By Dan E. Nino
Alyssa Lauren Veloria Soto, representing Assn. of Mangatarem Overseas Residents (AMOR) of Southern California was crowned as Miss Pangasinan-USA in a scintillating Beauty Pageant that coincided with Pangasinan Brotherhood-USA’s 35th Anniversary Foundation Gala Night at the Embassy Suites Anaheim-South near Disneyland.
Miss Soto, 20, a junior Pre-Med student at California State University-San Marcos also won the Miss Photogenic category and Evening Gown competition.
What most likely earned the judges’ nod was her straightforward and articulate response to a judge’s question: “With the standard of beauty being portrayed as fair or light skin in a Beauty Pageant like Miss Pangasinan-USA, what message would you convey to girls who don’t fit this standard?”
Miss Soto’s instant reply was: “Throughout my childhood, I was constantly being bullied because I was either too short, my hair was too long and thick or too curly, my skin wasn’t clear, and yes I was either too dark or too light skinned. My message to girls that face this problem and to anyone for that matter is you should not be judged by the color of your skin. True beauty comes from within. What makes you beautiful is your ability to portray yourself in a positive light, the way you carry yourself as a person and the content of your character. This is what beauty is (pointing to her heart) not the color of your skin.”
Soto’s supporters erupted with applause. The Gala Night was attended by close to 500 guests.
The newly-proclaimed Miss Pangasinan-USA was crowned by PB-USA President Eddie C. Ferrer and outgoing Miss Pangasinan-USA Jazmyn Dela Cruz Bacani. The morning after the event, Miss Soto remarked, “I had an awesome time at the event and had a ton of fun participating in the pageant. All the girls were very friendly and we all got along backstage. I made new friendship. Looking forward to representing PB-USA as Ambassador of Goodwill.”
One beauty candidate was also heard that she wants to participate again in the next PB-USA Beauty Pageant.In fact the event had created a meaningful bonding among the beauty candidates (win or loss) which generated a wholesome aura of friendship and what PB-USA stands for.
Miss Soto who performed an Indian-themed Bollywood dance routine in the Talent competition is a scion of two rich cultures. Her father Jerry Soto is of Puerto Rican ancestry while her mother is a Pangasinense. The family resides in Poway, San Diego County.
Proclaimed as Miss Unity was MariaIlen Mandapat Estrada, 23, who also won the National Costume award and Talent competition performing hip hop dance routine to the music of Bruno Mars’ “Treasure.” The huge hall was enlivened as Estrada’s supporters cheered lustily everytime her name was called.
Melissa Marie Caringal, 21,the bet of The Original Urdanetanians who performed a Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” impersonation in the Talent competition was proclaimed as Miss Hope.
Charisse Lim Maravilla, 23, of Dagupan City Club of Southern California who performed a reprise of Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” was Miss Charity.
Brittany Paula Khoo, 22,representing Bayambang of Southern California who performed a Filipino folk dance “Kadal” was Miss Peace.
Consul General Hellen Barber-Dela Vega whose husband Bing Dela Vega was also a past president of PB-USA spoke briefly about the burning issues of the day. She shared : “These days, I know that many may frown or even be dismayed by developments happening in the Philippines in the last four weeks or so, with the country’s vulnerabilities to so many natural calamities and the controversial pork barrel issue. And people helplessly and hopelessly comment, wala na talagang pag-asaang Pilipinas. So, I thought it is my job, as Philippine Consul General, to place things in perspective, both national and global.”
“President Aquino understands the scourge of corruption. The Aquino leadership made sure that a culture of integrity, accountability and transparency is being institutionalized. The government has taken a two-pronged approach: One is to establish a culture of accountability among those in public service and two is to soundly manage the nation’scoffers, which includes both ensuring prudent disbursement and that people’s money is used only for the benefit of the citizens. The results are obvious: revitalized institutions, confidence in what was once a struggling economy and greater opportunities opening up for the Filipino people. Our economy grew 6.6 percent in 2012 and 7.8 percent in the first quarter of 2013. Foreign Direct investment in April 2013 was recorded at $202 million, 61.6 higher than last year’s.”
She added : “the country is not hopeless. In fact, the country has awakened. All we need is for our overseas Filipinos to have faith in our people and country and our resiliency. We are a maturing democracy, and we are getting there.”
The Consul General also lauded PB-USA for consistently demonstrated its steadfast philanthropy through the years for its humanitarian endeavors and in large measure its collegiate scholarship program that has fulfilled the aspirations of intelligent youths in Pangasinan, who may not have been privileged to pursue their dreams due to poverty.
A huge chunk of the proceeds from the dinner-dance tickets and advertisements in the souvenir program are earmarked for the Scholarship Program of PB-USA which had so far sponsored 11 scholars from Pangasinan who enrolled in various colleges and universities in the province leading to a baccalaureate degree. Four had already graduated and seven are still pursuing their courses.
Bong Soriano of Bayambang was credited for successfully hosting the event’s program and beauty pageant. Leo Arce, a well-acclaimed movie and T.V. director and producer with assistance from wife Adele and children directed the Filipino-themed production and music that drew sentimental longings for the motherland.
PB-USA President Eddie C. Ferrer said the well-choreographed production was “designed and produced for the emergence of PB-USA’s youths with the reality that they will take over thereins of the organization someday.”
The five judges to the Beauty Pageant were Alvin Rosales Garces, a former ramp model and radio announcer for KISS FM Manila and now owns a financial consulting firm; Jennifer Mary Anol, a Human Resources staff for the City of Fullerton; Jimmy Velasco, owner of Manila Peninsula Restaurant in the City of Orange; Darv Dayondon, a women’s wear buyer, designer and stylist for foreign exchange clothing and Edward Malilim, writer, filmmaker and High School Math teacher and musician.