New queens (from left) Mutia-Agrikultura Shaira May Soria, Mutia ti La Union Divina Marie Villanueva, and Mutia-Turismo Fe Ladyma Abacco face members of local and national media organizations in their first press conference as winners./ARMIN P. ADINA
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, La Union, Philippines —What coronavirus?
The country’s penchant for beauty pageants trumped any fear of contracting COVID-19, as the 2020 Mutia ti La Union pushed through amid the cancellation and postponement of bigger events in recent days, among them the Department of Tourism’s Shopping Festival this month and Baguio City’s Panagbenga Festival in February.
Local and international artists have likewise canceled their concerts here and elsewhere in Asia where COVID-19 cases have been rising.
But the 2020 Mutia ti La Union pageant did not budge, and kicked off the event with the parade of 20 beauty contenders before an audience of about 5,000 at the Poro Point Baywalk in this city on Monday night.
To further draw a crowd to this event that highlighted the province’s 170th foundation anniversary, the local government invited 2018 Miss Universe Catriona Gray to head the panel of judges, which also included 2011 Miss Universe third runner-up and Miss Universe Philippines national director Shamcey Supsup-Lee, and actor Marco Gumabao.
Hosts Billy Crawford, Robbie Domingo, 2010 Miss Universe fourth runner-up Venus Raj, and singer-actor Iñigo Pascual added star wattage to the event. “We join the global community in prayer for those who continue to work to address the impacts of all these events,” La Union Gov. Francisco Emmanuel “Pacoy” Ortega III said in his speech, referring to the global health crisis brought on by the coronavirus.
For newly crowned Mutia ti La Union-Turismo Fe Ladyma Abacco of the town of Rosario, the pageant serves as “a platform to tell the world that we are coronavirus-free.”
Sudipen’s Divina Marie Villanueva, who bested 19 other aspirants for the top title of Mutia ti La Union, noted that “the local government [was] taking extra precautions” to ensure the people’s health and safety.