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Grounded, but reaching up to the universe



There are a lot of terms that go with “beauty queen,” but one of the most unlikely is “fish vendor.”

But that is exactly what 2012 Miss Universe Philippines Janine Tugonon does when she isn’t preoccupied with preparations for yet another beauty pageant and her other duties under the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc.

The 23-year-old licensed pharmacist and her boyfriend Jaypee peddle seafood in their respective subdivisions, a thriving business that Tugonon is proud to be part of.

“I’m very down-to-earth,” she said. “When I sell fish, I handle the goods myself, even the live ones,” the beauty queen from Orion, Bataan said, just before she flew to Las Vegas for the 2012 Miss Universe pageant where she won as first runner-up to Miss USA.

“When I return [from Miss Universe] we will go back to selling fish because it is good business,” she added.

Already, the couple have sealed deals with several stall owners in wet markets for their fish supply.  She has connections in Quezon province, Tugonon said, where Jaypee’s father hails from, and has made arrangements to source their merchandise from there to fill the need of their expanding market.

Tugonon and Jaypee, a software engineer in the company where she used to work, have been dating for eight months now.

As if to break once more the predictable mold of glamorous beauty queens, Tugonon confessed to another interest. “I want to study criminology,” she said. “When I was very young I wanted to become a doctor. But when I grew older, I wanted to do ’profiling’ for crimes and solve cases. That’s still my dream to this moment.”

In fact, she sees herself flashing a second degree in criminology before she hits her thirties. “I really want to study, if not here, maybe in the United States,” she said, eyes gleaming with determination.

THE POSE: Tugonon makes heads turn. PDI/Rodel Rotoni

Criminology and beauty pageants may seem worlds apart, but Tugonon finds a logical link between the two.

“Like criminology, joining pageants brings a certain thrill, the thrill of competing and finding out who the winner will be. I have that kind of personality, the kind that seeks something thrilling!” she explained.

Analyzing events and finding correlations between seemingly unrelated fields is easy for Tugonon, who credits her training as a pharmacist at the University of Santo Tomas for her critical thinking.

“Pharmacy is a course where you harness all aspects of intellect. I still possess the traits of analysis and critical thinking. Whatever you throw at me, I can adapt to it,” she said.

Lessons learned in college have come in handy now that she is a beauty queen, she said.  “The Miss Universe [pageant] allows you to meet a lot of people. There are events and circumstances where you have to deal with different kinds of personalities. The versatility and flexibility I developed really come in handy. Wherever Miss Universe may take me, I am sure to handle it,” added this titleholder who, like her predecessors 2010 Miss Universe fourth runner-up Venus Raj and 2011 Miss Universe third runner-up Shamcey Supsup, earned latin honors in college, being a cum laude graduate.

Raj was a cum laude Communication Arts graduate at the Bicol University while Supsup was a magna cum laude Architecture graduate at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Tugonon was also among the topnotchers in the licensure examination for pharmacists, just like Supsup who topped the architecture board exams.

But like Supsup, Tugonon was reluctant to join beauty contests and only did so on her mother’s prodding.

She had joined the Bb. Pilipinas Pageant in 2011 and ranked first runner-up to Supsup. To join the 2012 competition, she had to give up that runner-up title as her contract stipulates that her duties span a total of 18 months after the 2011 coronation night.


“If it were up to me, I’m definitely done with pageants. I just wanted to study again or work,” she recalled. “It was my mom who really pushed me. She said, ‘Join again because you will win.’”

She sighed. “If you were in my place, you wouldn’t believe it. Of course your mom will tell you you’ll win.”

Tugonon said she had to pray hard and ask God whether she should rejoin the national beauty pageant. “And I think He answered ‘yes, go ahead and do what I called you to do.’”

This strong faith in God is another trait that she shares with other titleholders, particularly Supsup. Both are vocal about it and are not afraid to declare their religious beliefs.

Supsup’s response during the 2011 Miss Universe pageant centered on her faith, while Tugonon similarly invoked her beliefs during the 2012 Binibining Pilipinas pageant in April.

During the national pageant’s question-and-answer round, Tugonon declared: “I believe that women have the right to choose… what they want. But for me, you’ll have to go for what God has called you to do, whatever it is… You must do what your purpose is in this world. Just have a child-like faith and mature obedience, and everything will go smooth(ly).” •

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Tags: Beauty Pageant , Janine Tugonon , Ms Universe , Sunday Inquirer Magazine

  • Echuserang_Froglet

    gurl, hindi dapat ikaw ng sa sabi na d down to earth ka kundi ibang tao noh. infer maganda ka naman talaga so gora lang.

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