Confessions of a Beauty Queen: How I Ended Up Joining Bb. Pilipinas…

The search for the next Venus Raj is ON!  Bb. Pilipinas has been accepting applicants to the 2011 Bb. Pilipinas beauty pageant and will continue to do so until January 22, 2011. Click here to find out how to join!

You should see all the chatter on Facebook among beauty pageant fans – things are heating up INDEED! Naturally, all this FB chatter brings to mind the memory of how I ended up on the beauty pageant circuit becoming Miss Young Philippines and eventually Bb. Pilipinas Universe, a long, long time ago.

That's me in the middle, newly crowned Bb. Pilipinas Universe in 1985. Sabrina Artadi (Internationa) is on the left and Tina Alcala is on the right.

It was really all because of my Mom that I became a beauty queen. She somehow saw a ravishing beauty in me even if I was sooo boy-ish as a child. In those days all I wanted to do was boy-things like climb trees, play with frogs and not take a bath for several days if I could get away with it. My hair was cut short like a page boy’s and my daily ‘uniform‘ was short shorts, a loose t-shirt and tsinelas.  Did I write the word boy in this paragraph like 3 times? I think I did.

I remember one time shopping for school supplies in Masagana on Taft Avenue, wearing my usual short shorts etc. when one of the sales ladies snuck up behind me and pinched my legs in the most horrifying way! Then she  said,

“Ang guapo mo naman ‘tas ang puti-puti ng legs mo!”

You’re so handsome and you have such white legs!

Like EEEW to the ends of the earth!

One of my other memories is a much better one – almost every weekend I would climb all the way to the top of the huge tree in the field of Army Navy Club Manila and I would sit up there, almost three stories up, swaying in the wind. Then I’d watch the sunset on Manila Bay, feeling sad and melancholy like as if I were a million years old instead of 9.

Sweet, sweet memory…

Mom’s real dream for me though was to become an actress and not really a beauty queen. You see, she had started a career as an actress and was getting bit roles when she got hitched to Dad. Marriage and family canceled out any plans for herself in that aspect and from then on, I became the hope for her acting dreams to come true.

Wouldn't this poster have looked much better if my name were on it? LOLOL! Just teasing!

When I was about 13, Sampaguita Films announced a search for the cast of the film Batch ’81. It was all over the papers and, if I’m not mistaken, on TV. Mom took this as THE sign and jumped to the quick – I was in Reggie Regalado’s salon in Malate in no time, getting all dolled up for professional photos. We submitted my shots to the office of Manay Ichu, then queen of Sampaguita films and waited. I’d like to think that I was stunning in those photos and that’s why they called me for an audition. Which was a mess, to be honest. And hilarious now that I look back on it!

My audition was one of the more dramatic scenes in Batch ’81 and my co-auditionee was Charlie Ysmael (whom I would end up working with at NU107 years and years later). It was my first time to meet Charlie and he struck me as this mestizong mayabang which, I eventually discovered, was not true. I mean, he IS mestizo but he’s not mayabang really, he just looks it. Anyway, let me be the first to admit that I sucked in that taped audition (and so did Charlie, LOL) and am VERY grateful there was no youtube then.

After that debacle, we tried out auditioning for a couple TV shows like Eat Bulaga but that got nowhere. Then, someone suggested that we go to Regal Films and meet Mother Lily. Mom, being the persistent bulldog she was (and is), charged on and somehow got a face-to-face meeting with Mother Lily.

It was a MUCH easier deal with Mother Lily because there were no tough auditions, just screen tests. She liked me enough after our first few conversations to offer a 10-film, two-year contract. And for two or three weeks, while Mom was studying the contract, I had the chance to live life as a temporary Regal Baby! I attended press conferences, parades, concerts that headlined actors like Gabby Concepcion, Albert and William Martinez, Maricel Soriano, Dina Bonnevie, Snooky and the late Joel Alano and Alfie Anido.

Snooky, who starred in Bata Pa Si Sabel, is the daughter of a beauty queen/actress and a good acquaintance of mine...

My first movie was supposed to have been Bata Pa Si Sabel (which starred Snooky) but in the end, Mom backed out of the Regal deal because she didn’t want me to do ‘daring’ roles with kissing scenes and the like. That was kind of like the trend in those days. So Regal turned out to be a closed door – or so I thought.

It was at the press con of the Regal movie Blue Jeans in one of the restos on Makati Avenue that someone told Mom – why don’t you bring Joyce to Rene Salud, the fashion designer? Maybe he can sponsor her at Bb. Pilipinas? That suggestion turned out to be the key Mom was looking for. The key that didn’t need any acting skills on my part (hooray!) and yet opened a big and bright future for me in the spotlight!


Smiling for joy right after winning Miss Young Philippines 1981. Im second from the left.

In my Mom’s traditional style of treating everything like an emergency, we barged in on Rene Salud in his E. Rodriguez studio without an appointment and told him in no uncertain terms that I wanted to join Bb. Pilipinas and would he sponsor me?

Rene Salud must have seen something in me because he welcomed us so warmly. Well, flamboyantly, actually. I still clearly remember his wild but graceful arm-flapping gestures, his diva-ish way of speaking and how he made sure to spell his name as Renee with two E’s, on his storefront. He ALSO insisted that I call him MAMA Renee and not TITA Renee. I wasn’t used to calling a guy Tita, much less Mommy, but Renee was an obvious exception. Besides, he had this mother-hen instinct which I took to like a duck to a pond. LOL!

And so all of a sudden, I found myself with two Mothers – none of them called Lily. My blood Mom and my Mama Renee co-navigated  my journey to the beauty queen life. A journey that has given me two crowns, a million friends and so much joy in life – something I thank God for almost everyday. Although there are a few regrets, I would do it all over again and again and again.

There is nothing like being a beauty queen in the Philippines!