by Bench Bello (@benchbello)
Lesley Anne Englis Ticaro is one of the candidates at Binibining Pilipinas 2021 who made it to the Top 10 Best in National Costume. Her NatCos is dubbed ‘Waling-waling, Queen of Philippine Orchids’ designed by Mark Joseph Sayad.
Here is my exclusive interview with Miss Lesley Ticaro.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I am Lesley Anne Englis Ticaro. I am 27 years old. I am a graduate of Bachelor of Secondary Education major in English at the University of Southeastern Philippines. Now, I am a professional public school teacher. I teach subjects like Personality Development and English for Academic and Professional Purposes to senior high school students. I have gotten into pageantry to pursue my dream of becoming a Binibini. I have yearned to be a part of the organization that has been the beacon for the Filipina beauty all throughout the years. As the previous years have made us witness, beauty pageants especially Binibining Pilipinas has become that vessel for Filipina beauty queens to create impacts and ripple effects in their endeavors or the advocacies they are pushing for.
How can you influence the youth that pageant is a good platform?
Pageants make your voice louder. Pageants, in a way or the other, validate you as a person. Pageants allow you to effect changes that you might not be able to do if you are just on your own.
Simply put, pageants allow me, for example, to bring light or attention to specific advocacies close to my heart. With pageant more people will listen to me and my advocacy. Hence, more people will become aware of the issues I am trying to shed a light to and hopefully act on them alongside me. These thoughts in my mind are I think helpful points that I can share to the youth so I can tell, show, and let them feel that pageant is, if not best, a good platform.
What can you say about social media nowadays?
There is beauty in everything; it’s just a matter of looking at things in the perspective of kindness. I am not blind about the harm and horrors in social media. I know that in these platforms are
predators lurking around waiting for their preys to take the bait. Cyberbullying is very prevalent among these platforms as well. Also, social media has also become a channel for hate speeches, slurs, inequalities, judgments, etc. I think many people have already forgotten the idea that social media are made to bring people closer together. I am a firm believer that the virtual community that social media also foster is geared towards cultural understanding, effective communication, welfare for all, and bringing up awareness. Social media has created a culture for younger generations to express themselves more so let us help one another in nurturing it in the light of positivity, authenticity, and equity. Let us be reminded that social media is not a garbage dump. Rather, it is a ground where we can plant kindness and let it grow; nurture it so a fruitful community, we can sow.
What inspired you to promote your advocacy?
In my first year of being a public-school teacher, I was assigned in a far-flung area. The school’s population is an integration of lumads and mainlanders. When the time for homeroom parent-teachers meeting came, I was asked to cover for my co-teacher who was tasked to go to town to submit important school documents. I was not doing out of the ordinary – I instructed the parents to fall in line for the attendance before they will take a seat inside the classroom. Then, I come across this elderly who was accompanied by her daughter. I was wondering why and to my unfortunate surprise the elderly does not know how to write her name. Her daughter was there to write everything for her and the elderly was just there to affix her signature. I cannot fathom the idea that there are still those who do not know how to write even their own names. That one moment opened my eyes to the sad reality that there are still members of the indigenous cultural communities that need functional literacy. That memory never left in my mind that is why I am pushing for functional literacy for indigenous cultural communities. I want our indigenous brothers and sisters to know that they are gems in our society and that they are not left behind. And as a professional teacher, literacy is absolutely within my scope. With my experiences as a teacher in rural areas, I want to navigate the ways on how we can strengthen the programs that will benefit the indigenous people especially in the aspect of functional literacy.
What are the lessons that you’ve learned from this pandemic?
The pandemic taught me to discern and recognize what is important. The isolation brought forth by the global phenomena made me acknowledge the people and the things the matter the most to me. As the world was put in a halt, I was able to gain a perspective of looking on things that needed fixing and bringing more light on. At this time of the pandemic, many people are making social media an extension of their anger, distraught, and disgust. Also, the social media platform has made to be the primary avenue for fake news to proliferate even further. This provoked me to push for media literacy being a branch of functional literacy.
Furthermore, the pandemic taught me that people, especially our indigenous brethren, need more stringent and holistic health care system. Needless to say, this has become my reason to voice
information regarding health literacy which is another important part of functional literacy.
If there is one thing that you want to share about the current situation, what would it be?
The worldwide situation pertaining to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is disheartening and discouraging. Many lives have been spared. Many economies tilted towards unfavorable status.
Many dreams are put on hold if not absolutely set aside. In the Philippines, the pandemic has caused many turmoils that tested the Filipino spirit. Many Filipinos died. Many of our kababayans lost their jobs. And surely the pandemic put a lot of difficult challenges in our education system. But despite all of this, the Filipino resiliency still and will prevail. Now more than ever, the unwavering Filipino spirit to overcome any obstacle must be celebrated.
Can you tell us about your pageant journey, especially in Binibining Pilipinas?
My Binibining Pilipinas journey was absolutely not easy but every obstacle along the way made my experience even more worthy of learning from. I embarked on the journey as an independent
candidate. So, most of the decision-making has to be done by me. I would note that I have my own team who was very patient and collaborative. We have our own humble ideas that will make my journey not so bumpy and I am very thankful for them.
Your National Costume caught our attention, can you tell us about it?
My national costume which is named, “Waling-waling” was actually a piece from the dream of my designer, Mark Joseph Sayad. Prior to my Binibini journey, he said that he has this recurring dream of the Queen of the Philippine Orchids and the indigenous people. So, when I expressed my intent to rejoin Binibini and told him about my advocacy relating to the functional literacy of the indigenous cultural communities, he took it as a universal sign. He then started sketching the waling-waling in his dreams to be the actual couture piece and he incorporated the IP in his dreams which are again central to my advocacy. It was as if my designer’s dream and expertise and my cause have collided in that costume. So, it is really meaningful.
Regarding the costume itself, it was conceptualized to “transform”. The waling-waling petals can be considered at one point as regal background while on the other hand it can transform as a train.
While the petals are brought down to be a train, I can open the front portion of my skirt to reveal hand painted textiles from the tribes of Mindanao and the hand painted representation of some of the indigenous people in our region. The costume has impeccable bead works and crystals. Even though the gown is weighing 32 kilos, wearing it feels like light and easy for me because I know I am wearing a weaved dream and pride of my people.
Why do you deserve to win in this pageant?
I deserve to win the pageant because I persevered and I did not quit. I would like to believe that God has planted the dream of becoming a Binibini in me so I must fulfill it. The journey, which was
postponed for a year, made me summon a great deal of courage and willpower to continue. I have overcome quite a few battles because of this dream. With the challenges I championed, I believe I am deserving to be rewarded. Thus, I am deserving of a crown.
Your message to all the aspiring pageant enthusiasts.
Just like what I always tell my students – if you have a dream and if you think that dream will help you and your family then fight for it. If you want to pursue a career in the pageant industry, be sure to have a purpose. Be guided with that purpose all the time. If you will be steered away from your journey, your purpose will guide you back to the right path. Also, make sure that you are surrounded with the right people. The pageant industry is not for that faint of heart. People who can give you the right counsel are gems. They will become your light in times of darkness and doubts. Most importantly, always remember that a queen is no queen if she has no God. Dedicate your efforts in glorifying God.
After all, we are all nothing without Him.