75 years of Miss Silliman

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The legacy and tradition live on as the Miss Silliman Pageant – the oldest campus-based beauty contest in Asia and, perhaps, the world – marks its diamond jubilee this year as one of the highlights of the annual Founders Day celebration of Silliman University, the beautiful campus by the sea in Dumaguete City.

This year, the pageant is going to be staged virtually with the coronation starting at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 4 on live stream via the Miss Silliman Facebook page. Theme is “The Silliman Woman: Shining Through Changing Times.”

Eight candidates representing their academic units are vying for the much-coveted crown, especially that there was no pageant last year because of the pandemic.

They are Thessalonica Moanne Yocor, College of Engineering and Design; Farida Iris Lagusad, College of Arts and Sciences; Mayumi Mari Maghuyop, College of Performing and Visual Arts; Gia Marie de la Torre, College of Nursing; Aia Jhanine Teves, Senior High School; Janica Aljanna Nicole Lim, Medical School; Vederica Blanche Remolador, Institute of Clinical Laboratory Sciences (Medical Technology); and, Kamille Faith Sardua, College of Business Administration.

The reigning queen, Alexandra Kaye Tuale, who represented Senior High School in 2019 and now, a Management student, is the third title-holder whose reign was extended for a reason. Verna Loo-Raagas from Cagayan de Oro City reigned in 1960-1961 and Evelyn Paralejas from Dumaguete City held the crown in 1962-1963.

According to Jasmine Helen Dudley-Scales, herself 2016 Miss Cover Girl (first runner-up) and pageant chair, the committee has made some changes this year. “Like, we have removed the festival costume and brought back the picture analysis. We focus more on social issues,” she informs. The Miss Silliman Diamond Jubilee shall also be given support by the Miss Silliman Foundation to concretely allow her to materialize her chosen advocacy, which the candidates expounded before a panel of judges in the preliminaries held last Sunday, August 29.

The top three in the talent portion are: Business Administration, Senior High School, and Performing and Visual Arts. In the advocacy speech, the top three are: Nursing, Senior High School, and Performing and Visual Arts.

Started in 1946, the Miss Silliman pageant is older than Miss World, which is the oldest-running international beauty pageant created in the United Kingdom by Eric Morley in 1951. It is also older than the current Miss Universe pageant, which was founded in 1952 by Pacific Knitting Mills, a California-based clothing company and manufacturer of Catalina Swimwear.

Tasked to look out for campus beauties worthy of the Miss Silliman nomination were the staffers of The Sillimanian, the campus publication with its editor, Ricaredo Demetillo. The staff became known as the “beauty editors.” There was no pageant, no beauty contest, but students went to the Silliman Cafeteria to cast their vote in a popularity contest.

The winners were presented on March 1, 1946 at the Assembly Hall (now, Silliman Hall). Patria Obsequio, junior student from Home Economics, Zonsayda Cueva of the College of Business Administration, and Evelyn Gentelizo of the College of Education were the Top 3 winners. Out of the 1,084 students who voted, Patria obtained 30.70 percent popularity with 333 votes. She received a sash, a bouquet of flowers, and free admission movie tickets donated by Park Theater, one of three movie houses in Dumaguete then. She was described as “regal and simply beautiful.” Cueva obtained 251 votes, and Gentelizo got 149 votes.

The staff of The Sillimanian managed the actual canvassing of votes. Patria finished her Home Economics degree magna cum laude.

The circumstances today are certainly far different 75 years ago, although there is some parallelism. As World War II just ended at that time, so is a global health crisis affecting us today. But, the Silliman Spirit lives on as tradition dictates, inspiring everyone to pine for hope and better days to come within and beyond the campus by the sea. – NWI