Unification News for
The Thrilla in Manila: Mr. & Miss University Pageant 1997
by Katya Plaksina-St Petersburg, Russia
There are a lot of places this 19 year old Russian student never thought she would visit and one of them was the Philippines. For Russians, the Philippines islands are very exotic, a tropical wonderland, most unattainable, home to very beautiful and handsome people who have dark shining eyes and white friendly smiles. I experienced this most directly in 1996 when in Tokyo, to may great astonishment, I won the crown of Miss University 1996, and my co-winner was a very handsome, intelligent young man with a sparkling personality, Frederick Galang, from the Philippines. Sharing the stage with him was his compatriot, Tara O'Nil, Miss University Philippines 1996. They impressed everyone. So this year the competitors of 21 nations gathered in the Philippines to be embraced and impressed by people from this hospitable country. I and Frederick Galang met again, this time to give our crowns of Mr. & Miss University of the World to the new winners.
This year the new Miss University of the world is from Kenya, Miss Carolle Maina. She attends Catholic University of Eastern Africa. One of her hobbies is fashion modeling. Her life motto is "To be upset over what you do not have is a waste of time." Her future plans are to further her LL.B. degree, be a positive contributor to her nation by taking leadership roles in society, aspiring the Presidency of Kenya
Mr. University of the World is from Brazil, Mr. Diego Costa. He is a musician, singer and song writer. He plays in a band. He lives in Curitiba city, in the state of Parana, and attends Catholic University of Parana. His future life-goal is "To form a strong and beautiful family."
This year Russia has a new Miss University. Her name is Mrina Spirina. She is from Ekaterinaburg and studies at the Ural State University. On December 7 she and I arrived in Manila, Philippines after an arduous flight from Moscow where Siberian winds had blown Moscow down to minus 30 degrees Celsius (-20 F)! We walked off the plane in Manila in plus 30 C (90 F)! We went from the deepest Moscow winter to mid-summer Philippines. Wow! They used to temper Russian swords this way, but instead of pounding us with hammers they showered us with love. A happy Philippine delegation welcomed us with flowers. They gave us sashes proclaiming "Ms. University" and "Ms. Russia." We wore these sashes everywhere. We had a busy 9 days of special appearances and pageant events. When people saw us on the street, complete strangers would joyfully shout over to us words of one famous song (but unknown for me) "From Russia with love". We were so taken aback by our celebrity status. Where ever I went, even the grocery store, I was the center of attention. I would walk along the street and see my own picture in posters on walls. People would call over to me, "Hello Miss Russia!". One of our Filipino guides named Dan said that whenever he would lose track of one of us in the market he would look to where a crowd of people were starring and there would be the lost Mr. or Miss University. All through the city of Manila, where ever we went, we could see in the shop windows posters for the Pageant, inviting people to attend the main event, the Talent Contest and Crowning Ceremony. It was so amazing to me that my own smiling face was looking back at me from so many shop windows. But I was glad that the event could be so popular in Philippines.
From the very first minute we felt a lot of care from two young Philippino women - Lily and Jasmine. You know with some people, when you first meet them, you feel as if you have known them already for a long time. Whenever we needed help (and we all the time needed help), Jasmine and Lily were always there. Not only they cared for us but so did many students from the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principle, the Philippines student organization which co-sponsored the Mr. & Miss University Pageant. The motto of the Philippines people could be the word MABUHAY! At the same time it is the meaning of their national character: It means, "I'm always happy to see you and you are welcome."
This year 37 contestants came. This 20th year of the Pageant saw by far more countries represented than any of the previous pageants. Shown on Phillipines TV, and reshown on television in other nations as well, the Mr. & Miss University Pageant has become a world class event. The 21 countries represented were: Korea, Latvia, Kenya, Croatia, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Hungary, Taiwan, Thailand, USA, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Romania, Tanzania, China, Nepal, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and of course, Philippines.
If you ever tried to get a visa you may know that on our solitary spherical planet we are separated by many barriers. It can be just external boundaries or differences in languages, customs, cultures, and national peculiarities. We could spend our whole lives meeting new people and getting to know and appreciate their special lives, loves and outlooks. (In fact I think I will.) And while we spend our lives exploring our little planet, a speck of dust in the universe, we travel another inexhaustible universe. It is the adventure of the inner Self. That, I believe, is an equal and corresponding adventure to world travel and meeting new people to love as our friends. It turns out that, if you cannot conquer inner space, then a lifetime of travelling could easily end up to be nothing more than meandering. So I was exploring my Self, driven by a curiosity about my own thoughts and feelings, my memories of the Tokyo Pageant in 1996, my blind spots over the last year, my strengths and my weaknesses.
