Janina San Miguel, a former beauty queen crowned Bb. Pilipinas-World in 2008, recently revealed the risks young female contestants face within the beauty pageantry in the Philippines in a Singapore-based documentary series.
Channel News Asia’s flagship investigative program titled “Undercover Asia,” which is now on its seventh season tackled the violence, injustice and other social problems in various countries in Asia.
In its April 20 episode, Undercover Asia interviewed models who exposed how these lucrative pageants became hunting grounds for sexual predators for both men and female contestants.
San Miguel, one of the interviewees, bared that the indecent sexual propositions and the contest organizers’ rigid standards were the reasons she gave up her Binibining Pilipinas crown and her chance to represent the Philippines in the prestigious Miss World contest in 2008.
Back then, the 17-year-old neophyte beauty queen cited personal reasons including her grandfather’s death for suddenly backing out three months before the competition.
San Miguel recalled that during her training, she was disallowed from seeing her family and even barred her from using a phone or a laptop to contact them.
The organizers even thought of not informing her of her grandfather’s poor health.
“Accidentally, narinig ko na yung lolo ko nasa hospital na. Balak pa nilang di sabihin sakin na yung lolo ko mamamatay na because I’m in the middle of training. Ayaw nilang ma-distract ako,” San Miguel said.
She also recounted the times she received sexual favors after she won the Binibining Pilipinas crown.
“Noong nandoon na kami, sinabi na 3 million (pesos) for a one-night stand. ‘Yung 25 million (pesos), gagawin ka niyang girlfriend, bibigyan ka niya ng car, condo, resort, lahat,” San Miguel said in the interview.
“Ayun na nga yung maduming kalakaran nila. Andami talagang gustong maging girlfriend or wife ang isang beauty queen,” she added.
When asked of her perspective on these past events, San Miguel shared that she was not happy.
“Nakuha ko na yung experiences. Other than that, wala na. To tell you honestly, I’m really not happy during that time,” she said.
Eight years ago, San Miguel made online buzz because of her confusing “My family” remark during the question and answer portion of the Binibining Pilipinas competition. This became the subject of memes.
In the interview, the former beauty queen shared that she now works as a call center representative and that she’s happy with her married life.
‘Do away with beauty pageants’
When CNA published a report on the ugly truth of pageants on June 6, Filipino online users commended San Miguel for her courage in breaking her silence about it.
Others expressed anger for the horrible situations the young participants go through just to get in pageants.
Something for your rage this morning: Former beauty queen Janina San Miguel—yes, of "My Family" meme fame—comes forward with the real reasons she quit pageantry. This included sexual propositions, one worth ₱3 million for a one night stand. She was 17. https://t.co/0sE9xHYS69
— Regine Cabato (@RegineCabato) June 8, 2020
Twitter user @sosyolohija aired that San Miguel’s experience convinced her more to remove the popularity of beauty pageants in the country.
“Janina San Miguel should be remembered more for her bravery to speak up about sexual abuse in the pageant world, to return her crown, and turn her back on an abusive industry,” she said.
“ANGER. SHAME. Now more convinced that we should do away with beauty pageants,” she added.
In 2018, at least three candidates of Miss Earth beauty pageant came forward and accused a sponsor of sexual harassment during their visit in the Philippines. These sexual misconduct allegations were reported by news outlets both here and abroad.
The country’s “need for heroes” was one of the main reasons for Filipinos’ beauty pageant obsession, according to a professor from the University of the Philippines who was interviewed in the episode.
“I think in this country we are in dire need of heroes. It made people realize that somebody who comes from a far-flung area in the Philippines can probably stand a chance of making it with the rest of the world,” professor Jose Wendell Capili said.