Beauty Queen Spotlight: Janicel Lubina, Slimmers’ World Miss Bikini Philippines 2013!
I can clearly remember the first time I saw Janicel Lubina – it was during the Long Gown competition of Slimmers’ World Miss Bikini Philippines 2013. She floated on stage in a silvery white gown that made her cocoa-tinged skin glow. Her hair was up in a towering bun and she just stole the limelight. I thought to myself – I think I know who’s going to win this pageant. If it isn’t contestant #22, I’d have a fit!
When pageant night came, #22 Janicel Lubina did win the crown as well as the key award – Best in Long Gown. I was yelling like a hooligan in the audience when they announced her as the winner because she was my choice; she was my Cinderella.
POOREST OF THE POOR
Janicel says she comes from the poorest of the poor in Palawan. The town she grew up in, Narra, is a 2-hour drive from the island’s capital, Puerto Princesa. Her home is a ramshackle hut with no chairs, curtains, or beds. At night, she curls up on a bamboo pallet that is half her height. There is no floor to speak of. Not even a single picture frame. Janicel says that her father Constantino Lubina, a gasoline boy and her mom, Nida, a house-helper never had enough to buy a camera. They never were interested in such things anyway. Survival on one meal a day was the mode and every single centavo they earned almost always went straight to that meal.
Because they also didn’t have a TV, Janicel would sneak off into her neighbor’s home to watch her favorite shows. She particularly loved watching the Bb. Pilipinas beauty pageant but her neighbors would often shoo her away. This didn’t stop her from daydreaming about a beauty queen life. “Nakatulala lang ako minsan, ini-imagine ko na beauty queen ako. O di kaya mayaman ako. Pero madalas iniisip ko din na paano kaya kung forever nalang ako mahirap.”
She smiles shyly and adds, “Mahilig talaga ako mag-imagine ng kung anu-ano. Pero wala akong lakas-loob noon na habulin ang mga pangarap ko. Pangit ako, maitim. Baduy pa. Ang tawag sa akin ng mga classmate kong lalake ay ‘tikbalang’ dahil mas mataas ako sa kanila.”
But the 5’8½” beauty laughs saying she’s forgiven them. “Naku po, nahihiya daw sila dahil di nila akalain na magiging beauty queen ako! Pero hindi ako galit sa kanila, ok na ako ngayon.”
THE ‘TIKBALANG’ BECOMES A TEEN QUEEN
Janicel Lubina’s simple life took a major, major U-turn when she was spotted by Palawan make-up artist Romeo “Ruffa” Flores who brought her to Thom Favila, a young talent manager who is a top trainer of Palawan beauty queens. Thom told me that Janicel did not even know how to answer basic questions and would just sit there and cry out of confusion.
“Kahit simpleng tanong, di niya masagot. Pero sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Janicel, alam kong hindi ka bobo. Kaya mo ‘to. I-te-train kita.'” And so Thom started teaching her about the issues of the day, like – education, the environment, women’s rights, child labor, politics, etc. – concepts that Janicel hardly knew. But there was one issue that she was very familiar with – poverty.
Which is what she attributes her 21-inch waistline to. She often jokes that people should try the ‘poverty diet’ if they want to get thin. I shake my head at the joke; although she is laughing, my heart is breaking. I cannot imagine myself or anyone living off one frugal meal a day or less. But I guess it becomes easy to laugh at poverty once you’ve overcome it.
And Janicel is, indeed an over-comer. After winning 2 provincial pageants, the Baywalk Bodies 2012 and Mutya ng Palawan 2012, she flew to Manila to join Miss Scuba Philippines 2012. She won that pageant and got the chance to represent the Philippines in the Miss Scuba International 2013 in Bali, Indonesia. It was the first time for Janicel Lubina to step on a plane and visit another country! In spite of her ‘newbie-ness’ Janicel gave it her best and finished in the Top 5 of that international pageant. Not bad for a promdi from Palawan!
