MANILA, Philippines — Lo and behold, Samantha is in Venezuela.
Before she left for her international pageant assignment, Samantha Ashley Lo, 2019 Binibining Pilipinas-Grand International, said, “some days are not gonna be your winning day and that’s OK, we’re all human. We’re allowed to have that day.”
The message may seem ominous now, considering what the beauty queen had gone through, being the subject of talk about a fake passport and being deported back to the Philippines.
More than a week after she left the country on Oct. 9, nothing had been heard of Lo. She had not been seen in photos posted on the Miss Grand International pageant’s official Facebook page, raising concern among Filipino contest followers.
But on Saturday, the pageant released a photo showing Lo in Caracas, wearing the “Philippines” sash. She was with fellow delegates and the pageant owner, Nawat Itsaragrisil.
Lo’s photo has also been included in the Thailand-based pageant’s online album used for a popularity poll, which will help a candidate earn a spot on the shortlist for “best in swimsuit.”
“I just take a minute and just think of all the things I’m thankful for. I just keep calm and then get back on my feet,” Lo, a 26-year-old nursing student, said in her sendoff press conference in Quezon City on Oct. 2.
On her recent case, Lo broke her silence through her Instagram account early Sunday.
“Despite what happened last week and the trauma that came with it, I have moved forward and pursued this journey, knowing that I did not intentionally commit any of the acts unfairly attributed to me,” she said.
A source with connections to the Philippine Embassy in France told the Inquirer on Oct. 12, three days after Lo’s original departure from Manila, that she was held at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris for carrying a fake passport.
Lo, who was born in Florida, claims to hold dual citizenship and carries passports issued by both the Philippines and the United States.
Another source based in Manila told the Inquirer that Lo was not able to carry a “transit visa” for her entry to Paris, where she was supposed to take a flight to Caracas.
The source assured the public that Lo was safe but refused to give any information on her whereabouts.
An insider said that before heading to Paris, Lo flew from Manila to Dubai first. Past Binibining Pilipinas winners, who took connecting flights and had layovers in countries other than the host venue of the international pageant, needed no transit visa.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that “Lo has no record in the DFA passport database and is continuing the process of ascertaining the facts of the case.”
In her Instagram post, Lo confirmed reports that she was detained in France and that she returned to Manila. Her “family and other well-meaning Filipinos” helped get her out of detention and secure a flight back to the Philippines, she said.
“My local organizer, who handled my travel preparations, failed to equip me with the proper transit visa that may have enabled me to complete my earlier trip to [Venezuela],” she said.
Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. has yet to issue a statement on the matter.
“When this is all over, I hope to bring home the crown and glory to the Philippines and our people,” Lo said in her social media post.
“I still struggle with the fear and the trauma of recent days — but I know there is a bigger picture here. And I will not let such fear silence me or deter me from the grand task ahead,” she continued.
Catriona Gray’s support
Reigning Miss Universe Catriona Gray has already showed her support for the beleaguered beauty.
“Slay them kweeeeeeeen [yellow heart emoji] such an inspiration [high five emoji] rise above all! And represent our country with pride! [Philippine flag emoji],” Gray, the 2018 Binibining Pilipinas Universe winner, said on social media.
Like Gray, Lo is a pageant veteran herself.
Before representing Cebu City in the 2019 Binibining Pilipinas pageant in June, she first competed for the 2017 Miss Mandaue title. She was crowned Bb. Cebu-Tourism in the inaugural Binibining Cebu pageant in 2017.
In 2018, she bagged the Best Model of the World-Philippines title in the Global Asian Model Philippines contest.
Lo is up against 59 other aspirants in the seventh edition of the Miss Grand International pageant.
Nicole Cordoves is, so far, the Philippines’ highest finisher in the contest, winning first runner-up in 2016.