It was a glamorous privilege to travel to Vietnam as a judge for Miss Earth 2010 international pageant held in Vinpearl island resort in Nha Trang. As a former beauty queen, I was enthused with the thought of sitting back, relaxing and enjoying such a colourful and entertaining affair. I have taken part in 4 international pageants representing both the Philippines and Great Britain, so found it riveting, as well a little tense sitting on the other side of table. I know too well the nerves, the effort, the time devoted preparing for a pageant and the accompanying expectations, love and hope for one's country to do well. After perusing over my explanatory score sheets and contestant information, I soon realised my task at hand was much harder than that of a beauty queen!
It was also fabulous to see such a joyous and peaceful occasion being held in Nha Trang, once home to the toughest air force military training school of the 20th century. Nha Trang is now known for its pristine beaches, superb mud baths and hot spas, old temples, great seafood, and has the world's longest cable car over water - all of which I gratefully experienced during my visit, courtesy of Miss Earth.
The 90 international contestants had been in Vietnam preparing and touring for almost one month. Judging the pageant took just two days. It included a whole day of preliminary scoring behind closed doors, then a dazzling evening with all members of the jury attending the final theatrical extravaganza watched by over 80 million households.
The judging process and percentages were scored in two parts with beauty of face and body at 55% and quality of interview, along with character at 45%. It was far from an easy task judging how aesthetically attractive one appears and poise, graciousness and elegance of the candidate became the deciding factor with marking grades. The interview portion proved unexpectedly fascinating and shocking at times, with many showing remarkable social skills and an ability to answer challenging questions on the environmental state of their respective countries and global topics as well as dealing with the odd quirky question.
In parts of the world, pageants are seen as out-of-date and superficial but I have always found them valuable and profound experiences. Miss Earth is the epitome of pageants. It completely focuses on all the good charitable deeds you would expect to see from a celebration of beautiful women. Its 90 candidates, all winners, actively promote and get involved in the preservation of the environment and the protection of our planet. Many are very passionate and go on to serve as UNICEF ambassadors or continue with environmental pursuits for years. It is reassuring to know there are many determined young ladies out there with projects at work who are helping to educate their communities and others.
Remember, beauty is not skin deep - it is from the heart, and begins with loving and being humane to our beautiful Mother Earth.