MAKATI CITY, Philippines — She was proclaimed queen of public scholars when she bagged the Miss PASUC (Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges) crown in 2017, now Joy Barcoma aims for a bigger title—Miss World Philippines.
The former working student also took home the 2017 Miss Philippine Islands crown while pursuing her degree in broadcasting at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and finished second in the 2018 Miss Mandaluyong pageant.
Armed with commendable pageant experience, Barcoma gained enough confidence to aspire to become the country’s representative in the biggest and longest-running international beauty pageant in the world.
Barcoma sees the Miss World Philippines stage as a platform where she can effectively promote mental health awareness to a bigger audience, and hopes to take advantage of the global arena of the Miss World pageant to amplify her voice and further bring the matter to international consciousness, especially now that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted countless of people around the world.
“The reason I joined is to promote mental health literacy. We need to educate people, starting with our own families,” Barcoma told a select group of media scribes at a recent virtual conference.
“I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I thought I was okay, that it was normal,” she confessed.
Barcoma appealed to people to know their mental health status and urged others to listen and be more empathetic. She went on to discuss how a person’s mental health condition affects relationships with family and friends, and impacts performance in school and work.
“It’s something we need to take a good look at,” she continued.
She also noted how families of patients at the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) abandon their own loved ones seeking treatment.
“These people are already aware of the gravity, how much families affect healing. If they abandon their family, there is nothing more we can do. The best way is to educate everyone,” Barcoma explained.
She said building a holistic approach to the mental health situation in the country may elicit enough support from the people. “So that if the family can’t be there, then we can be there for them (abandoned NCMH patients),” Barcoma declared.
To further push this, Barcoma launched her “I’m Here” campaign to encourage community involvement by listening and being there for one another.
The movement also seeks the creation of safe spaces for people where they can seek professional help without the fear of any stigma associated with mental health illnesses.
The pageant scene, itself, is bereft of mental health “situations” where participants experience severe online bullying from fans of rival contestants.
“As beauty queens, we are in a competition, but we are not competing with each other,” Barcoma addressed the critics, urging them to observe magnanimity.
“We fight for the people we care about, the purpose we want to show. The crown is just a bonus,” she continued.
Barcoma once dreamed of looking at the world from outer space as an astronaut, now she dreams of conquering the world through a crown, while her feet are still firmly planted on the ground.
Barcoma competes with 44 other candidates in the 2021 Miss World Philippines pageant. The national competition took a break in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from the top title, the pageant will also bestow the following crowns: Miss Supranational Philippines, Miss Eco Philippines, Reina Hispanoamericana Filipinas, Miss Tourism Philippines, Miss Environment Philippines, and Miss Eco Teen Philippines.
The coronation night is scheduled to take place at the grand ballroom of Okada Manila in Parañaque City on July 25.