Pageant candidates show poise while advocating for community service
LOS ANGELES – Several young women from across Southern California are among the 40 candidates vying for Miss Filipina International (MFI) 2023, a pageant that showcases the beauty and diversity of Philippine culture and provides a platform for advocacies, such as access to clean water and human trafficking awareness.
One of the candidates, Long Beach resident Mia Valdes, said the pageant was an opportunity to amplify her voice in advocating for equitable access to clean water in the Philippines.
Valdes, 26, has worked as a biochemist consultant for a company dedicated to finding innovative solutions for clean water, and she hopes to use her expertise to help address the urgent issue of water scarcity and contamination, particularly in underserved communities.
She also aims to foster a sense of community and cultural pride among Filipino Americans, break stereotypes and “build bridges of understanding and acceptance.” A Salvation Army Community Center volunteer, Valdes mentors underprivileged youth, helping them to overcome educational challenges and reach their full potential. She also volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House of Charities.
Hope Corpus, 22, wants to help combat human trafficking by raising awareness of this global issue. The Los Angeles resident plans to join a medical mission that provides crucial medical and psychological support to human trafficking victims in the Philippines.
While attending high school at Faith Baptist Schools in Canoga Park, she tutored students in multiple subjects and engaged in community service. She continued to serve academic and local communities at California Polytechnic University, where she pursued her bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing management, graduating cum laude.
Corpus remains dedicated to various civic and charitable initiatives with a focus on education, hunger relief, fire safety, women’s shelters and supporting veterans.
Heart of a Filipina
Burbank resident Hannah Pearcey, 23, said she joined the pageant to show pride in her Filipino American heritage. “I want to show the world that it doesn’t matter if I was born in America or in the Philippines; what matters is that I have the heart of a Filipina,” said Pearcey, who serves in her church at Media City.
“I found that with my love for music and working with children, I’d be able to serve my church community by volunteering,” she added.
Heather Casignia from Los Angeles joined MFI to connect with her culture and heritage. She also considers the pageant as “the best way to communicate my advocacy.”
Casignia, 27, graduated summa cum laude from La Salle High School in Pasadena. The school motto, “learn to lead and lead to serve,” inspired her to engage in charitable work. She has volunteered at the LA Food Bank, the Fred Jordan Missions and a local nursing home.
She has made annual trips to the Philippines to provide books, school supplies and shoes to school children and lunch to the elderly. She was active in the Filipino club at Boston University, where she pursued a political science degree, graduating cum laude.
The 40 candidates represent various states across America and several countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and the Philippines. The pageant aims to foster a community of strong, confident and culturally proud women who can inspire others to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential, said Geoffrey Jimenez, chairman of Worldwide Media Entertainment Corporation, the owner of MFI.
The women will compete for these titles: Miss Filipina International; Miss Tourism; First Runner-up; Second Runner-up; and Third Runner-up. Three winners will be eligible to compete next year in Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) while two winners will vie in The Miss Philippines pageant. The MUP titleholder will then compete in the Miss Universe pageant.
Serving as producer is Lisa Lew, former Binibining Pilipinas (Miss Philippines) International who has won eight Emmy awards for producing Judge Judy and many other top-rated shows. She was behind the decades-long running TV programs, A Current Affair and Hard Copy, as well as the Netflix special, Kardashian: The Man Who Saved OJ Simpson.
The candidates were revealed in a press presentation hosted by Filipino American TV personality and “Inside Edition” correspondent Victoria Recaño and performance artist Alex Maarte. Tiana Kocher, a rising singer and songwriter, performed her two songs, “Por Tiempo” and “Take Over,” which raised the energy level at the event. Singer Juls King also livened up the program with his cover version of Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits.”
The candidates wore platform heels by Jojo Bragais Shoes at the presentation and will also wear shoes by the pioneering designer when they compete during the coronation night on August 5 at the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton.