be distributed evenly to every member regardless of our age and position in the family. This, early on, taught me about the value of fairness—to take only what is appropriate for you so that more people could enjoy the blessing. In hindsight, I am amazed about how my parents molded us into becoming more generous individuals without even saying a word about it.

Qrown: Aside from sisig, which one dish from Pampanga would you like people to know more about?

Mirjan: I’d like for everyone to try Kalderetang Bibe or duck caldereta. It was my favorite dish before I became a vegetarian.

When I was in elementary, I spent most of my summers at my grandparent’s house and my lola cooks the best calderetang bibe. The dish is flavorful, so it could go with any kind of occasion. Additionally, it is not something that you could taste every day.

Qrown: What is the one TV show you love to binge on?

Mirjan: Reply 1988! It ignites a different kind of nostalgia just hearing myself say it now. It is a story about family, friendship, finding your role in society, and love. It will surely remind you of the simpler times we used to enjoy with our family and friends in the past.

Qrown: In these crazy times, how have you been able to see the humor despite situations that are not laughable?

Mirjan: During this time, the right mindset is the only thing that you could hold onto. The future remains uncertain and tables could still turn for worse. But as my favorite book Meditations by Marcus Aurelius reminds [us], we should choose not to be harmed and we will not be. It all comes down to looking at things in a more positive light.

Qrown: What is the one myth you want to debunk about beauty queens?

Mirjan: That we are not big eaters! It is funny to hear this over and over again from people. In fact, many of us could knock on six servings of rice in one seating. We are just as excited as everyone is when it comes to #foodtalks. 

About The Author Alexa Villano