Beauty titlists find Mindanao peace under martial rule

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Despite the ongoing violence in Marawi City and the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, some candidates of the Ms. Philippines Earth 2017 coming from the different parts of the country dared to set foot in Misamis Oriental, more than an hour’s drive from the conflict area, and shattered their expectations.

Fifteen of the 40 candidates arrived here Tuesday morning for a three-day visit, part of which is to explore some of the province’s tourist destinations.

Many of the candidates have never been to Mindanao, but the common reaction coming from them was they were awed by the place and the people, as if there was no siege in Marawi, as if Mindanao was not under military rule.

That’s the impression of Jessica Rose McEwen, a half-Filipina who represents the Filipino community in New Zealand.

“It looks like nothing is really happening here. It’s all very normal, very happy,” McEwen said, adding that the positive disposition of the people has anything to do with the upbeat atmosphere in the province.

“Is there even a war happening here? Misamis Oriental is such a peaceful place,” said Shaina Louise Kim, of Lucena City.

Pamela Grace Janson, who hails from Mati City, Davao Oriental, asserted that even though her hometown is also under the martial rule, most of Mindanao is safe.

“Although there are areas to watch out for, it does not mean all of the cities and places here in Mindanao are affected. It’s safe to visit here in Mindanao. There are places that you can explore that you didn’t even know existed,” Janson said.

Vanessa Mae Castillo, from Lobo, Batangas, said Martial Law never crossed her mind.

When she told her family and friends she would be joining the Ms. Philippines Earth 2017 delegation to Misamis Oriental, Castillo said they were concerned. She, too, felt the same.

“Upon arriving here, I felt anxious, I was observing my environment. [But] what greeted me were the welcoming people. They are very hospitable,” she said, adding that in the next few days she will be posting photos of eco-tourism sites in the province to tell everyone that Misamis Oriental and Mindanao is “a really fun place to be.”

Karen Ibasco, representing Manila City, admitted she also felt scared, but changed her opinion when she arrived here. “Don’t just settle for what you see on the news… You have to come and experience the Philippines. You have to capture it with the lenses of your eyes,” Ibasco said.

Agnes Mygelle Tolentino, of Marilao, Bulacan, said she wanted to experience what is Mindanao like under Martial Law as she was told by her elders that it is different from what they had gone through in the past.

When the candidates stepped out of the airport, Tolentino said she was overwhelmed by the warm welcome given them by the locals.

“There were banners welcoming us. We were like celebrities. It was a great feeling, it was so special,” she said.

Tolentino said she will bring her experience in Misamis Oriental to her hometown and assure them that there is nothing to fear here.

Makati City representative Rheena Rae Ferrer said she had no regrets joining the Misamis Oriental visit. “My first impression was the lushness of the place. There were lots of trees. It’s so different from Makati,” Ferrer added.

Unlike her fellow candidates, Cheysen Capuno, a petroleum engineer by profession and a blogger from Dauin, Negros Oriental, she was actually eager to come to Mindanao.

“I was not afraid. I was actually excited. This is a one-of-a-kind experience, traveling here in Mindanao under Martial Law,” Capuno said.

Provincial Governor Yevgeny Vicente Emano said the province is so peaceful he didn’t have to request for more law enforcers to ensure the candidates are safe.

“I leave it to the police. I trust them to keep the ladies secured,” Emano said.

He said the provincial government has asked the Ms Philippines Earth 2017 organizers to bring some of its candidates to Misamis Oriental.

“We invited them to see how peaceful Misamis Oriental is,” Emano added. (PNA)

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