It is in this realm of the adventure of the inner Self that the Mr. & Miss University Pageant excels and is like no other beauty pageant in the world. The emphasis is on inner beauty, as well as external beauty. This doesn't mean that the entrants were not beautiful. They were exquisite; yet all the more so because the judges in their home countries chose them for their inner beauty as well. An audience of 3000 very excited Filipinos filled the PICC Plenary Hall. In the judges panel sat the Philippine Commissioner of Higher Education, 3 ambassadors, and representatives of the arts, media, and charity organizations. So in front of this celebrating audience and solemn judges we fielded questions. The answers to these questions will determine the future quality of life of humankind; questions designed to test our internal character and moral strength. "Do see any clear way to help young people overcome sexual immorality?" "What in your view is the best way a young person can prepare for marriage?" "What do you think of unmarried couples living together?" "What do you think of sex before marriage?" "What do you think is the best way to prevent the spread of AIDS?" These can only be answered by people who have been traveling on the inner adventure.
The inner and external adventures met in each one of us as 37 young people, with their whole lives before them, each probably an influential leader of the future, came together in the loving home of our Philippines family, and understood each other, and understood our Selves. And the great victory was; We overcame the barriers. Without our understanding that the center of the human being's nature is the heart, it wouldve been impossible to do. If I, from the bottom of my heart, I want to understand another person, and love her or him, then it is possible to achieve unity between even seemingly incompatible people. I believe this. I see it everyday in my hometown surroundings, and I tested it in Japan and Philippines. (Let me tell you, it is not easy for a Russian girl like me to travel abroad. Besides visas there are economic barriers. So I am grateful to the Mr. & Miss University Pageant for these precious opportunities afforded me.) We each have the same Origin, we live under one sun, under one God and it's my dream that my children will grow up beautifully in the Century of freedom, peace, unification, and happiness. I want my children to be surrounded by one global family. I had a special feeling that we were young people of the next generation and we will definitely impact the world's future for the better.
One interesting thing I always see at such international gatherings, the same when foreigners come to Russia, is that for many special people it really doesn't matter if they know your language or not. For the Pageant it is really a plus to know English, which is the language of the Pageant. Though we contestants had each studied English in class, it doesn't mean we can actually understand it or speak it! Our participants from Japan, Daisuke Nishioka and Junko Chiba; they really had a hard time with English, but still managed to communicate just fine. It seems the most friendly people were the ones who actually couldn't speak English. Any misunderstanding became a point of fun, interest and of deeper understanding. We became very good friends with the Koreans, Mr. In Young Choi and Ms Seo Hwanyoung. Neither one was very proficient in English, but they could communicate with others better than most of us. How this is done is hard to explain. There is a language of the spirit using the emotions such that, if you have the required determination, with the determination of strong will, and the confidence and happy peace that comes from growing up in love, people can communicate without language. We could devise many games and jokes playing with each other's names, comparing meanings in each other's languages and making up fun and interesting nicknames for each other. For example it is difficult for Korean people to pronounce and remember my name, "Katya". But one time In Young said to Seo, "Kaijou" which means "Lets go." I thought they were talking to me. We had a good laugh over that and afterward my name became "Kaja." It fit because we were busy all the time, always on the go.
As the reigning Miss university, I looked over the new contestants with interest and concern. Their beautiful hearts brought me much joy. I felt as a helpful and caring elder sister, sometimes even their mother, and I was actively working with the staff to make the event a success. The contestants had fun together. In the week long events of the pageant there was not much time to be frivolous. In working together we could understand each others sincerity. We found the language of heart. There is always a way. Just look for it. And where there is love, there is always a way.
It's exactly what the winner of this Beauty Pageant, Diego Costa, from Brazil sang in his talent presentation, "All we need is love...", which he says is the motto of his life. We became one family because the atmosphere was full of friendship, understanding and care. And we realized that we do not need a contrived environment like an annual Mr. & Miss University Pageant to make this happen. We each left for our countries eager to multiply at home what we had gained. We want to be examples of purity and righteous for young people. We want to encourage them to prepare to overcome lifes problems and to prepare themselves for the responsibilities of being spouses and parents. They need to study what it takes to make strong and healthy families. If that is not successful, then their lives cannot be successful in the full sense.
Through this we realized that unity and peace among nations are possible, not a dream. Our visions for the future were strengthened, and more, than 3000 people in the viewing audience and the 100s of thousand who watched the television broadcast - they too could feel the heart and catch the vision.
Each person I met in the Philippines took up residence in my heart so now I miss each of them. I'll always keep beautiful memories of these precious days we spent together. At the end Diego Costa composed a beautiful song "We Don't Have to Say Goodbye".
Katya Plaksina lives in St Petersburg, Russia and is a second year student in the Faculty of Cultural Education and Entertainment at the St Petersburg State Academy of Culture.
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