Aurora hosts 2009 Mutya beauty tilt

By Leah Salterio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In keeping with its aim to promote beauty tourism, Mutya ng Pilipinas brings this year's pageant to the historic province of Aurora. The national beauty contest crowns its new titleholders on Aug. 9.

Beauties from Northern and Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Midwest, the East Coast, Hawaii, Canada, Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia will join the contest.

This marks the third year in a row that Mutya ng Pilipinas is being held in a prime eco-tourism destination. In 2007, the contest was staged at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Last year, the pageant was held in Puerto Princesa, the capital of Palawan, the ecological frontier of the Philippines.

The winners of the Mutya ng Pilipinas are sent to international pageants like Miss Asia Pacific International, Miss Tourism International, Tourism Queen of the Year and Miss Intercontinental.

The launch of the Mutya ng Pilipinas 2009 was held last June 26 at SM City North Edsa, where Aurora Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo signed the agreement with Roberto de Venecia, president of the pageant. Chair of this year's national search committee is top fashion designer Renee Salud, who will also get to dress up the candidates with their long gowns.

Now on its 41st year, the pageant is dubbed "Mutya ng Pilipinas sa Aurora - The Beauty Adventure in the Pacific."

Proud governor

No one is perhaps prouder to have Mutya ng Pilipinas staged in Aurora this year than Gov. Castillo, chair of the executive committee. Castillo is now on her second term of office as governor, after having also served as congressman of the province for three terms.

Aurora, according to Castillo, is the only gateway of Central Luzon or Region 3 to the Pacific. "This is a very opportune time for Aurora to be known as an eco-tourism haven and investment hub," Castillo allows. "We can show investors the vast potentials of the province. I'm very confident investors will find our place a very good venue for investment. When you are in point zero, there is no way to go but up."

Having Mutya ng Pilipinas in her hometown is part of Castillo's dream to take out Aurora from the Club 20 list of the poorest provinces in the county. After the province's capital became the backdrop for the Jericho Rosales-Anne Curtis award-winning film of the same name, "Baler," Aurora aroused the interest of the people.

"The film had tremendous impact on Aurora's tourism," Castillo offers. "From 2007 to 2008, we had a 137-percent increase in the number of guests who visited the province. From 2008 to the first quarter of this year, we are confident that we have already exceeded the previous figure."

Next month, guests and candidates in the Mutya ng Pilipinas will get to enjoy the beauty and bounty of Aurora. The pristine province has its share of historical sites like the home of the first president of the Commonwealth, Manuel L. Quezon, as well as the beautiful Catholic Church in Baler.

Since it started in the late '60s, Mutya ng Pilipinas has produced beauty queens who became prominent after winning their respective titles. Most of them ventured into show business, while others tried their hand at modelling, entrepreneurship or even politics.

The '70s saw the likes of Alice Crisostomo, Carolyn Masibay, Rio Diaz, Emma Yuhico, Yehlen Catral, Lorraine Schuck, Tetchie Agbayani.

The '80s had Carines Zaragoza, Bong Dimayacyac, Aurora Sevilla, Sherry Rose Byrne, Malou Aposol, Cindy Lotuaco, Star Querubin and Lorna Legaspi.

The '90s produced such titleholders as Mutya Laxa, Gemith Gemparo, Michelle Aldana, Sherilyn Reyes, Maricel Morales and Daisy Reyes.

From 2000 onwards, there were Josephine Canonizado, Darlene Carbungco, Anna Marie Morelos and Loren Andre Burgos. Reigning queens are Jonavi Raisa Quiray and Jam Charish Libatog.