What do Miriam Quiambao, Charlene Gonzales, Jennifer Barrientos and Janine Tugonon have in common?
Aside from representing the Philippines in Miss Universe, they all earned their respective undergraduate degrees in UST.
The University of Santo Tomas has “produced more beauty queens than any other school in the Philippines”, the now controversial entertainment columnist Ricky Lo once wrote in his Philippine Star column, quoting beauty expert and UST alumnus Felix Manuel.
The dean’s list
To prove this claim, Manuel and his fellow experts came up with a list of Thomasian titleholders. (Click this to see full list: UST has most number of beauty queens)
Some of the notable Thomasian representatives to Miss Universe are Charlene Gonzalez (1994), Miriam Quiambao (1999) and Janine Tugonon (2012). Evangeline Pascual, Miss World 1973 first runner-up, is also a Thomasian. Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman was studying in UST when she first joined Binibining Pilipinas.
Pageant culture in UST
Why UST has produced so many pageant kings and queens is unquestionable, mainly because pageants have been ingrained in the Thomasian culture since time immemorial. In fact, pageants are among the major projects of most academic societies and student councils in UST.
Each degree programs under the colleges hold their mini pageants (comparable to Regional pageants like Miss Tachira in Venezuela) to choose their representatives to the college-wide pageant (which is like the national pageants such as BBP, Miss USA, Miss Venezuela). The winners of the local pageants then head on to represent their colleges in the “international” level (a la Miss Universe) ¬– the Mr and Miss UST.
Started more than three decades ago, the Search for the Ideal Thomasian Personalities (formerly known as Mr and Ms UST) has been an annual event in the campus.
Rowena Castro, former advider of UST’s Student Organizations Coordinating Council said in a Varsitarian report that “the criteria for the contest are continuously refined so that the contest would hew more closely to the identity and mission of UST” — the reason the contest was rechristened the ‘Search for the Ideal Thomasian Personality.’”
Just like any other pageants, UST beauty contests also include photo shoots. Larger-than-life tarpaulin panels showing the candidates dominate the hallways of buildings a week before the big night. To show that the candidates are indeed the “ideal” Thomasian students, the contests have pre-pageant activities like essay writing, uniform modeling, eco wear fashion show and talent showcase, among others.
Most beauty queen handlers even storm the UST local pageants to look for their girls to send in national pageants such as Binibining Pilipinas and Miss Philippines Earth.
But not all Thomasians like this “culture”.
Winners are supposed to reflect the ideal Thomasian student, promoting the USTs “3 Cs,” referring to the Thomasian values of competence, commitment and compassion.
Critics claim the contest “goes against the very spirit of Thomasian values because it is nothing but a vanity trip and pure crass commercialism. It’s just a contest of show-biz wanna-be’s.”
Despite the criticisms, there is no doubt that pageant culture in UST has contributed to the Philippines’ beauty “powerhouse” status.
Photos were grabbed from the Internet