WINNING SLIMMERS’ WORLD MISS BIKINI PHILIPPINES 2013
Thom told Janicel that she needed to get abs if she wanted to win Slimmers’ World Miss Bikini Philippines 2013. “Ang diet niya, simple lang, basta no rice. Every morning and every night, sit-ups hanggang ma-pagod. Tapos gym.” By March 2013, they were in Manila for the screening but they were deep in debt. They had borrowed P60,000 for their fare and other expenses, a huge gamble because if she lost then how would they pay it back?
But in the end it all worked out well. Janicel had the best body and the sleekest moves in her batch of beauties and was judged the winner of Miss Bikini Philippines 2013. With her cash prize, she was able to pay off the debt and even send money home to support the studies of her 3 brothers. The victory also gave her another chance to compete abroad, at the Miss Bikini International 2013 in China later this year.
But not everything is perfect in Janicel’s new beauty queen life. Soon after she won, some people started complaining that she didn’t deserve it because she didn’t have the best answer. But Thom has this to say. “Bilang mentor ni Janicel, happy ako sa performance niya. Hindi nila kasi alam kung saan siya galing. Kung nakita lang nila ang improvement ni Janicel, ma-aapreciate nila ang pagkapanalo niya.”
Janicel, herself, tries to stay positive amidst the criticism. After her interview on Bandila with Boy Abunda, someone commented online wondering how a ‘katulong‘ can win Miss Bikini Philippines.
“Tutoo naman talaga, katulong ako noon,” Janicel admits. She explains that as a child she would assist her Mom who was a house-helper. “Taga-laba din ako, taga-linis. Yun ang buhay ko noon.” But she isn’t letting the comment bother her too much. “Ambisyosa kasi ako at mataas ang pangarap ko,” she proudly insists.
Speaking of dreams – her ultimate goal is to win Bb. Pilipinas Universe. “Yun talaga ang goal namin,” Thom says. In fact, when Janicel was in the middle of competing in Miss Bikini Philippines, they snuck off to Araneta Coliseum to watch Bb. Pilipinas Gold Edition because she was dying to watch it live. Who was Janicel’s choice among the contestants? “Ang favorite ko si Mutya Datul. Sobrang happy ako, nanalo siya sa Supranational title!” Janicel hopes that one day she’ll be just like Mutya and walk the stage as a Bb. Pilipinas winner.
MY CINDERELLA BARBIE DOLL
Life is amazingly different now for my Cinderella from Palawan.
On her 18th birthday, Janicel received her first-ever birthday cake and gift-wrapped presents. Thom says they had very little money at the time but he was able to scrounge up a Goldilocks cake and some food to celebrate with friends. Janicel got misty-eyed and said, “umiyak ako noon kasi never ako nagkaroon ng birthday party sa buong buhay ko. Kahit dress, magandang sapatos, laruan o Barbie, never ko na-experience yun. So na-touch ako sa cake at sa mga regalo. Ang sarap ng feeling!”
It also must feel good for a girl who never had nice clothes or childhood photos to become a fashion endorser and brand ambassadress. Janicel Lubina recently signed up with Crissa Jeans so we’ll be seeing her soon in advertisements and who knows, maybe a billboard or two!
Aside from that gig, she’s been busy modeling (she was featured in the most recent Fashion Week) and doing photo shoots. On June 19, 2013, she’ll be back in Palawan to take part in a fund-raising fashion show at the Skylight Convention Center. She hopes the money they raise will help girls like her reach their dreams in life.
But she won’t be staying in Palawan for too long. Janicel Lubina will be back in Manila to pursue her studies (she wants to take up English! Ambisyosa, talaga!) with the help of a scholarship at a local college. She will also be training hard for the Miss Bikini International which will be held in China in November 2013.
At the end of our converstaion, Janicel asked this former beauty queen for advice and here’s what I told her – it’s not about the crown, it’s about your character. Stay humble and you will be lifted up. Train hard and you will succeed. Care for others and you will be loved. Love God and the blessing is yours.
NOTE*** If anyone needs a translation of the Pilipino parts of the interview into English, leave a holler in the comments section.