MAKATI CITY, Philippines—Several studies have pointed out that one of the things people miss doing because of the COVID-19 pandemic is getting out of the city to travel. Recognizing this, a “new normal” pageant hopes to help highlight the country’s tourist destinations to attract individuals itching to make their “revenge travel” once the global health crisis ends or restrictions loosen.
“Every time there’s a situation like this, there is an immediate need for revenge travel,” said Ruperto Nicdao Jr., president of Manila Broadcasting Corp. (MBC), organizer of the 2021 Aliwan Fiesta Digital Queen competition. “A platform like this will generate desire from Filipinos and foreigners to visit our country by promoting it,” he told the Inquirer at a virtual media conference held on Aug. 31.
The virtual beauty contest, currently in its second year, gathered ladies from around the country representing different festivals. The delegates are called to promote their respective locations’ heritage, culture, and tradition through online presentations.
Nicdao told the Inquirer that he has witnessed how Filipinos really took revenge travel seriously during the earlier easing of travel restrictions last year, seeing Boracay open up to local travelers, first from within the Western Visayas Region, then later expanding the invitation to tourists from Metro Manila.
“MBC operates a hotel in Boracay. When the island opened up, Filipinos started visiting it,” he shared.
Nicdao clarified that the Aliwan Fiesta Digital Queen is a separate entity from the Reyna ng Aliwan competition, an annual celebration of the Philippines’ different festivals where delegates from around the country were gathered for a series of competitions, commencing in the coronation of the festival queen.
The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily pushed the Reyna ng Aliwan competition aside, making way for the Aliwan Fiesta Digital Queen contest, which began last year. But Nicdao said the two pageants are like sisters, borne from the same mother, and with the same goal of showcasing the beauty of the Philippines.
To make this year’s virtual pageant “bigger and grander” than the first installment, the roster of participants was raised to 12 from just nine last year.
“Expanding to 12 representatives means more locations to showcase. We’ll see more tourist destinations, more traditions. That’s the biggest change this year,” Nicdao said.
MBC’s roster of beauty ambassadors from the Reyna ng Aliwan competition includes ladies who eventually made their own mark on the national and international arena, including 2018 Miss International first runner-up Ahtisa Manalo, 2014 Miss Earth Jamie Herrell, 2014 Miss Tourism International Angeli Dione Gomez, 2018 Miss Eco International Cynthia Thomalla, and 2018 Miss Asia Pacific International Sharifa Areef Mohammad Omar Akeel.
Last year’s Aliwan Fiesta Digital Queen contest crowned law student Jannarie Zarzoso.
This year, the 12 finalists will compete in different contests spanning five weeks.
On Sept. 11, the delegates will showcase their places’ delicacy, product, or festival in the “Pride of Place” segment. On Sept. 18, they will take part in the “Talent and Skills” competition.
On Sept. 25, the finalists will present their respective community projects, their involvement, and their dreams for it in the “Queens for a Cause” segment.
On Oct. 2, the 12 delegates will participate in the evening gown competition and take questions from a panel of jurors for the “question-and-answer” portion.
The 2021 Aliwan Fiesta Digital Queen will be crowned on Oct. 9. She will take home P50,000, and the same amount will also be awarded to her chosen charitable program in her city or municipality.
All phases of the competition, including the awarding and coronation night, will be available on the Aliwan Fiesta Facebook page and the various MBC digital platforms. Catch the streaming every Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Oct. 9 coronation ceremonies will also be seen on DZRH TV.