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

Many young girls use beauty pageants as a stepping stone to fulfill their dreams. But there are others who have fulfilled their dreams like a career in law and teaching before joining a pageant. One of those girls was Mara Ruiz.

Mara, a lawyer, is currently teaching environmental law. A native of Bohol, the province’s rich natural resources maybe why environmental issues are very close to her heart.

For our second Profile, we asked Mara via email what pushed her to joined Miss World Philippines and the challenges she has encountered in her profession in the time of the pandemic.

Qrown: What pushed you to join Miss World Philippines?

Mara: I was driven to join MWP to further pursue my advocacy on environmental sustainability and to represent and showcase my exquisite province of Bohol. I want to embrace the MWP platform with its motto “Beauty with a Purpose” to raise awareness on environmental issues, sustainable development, and bring light to the community concerns of marginalized sectors who see the environment not just for its scenery, but as a way of life and a means of living. 

Qrown: You teach environmental law. Can you share more about what encouraged you to teach environmental issues?

Mara: Growing up in Bohol, an ecological island paradise, it allowed me to experience nature in its rawest form. I lived beside a fishing community in Tagbilaran and this early exposure taught me how interconnected we are and how large we rely on the environment for the food we eat, for the livelihood we earn, and for the life we lead. In 2013, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake devastated my home, Bohol. This experience made me aware of how fragile our relationship with our environment can be and how lives are impacted when we become negligent or complacent.

I was fortunate enough to qualify for a scholarship at the prestigious Ateneo Law School where I became the president of the Environmental Law Society of Ateneo. I was able to spearhead community projects like coastal and SCUBAsurero clean-ups, tree planting, recycling drives, talks on climate change, and outreach in indigenous communities that suffer the most from natural calamities. I am grateful to carry on this environmental advocacy even today as a lawyer, an environmental law professor, and now a Miss World Philippines official candidate representing Bohol.

Qrown: Bohol has been promoted so many times, but is there any particular place that people should know more about aside from the ones we know?

Mara: I highly recommend that you visit the town of Jagna. It is home to Bohol’s most pristine attractions from the deepest seas (for scuba diving, freediving, or even just a leisurely swim) to the highest peak (1000 meters above sea level for camping or trekking in Mt. Matunog in Mayana). As a licensed scuba diver, I have to say that Jagna truly has some of the most outstanding dive spots. Jagna is also home to Bohol’s flavorful delicacies. You can do strawberry picking at the Jagna strawberry farm or witness how they make the famous glutinous rice delicacy called Calamay. 

Qrown: You also work as a lawyer. How tough is it to be one given the current issues the country is facing?

Mara: The biggest issue that the country is facing today is the global pandemic. This has definitely been a challenge for me as a lawyer especially when it comes to facilitating discussion with clients and authorities and implementing legal projects. However, like many of our frontliners and fellow Filipinos, I am stronger and more determined than the setbacks that come my way. I am open to innovation and I embrace technological solutions like telecommunications and flexible work arrangements in order to ensure quality legal work without jeopardizing public health and safety. 

Mara showcases her violin skills during the Miss World Gala Night last July 22. Photo by Carl Javin Mendoza

Qrown: Women have faced so many challenges in the past years. How will you use your position both as a practicing lawyer and titleholder to promote gender equality?

Mara: As a lawyer and titleholder, I will approach the problem at its core. I will promote education on gender equality using my available platforms, be it in the courtroom or on the pageant stage. I have taught law students in law school and this experience has made me cautiously aware of just how much the youth respond to the influence of beauty queens with a purpose.

With this in mind, I will facilitate open discussion on gender equality on my social media or in face-to-face campaigns if possible. It’s high time that we promote inclusivity and fairness at work, at home, and in society regardless of gender. 

Qrown: Next year, the country will be voting for a new set of leaders. How will you use your platform to encourage people to register to vote?

Mara: I will use my available platforms on social media, my reach in educational institutions as a public school teacher, and my voice as a lawyer to inspire and encourage participation in government elections. I will continue to share reliable information regarding voter registration processes. And I will actively speak about our individual impact on the form of governance and institutions that we can build for the Philippines. 

Mara in her evening gown portrait. Photo from Miss World Philippines

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

Mara: I am the epitome of beauty with a purpose – a sustainability lawyer by profession and an environmental law teacher at a public school by passion. I want the world to witness that a woman from humble provincial beginnings, fairly new in pageantry but driven by determination, can be the compassionate voice of environmental sustainability and service with a heart. 

About The Author Alexa Villano