Note: Profiles is the Qrown’s category, featuring candidates, photographers, stylists, makeup artists, and other members of the creatives behind a candidate’s pageant journey.

Last July 22, some of the Miss World Philippines candidates showed their talent during the gala night from singing to dancing. Iligan City’s Esel Ponce showed her talent by doing a cultural dance during the gala night as part of the Top 10 finalists.

Aside from dancing, Esel has also dabbled in acting and is a KUMU ambassador, where she does live interactions with the audience. In our latest Miss World Philippines profile, we asked Esel about how provincial pageants (she was Miss Kuyamis 2020 1st runner-up) have prepared her for the nationals, acting, and dealing with expectations.

Qrown: You’re representing Iligan City in the pageant. What is the one thing we don’t know about the city?

Esel: Aside from being the City of Majestic Waterfalls, Iligan City is the home of culturally diverse people composed of Muslims, Christians, Higaunons, and Lumads who all have high devotion and regard to the City’s patron saint – Saint Michael The Archangel. One of the exciting things you should experience in Iligan City is the “Pagpakanaug” which happens every September 20 where Iliganons come together to witness the ritual transfer of the image of Señor San Miguel from the main altar towards the base on the side altar, while Iliganons echo the chant “Viva Señor San Miguel!”. We also have the “Pangalay” dance, a Tausug dance, by IPAG that represents the Badjao community (family of Tausug) of Iligan City. A dance I performed during the Talent portion of Miss World Philippines. Definitely an experience you shouldn’t miss when the pandemic is over! 

Photo by Carl Javin Mendoza

Qrown: You are also a KUMU ambassador. How is like interacting with people online in the app?

Esel: KUMU is a safe place, welcoming everyone regardless of gender, religion, or race, thus, living to its tagline KUMU Sama All. I’ve always been grateful for all the opportunities that KUMU has given me; from being able to continue conducting my Mental Health Awareness advocacy to finding authentic connections with people from different parts of the country and of the world. This is actually where I get to meet people from different walks of life; people who openly share their stories, people who are willing to support causes, and people who want to showcase their talents, who all eventually became my family. I’m absolutely having fun while learning so many lessons. 

Qrown: How did competing in the provincial pageants prepared you for the national competition?

Esel: Discipline has always been inculcated in provincial pageants, especially with call time. We have always been taught that courtesy is best shown through respecting other people’s time as it is something we can never take back. Furthermore, to be compassionate with the community we are in especially identifying gaps and initiating actions, particularly with me is Mental Health Awareness. Through pageants, I was able to reach a wider audience for my personal advocacy and magnify its importance. Herewith, it hasn’t been difficult for me to be in a national competition and I am now fully enjoying the journey especially with my Miss World Philippines family. 

Qrown:  Can you tell us more about your work with Balay Pag-asa?

Esel: Aww. Balay Pag-asa is my safest home filled with pure love and acceptance. When I was still in my third year in college taking BS Psychology, my on-the-job training was at Balay Pag-asa from the CSWD. It is a haven for the youth who are in conflict with the law and are at risk.  We were staying under one roof, assisting them with their daily lives, providing group discussions, and even simply playing with them with a shared goal to develop and redirect their focus to the significance of education. This is where I was able to fathom what life truly is – that not every child was born with access to our basic needs I didn’t appreciate having before.

I’ve personally seen them vulnerable. Thus, as a mental health advocate, I want them to feel that they are not being judged nor condemned and that they would step out of the Balay Pag-asa as self-reliant, productive youth, unlocking their full potential and positive life outlook. They are and will always be one of my sources of strength and inspiration to further my advocacy on mental health and on creating a mentally resilient community. 

Qrown: You’ve also done some acting. What is it about acting that you enjoy the most?

Esel: Acting is about self-discovery as it uses pain as the fuel to better live your character. Acting allows me to portray a character without any judgment. This has widened my understanding of reality and be able put myself into various situations in life. I also enjoy the process of learning more about acting such as attending acting classes where my capabilities have been challenged, from preparing my own props and costumes to wholeheartedly applying all that has been taught to us which was never easy at all.

Acting requires so much patience, dedication, and hard work. It takes introspection to get where you want to be and in turn touch other people’s lives.

Qrown:  A lot of people expect so many things from a beauty queen. How do you deal with the expectations?

Esel: Undeniably, one of the expectations that people have when it comes to beauty pageants is height. People always prefer tall girls and I’m not. This has been one of the things I struggle with because I’ve always received comments saying “Sayang kinulang ka sa height”. However, through the years, we have developed a more inclusive society that respects and celebrates individual’s differences and uniqueness. Dealing with those expectations is about training my mentality; refocusing on what matters most.

Personally, I could say I have risen above those expectations. I firmly believe beauty queens can do more and go beyond whatever may be thrown at them. We are here to raise for our causes, amplify our advocacies, and initiate actions. 

Photo from Miss World Philippines

Qrown: Why should you be one of the winners in this year’s Miss World Philippines competition?

Esel: The mental grit and determination that I have, I believe, would lead that crown on my head. As a person who have always trained to challenge her perspectives says more of what she can do for her community and for the world. I am certain why I am here and I am here because I want to initiate actions other than awareness, evidently my Mental Health advocacy with Balay Pag-asa, these lost youth I fight for. I am here because I always believe that through the platform of beauty pageants, our collaborative efforts would be aggrandized.

Personally, this is where I could see I can be of the best help, thus, I am in the right place with the right organization. As one of the queens of Miss World Philippines, we will continually generate beauty with a purpose. 

About The Author Alexa Villano