My Voice as Miss Maui Filipina: Be Empowered
Editor’s note: The Fil-Am Voice welcomes our newest writer, Vanessa Joy Baldos.
A rush of emotions run through me. Excitement. Nervousness. Listening to the crowd, I feel the anticipation between my pageant sisters and me. For one night, the stage is ours. Countless hours of practicing poise, grace, and confidence all led to this very moment. I’m sure that this year, our Miss Maui Filipina contestants will feel the same rush of adrenaline.
It was a daunting choice to put myself on stage again for the 2018 Miss Maui Filipina pageant. I was a contestant in 2009, right after high school. Miss Celina Hayashi was crowned as Miss Maui Filipina 2009 and I placed 2nd runner up but won 1st place in the Speech phase. Looking back, I know I’ve learned a lot about myself since then. I chose to run again in 2018 as part of my journey to take risks and lead by example. Being the oldest contestant in the group, I wanted to exemplify that you can do anything that you put your mind to achieving. Not winning the first time I participated did not deter me from trying again. If at first you don’t succeed, try again, right?
The biggest challenge was deciding what I would do as my talent. After much contemplation, I decided that performing a slam poem represented me best. In 2009, I played the clarinet. This time, I considered dancing—hula, Tahitian, or a Filipino Folk dance. I had feedback from friends and family that wanted me to perform a dance number. I had to choose between what was comfortable or safe or something I truly loved but was a risk to do since not everyone was familiar with it. In the end, my passion for writing called to me. “Hear My Voice” was the pageant theme. My “voice” sang through my writing. I knew that although others were not familiar with slam poetry—it was something I was passionate about. I wrote about the challenges of first-generation Filipinos growing up with parents that had very traditional values. How strict rules translated into the greatest form of love—the love that our parents’ have for us. Emotionally charged, I was eager to bring my audience through the waves of emotions and phases that each of us can relate to with our parents. Curiosity, frustration, and in the end, only love and appreciation. With happy tears in my eyes, I whispered thank you to my parents. Although I did not win the title of Miss Maui Filipina that night, my greatest reward came through my talent translating as the biggest salamat that I could ever give them for what they’ve done for me. I did win 1st place in talent.
When Joy Nina Tabon won the title, I was ecstatic for her. Each of us worked hard in preparation for each phase. It could have been any one of us to receive the crown. I am so thankful to have obtained lifelong sisters through this experience. My pageant sisters and I—Joy, Fayma Sales, Sheila Manuel, and Rosabelle Nartates all keep in touch. Our rehearsals never felt like a competition. We were about growing together, helping each other and fitting in as many laughs along the way. At the end of the competition, I was a little sad that rehearsals would be over. I looked forward to the time that we shared. At my coronation, they surprised me. Joy and Fayma sang duet to “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran. And smothered me with hugs with Sheila in tow. Having friends like them who lift each other are so important.
Having the responsibility of the crown and title made me realize a few things. 1 – Your reign is what you make of it. 2 – Having the crown also requires the confidence to wear it. 3 – You can truly do anything you want to achieve. My platform of wanting to give back to Maui to make it a better place served as a foundation for my love of giving. I’ve spent my reign trying to give back to others in our community and the Philippines. I volunteered for Habitat for Humanity to help build homes in Kahoma Village in Lahaina and held a fundraiser to raise money. I cooked over 50 servings of Kare Kare and sold them to friends and family to raise funds for donation. I love to cook Filipino food but I’m not sure if I’ll attempt that again. At first, I was very shy about having the title but realized I could use it to help others in need. So, I decided I would use my goodwill trip to the Philippines as an opportunity to give back to the place of my cultural heritage.
My fundraiser for school supplies for children in the Philippines began on March 3rd. I raised half of my goal of $800 within two weeks. The week before I left for my trip, I raised $1,752. The amount of support I received over social media and in person was overwhelming. This gave me the opportunity to equip over 150 students with not only school supplies but also backpacks. I did also include extras such as the donated school supplies I received, a toothbrush, toothpaste, as well as a snack cake and juice pack for the kids to enjoy. I visited the schools that my parents attended. I was amazed, trying to imagine my parents as little 6-year-olds running to class, eating snacks or playing on the court. It felt so good to give back. And I’m so grateful for the help I received to do just that. I never imagined being able to enjoy every moment that led to this.
I’m excited and proud to bestow the crown to the next queen. This year’s theme, “Be Empowered” rings so true for our people today. These ladies will learn throughout their experiences they are empowered to do all things they wish to accomplish. If there is change you want to create in the world, there is no better person to do it than you. I’m excited to see what these ladies will bring to the table come pageant night. I’m excited to see them be empowered.
Vanessa Joy Baldos is the reigning 2018–2019 Miss Maui Filipina. She is a graduate of Maui High School and is currently attending University of Hawai‘i Maui College and aspires to continue being an asset for Maui County. She is currently employed with the County of Maui, Department of Parks & Recreation and Coldwell Banker – Wailea Village as a Realtor. When she has free time, she loves to go fishing, go to the gym and practice aerial silks. Aside from her involvement as a Miss Maui Filipina, she also volunteers her time throughout the community with Maui Filipino Community Council, Binhi at Ani, Kahului Public Library and Habitat for Humanity.