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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – People in four Bukidnon towns were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle as the Miss Philippines Earth 2023 preliminary competitions came to Mindanao’s food basket for the first time
Twenty-nine Miss Philippines Earth candidates showcased their poise and physique, donning Bukidnon native dresses and swimsuits, during a summer-themed preliminary event before a jam-packed crowd in Talakag town, Bukidnon, on Wednesday night, April 19.
The national beauty pageant is held yearly to crown “the most beautiful and environmentally-conscious and aware woman” in the country and send her to compete in the international competition Miss Earth.
Before the town center event, the candidates went to the upland village of Miarayon, also in Talakag town, the vegetable center of Northern Mindanao, to see the agricultural fields.
The candidates were also in Manolo Fortich town earlier, where they rubbed elbows with local government officials in Bukidnon.
“This is a coming of age for these towns. For so long, these towns have been in the backwaters. Now, the world is looking at us,” Bukidnon 1st District Representative Jose Manuel Alba told Rappler.
Alba brought the entire production of the Miss Philippines Earth 2023 to Bukidnon.
After the preliminary events of the pageant in the towns of Manolo Fortich, Talakag, Sumilao, and Baungon until the weekend, the candidates will travel for the coronation night in Toledo City, Cebu, in the Visayas.
He said it was the first time the Bukidnon towns saw a big production and prestigious national beauty pageant.
“Our market is the nation, eventually. We want the country to see the potential of these towns,” Alba said.
He said Manolo Fortich town alone was transformed into a first-class municipality from its humble origin as a place for herds of cows that were brought to Cagayan de Oro City to be shipped to Manila many years ago.
“Hundreds of cows were driven along the rolling plains of Manolo Fortich every month. The town was the watering hole for the cows and cowboys to drink and rest before continuing the journey to Cagayan de Oro,” said Manuel Fortich, the US-based son of the late former Bukidnon governor Carlos “Totoy” Fortich.
He said the town was transformed after World War II when the government granted homestead lands to fleeing residents who escaped the Japanese occupation.
Alba said the same is true in the case of Talakag town, which was founded by homestead lands granted to residents who fled the war.
“Now, Talakag is another first-class municipality, the vegetable center of Northern Mindanao. We are promoting its agro-tourism program,” Alba said.
Cagayan de Oro Councilor Malvern Esparcia said he was impressed with how the contestants, in Bukidnon native dresses, ramped up the stage in Talakag to the ethnic music of a local band.
“This itself is a message that these towns are not about to dump their traditions while they embrace modern inroads to their communities,” Esparcia said. (Froilan Gallardo/Rappler)