- December 27, 2021 09:12
By Kristine Anjela C. Pablo and Maxine Alessandra B. Turiano
Defending the truth and radiating passion in pageantry are not mutually exclusive for Far Eastern University (FEU) alumna and Binibining Pilipinas 2022 candidate Mary Justinne G. Punsalang. Not only does she represent the province of Cavite, but she also sets out to spread her “wings of truth” advocacy.
People often describe beauty queens as eloquent speakers and ladies with compelling walks—something we would not have surmised that a journalist's line of work could likewise be subject to a comparable representation.
From this parallel domain, Punsalang deviates from the conventional narrative as she faces the opportunity to inspire young minds to pursue what their hearts have been longing for—even at the expense of time.
Becoming a Binibini
In an online interview with FEU Advocate, Punsalang revealed that pageants were not initially part of her plan. It was only after her peers encouraged her to join, leading her to train under Rodgil Flores of Kagandahang Flores, a beauty queen training ground located in Quezon City.
The beauty queen trained in the boot camp until she became an official candidate for Mutya Pilipinas in 2019—the beginning of her journey in pageantry. Unfortunately, due to a conflict in her work schedule, Punsalang had to withdraw from the pageant. Nevertheless, she refused to give up on her dream in the face of this obstacle.
“You know the feeling of realizing how much you want or love something only when it's gone? That's how I felt about pageantry,” Punsalang expressed.
After much contemplation, she realized that she wanted to give pageantry a second try. And true to the catchphrase that second time’s a charm, Punsalang fought for what her heart has always longed for and ultimately succeeded.
Despite quarantine restrictions prohibiting pageants, the longing and enthusiasm persisted as Punsalang did not hesitate to grab what she had missed the first time. Eventually, she joined Binibining Pilipinas as Cavite’s representative.
“Last year, I realized that I was turning 27, my pageant clock was ticking, and I was losing time. So, financially prepared or not, physically prepared or not, I will join a pageant. And since I will be doing this one time, [I] might as well join the most prestigious pageant in the Philippines and do everything with a bang. And here I am, a few days away from coronation night,” the candidate recalled.
Learning from what she overlooked during her first time in a beauty competition, the 27-year-old stunner then revealed that she is bound for more preparations for the esteemed beauty pageant as she improves and continues to hone her skills.
“I am also working on my Q&A skills. Yes, I know that as a reporter, communication skills are already a given. But answering in a queenly manner is very different from a banter with news anchors,” she shared.
As Punsalang continues to master what will make her shine from the rest of the candidates, she mentioned that she has also been working on her pasarela or signature walk, which she referred to as the ‘truth walk.’
A journey anchored on truth
According to Punsalang, she aims to let everyone know exactly what kind of Binibini she is—one that fights for the truth and facts.
"Everything I do in this pageant is anchored on my campaign for truth—my talent, my walk, and my national costume," she stated.
The candidate’s national costume or the ‘Pakpak ng Katotohanan’ (Wings of Truth) is a gladiator and Philippine flag-inspired outfit representing Filipino bravery and liberty. Designed by Klevin Bartolaba, it was also a tribute to Punsalang’s profession of being a journalist.
The beauty queen also affirmed that being a journalist prior to joining Binibining Pilipinas has taught her how to strike a balance on socializing with people, facilitating her effortless adjustment to a new environment.
Furthermore, the 27-year-old believed that studying communication had helped her speak for the benefit of those around her, even during her college years.
“When we learn something, it should not stop with us; we should take it upon ourselves to spread that knowledge to make the Philippines a better place to live in. Especially now, we should care about our country and its people,” Punsalang highlighted.
For Punsalang, being both a beauty queen and a journalist enabled her to a new stroke of luck—championing her advocacies on a broader scale and bigger platform.
The story behind ‘Halimaw’
During the 2022 Binibining Pilipinas Talent Competition held last June 23 at the New Frontier Theater, Punsalang performed a spoken poetry piece penned by Raymart Avellaneda titled “Halimaw” which centered on her advocacy of fighting information disorder.
Using a monster disguised as a savior in the mountain of lies as a metaphor, the piece discussed that by working together, the masses can strive to finally reveal that “there is no other version of the truth.”
The collaboration grew into something greater with the help of Mark Ghosn, the director of Punsalang’s dynamic performance. Bringing her resounding voice and strong emotional presence, the beauty queen certainly conveyed her message to the audience.
With its dominant and pertinent message of "there is no other version of the truth," the beauty queen–journalist’s performance posted by Ampalaya Monologues already garnered 243,000 views and 451 comments on Facebook.
With her exceptional delivery, Punsalang received numerous compliments and comments on her poetry performance, applauding the candidate for showcasing the essence of a true beauty queen.
The spoken poetry performance of Punsalang ended by justifying that one can impart a fair share of the truth, no matter how big or small it may be.
“Dahil tayo ang mga kinatatakutan ng Halimaw. Tayong mga Pilipinong nagmamahal sa katotohanan, (Because we are the ones that the monsters are afraid of. Filipinos who show love for the truth)” she emphasized.
Braving the A game
Like other true-blooded Tamaraws, Punsalang has lived by the University’s core values: fortitude, excellence, and uprightness. The alumna believes this has become her edge upon joining the prestigious beauty pageant.
With the fierce competition, Punsalang has constantly reminded herself to keep her ‘A game’, may it be during the pageant’s activities, rehearsals, sponsor visits, and the competition proper. Bringing with her the FEU core values, the beauty queen competes with a clear conscience as she puts her morals as a top priority.
Apart from her morals, being a Department of Communication (DepComm) alumna also taught her the power of courage, which is something she wanted to resonate with her fellow Binibinis. It was also something that Punsalang is holding onto—becoming a woman who fights for what is right and true.
As the most prestigious female beauty pageant in the nation continues, the Binibining Pilipinas candidate not only represents her province as the land of the mighty but also amplifies her advocacy.
Despite the competition slowly concluding as the Binibinis await its 58th edition’s coronation rites on July 31, Punsalang will continue to persist and spread the wings of truth once more, with or without a crown.
(Photo courtesy of Bruce Cassanova, Binibining Pilipinas)