Philippines wins Miss International 2013 in Japan with Citizenship problem; “I still can’t believe it!” Bea!

Bea Rose Santiago (C) of the Philippines is kissed by runner-up Nathalie den Dekker (L) of the Netherlands and second runner-up Casey Radley (R) of New Zealand after winning the Miss International Beauty Pageant in Tokyo on December 17, 2013. Photo by AFP

TOKYO: A Philippine beauty queen has been crowned Miss International in a pageant marred by allegations of intimidation that kept her predecessor away -- pledging to use her title to help victims of the country's devastating typhoon.

"This is my dream. Thank you Japan for giving it to me," an ecstatic Bea Rose Santiago said at the event, held late Tuesday in Tokyo.

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"I'm going to use my crown and my title to help the victims" of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which raked the Philippines last month, leaving nearly 8,000 people dead or missing.

"So this is actually for my province, and this is for the Philippines."

Santiago was selected from among 67 candidates representing countries and regions of the world.

In a break with pageant custom, she was crowned by Spain's 2008 Miss International and not by her immediate predecessor, who stayed away from the glitzy show.

"I really wanted to meet her," the new beauty queen said. "It was very unfortunate because I really wanted to meet last year's winner also."

Outgoing title-holder Japanese Ikumi Yoshimatsu told foreign journalists this week in Tokyo that she had been asked by organisers to stay away from the final.

Yoshimatsu said since winning she has faced a running battle to maintain her independence from the management agencies that form the backbone of Japan's entertainment industry.

She said a senior executive at one agency had been in touch with her on many occasions. After she had repeatedly rebuffed him, he telephoned the main sponsor of the Miss International competition, she said.

As a result, the Miss International office in Tokyo began "instructing me, to 'play sick,' 'keep quiet' and not to attend the world final pageant here in Tokyo... to pass on my crown to my successor," she said.

The organiser of the beauty pageant, Tokyo-based International Culture Association, did not return calls made by AFP.

A local tabloid magazine has reported the executive of the management agency denying he was carrying out any campaign of harassment, saying that he was involved in a separate dispute with Yoshimatsu's agent over money.

Bea Rose Santiago still feels surreal after victory

 Bea Rose Santiago still couldn't believe that she already holds the title Miss International 2013.

"I still can't believe it!" she said in an interview with Ginger Conejero for "Mornings @ ANC" Wednesday, December 18.

Bea was the last among the beauty queens who competed for an international title. First was Megan Young who won the Miss World 2013 title and Ariella Arida who finished third in the Miss Universe 2013 pageant.

Though she was the last, Bea said she didn't feel pressured for the competition since "everyone is so friendly." But felt more pressured for the speech she's going to have after the pageant.

She already prepared a speech "two months before the pageant" – which she says is about her journey growing up.

But after she visited the victims of typhoon Yolanda in Visayas, she thought that if ever she wins, the speech will be a good way to thank everyone who helped the country.

"After seeing Capiz, you know, I went there and it was heartbreaking," she said. "I was really inspired me, it opened my eyes and the turning point is when we went to the municipals hall of Roxas City and it is heartwarming seeing people from different countries there helping.

"From that point on, I was like definitely we need to say thank to everyone. So I made sure that my speech is not about me anymore, it's about the whole Philippines," she added.

When she comes back to the country, Bea hopes she will be able to visit more places which was affected by the super typhoon and "personally help them."

Problem with citizenship?

Meanwhile, Bea also clarified the reports that came out saying she was eyed for the Binibining Pilipinas- Universe, but it didn't push through due to some issues with her citizenship.

"For Binibining Miss Universe you have to stay here at least six months," she said, which in her case she returned in the country last year.

"But my passport doesn't have a stamp," she adds. "I don't know. But I don't really care right now, I won." She also commended Ariella for doing very well during the Miss Universe competition.

Since all eyes are on Bea now, some are curious if she's already in a relationship or dating anyone.

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"I'm single but not available," she replied followed by a laugh. "I'm seeing someone and we're seeing each other for quite a long time. But I'm still not ready for commitments coz my commitment right now is to focus on my advocacy."

At the end of the interview, the beauty queen from Masbate has nothing but words of gratitude for all the Filipinos who supported her before, during, and after the pageant.

"Salamat, maraming-maraming salamat sa nagsuporta sa akin and praying for me," she said.

"Actually, keep praying for the Yolanda victims because they need it more than I do. I got my prayers answered and I'm very thankful and happy. This is for the Philippines!"

With report from and philStar

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