Bb. Pilipinas-Universe Maria Venus Raj

Will she be the next Miss Universe?
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte


Bb. Pilipinas-Universe 2010 Maria Venus Raj left the country Aug. 4th to represent the country in the Miss Universe pageant slated on the 4th Monday of August. As crowned winner of the celebrated local title, she serves as goodwill ambassador and official representative to the world´s most sought-after job interview. While the winner goes through the glamorous eliminations of swimwear, evening gown and interview sessions, she´ll ultimately work as the pageant´s spokesperson in its myriad worldwide campaigns. Her prize money forms part of an annual stipend covering the length of her reign.
Upon her arrival in Las Vegas, Venus will join Miss USA and three other handpicked delegates to do the media tour prior to the semi-final eliminations.
¨I will be the next Miss Universe! It has always been my dream to become a beauty queen, and I worked so hard and prepared myself for years. This is a dream I will not give up easily,¨ thus affirmed a strong-willed and determined Maria Venus Bayonito Raj, during the send-off party held at the Gateway Mall Suites two days prior to her departure.
The 22-year-old Bicolana is out to prove that beauty truly goes beyond mere physicality. That it is about character and attitude. With her personal background and experiences, it is quite easy to see how her unique beauty will play in her search for the elusive crown.
¨She´s a beautiful girl with a lot of poise. I think she would be successful in her quest. She stood out quite differently during the national pageant because this Filipina looked distinctly Indian and uniquely different than all of the other local aspirants,¨ remarked internationally-renowned painter Betsy Westendorp, who sat in the panel during the Bb. Pilipinas 2010 eliminations. The panel was tasked to choose the final 25 contestants, from among a deluge of applicants from across the archipelago and the Filipino communities all over the world, who competed in this year´s Bb. Pilipinas pageant.
Venus has what it takes to endure the rigors of an international beauty pageant. Her modest life in Bato, Camarines Sur has prepared her for whatever physical and mental demands the pageant might have in store for her and the rest of the contingents from all over the globe.
¨Her chances are very high. She´s No. 1 in the polls, is really poised, and most importantly, a lot of people pray for her. It is kinda tough once she gets to the competitions though. All the other girls are as beautiful and out to get the crown too. I tell her to pray all the time,¨ enthused Bb. Pilipinas-International 2008 Patricia Fernadez. Patchot, as friends fondly call her, finished 12th during her stint in Japan.
The youngest of five children, Venus grew up in a humble nipa hut that stood proudly in the middle of a sprawling rice field. With no electricity to light her path, she would use the narrow rice paddy dikes and pretend she´s walking down some fashion runway; waving her hand in the dark. Her innocent dream slowly took shape as he strove to pull her family out of financial misery. She started joining, and then winning, beauty contests when she turned 17. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Venus went on to graduate cum laude at the Bicol University in Legaspi City, with a degree in Journalism. She got employed as an Information Assistant at the Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) while moonlighting as a fashion model on the side.
¨I feel blessed. Filipinos here and abroad has voted for me to be on the top spot on the Internet site. Everything that happened to me, God has planned. Without Him, it would not have happened at all,¨ citing further that the citizenship issue was a blessing in disguise.
Training for the Miss Universe pageant is keeping her schedules tight. Part of her preparations were learning new languages; reviewing her Philippine history, geography, economics and arts & culture; on-cam training; as well as hair & make-up application lessons. Amid her hectic timetable, she still managess to fulfill her duties and responsibilities as Bb. Pilipinas-Universe by taking part in humanitarian missions that help uplift the lives of marginalized Filipinos.
Busy as she is, Venus manages to make the most of whatever free time she has. Her favorite pastime are singing, listening to music, playing volleyball, and cooking her favorite Bicolano delicacies.
¨I was a chaperon before in Las Vegas for a candidate. Now, I m the contestant! It´s the beauty of my country and its people that gave me this rare opportunity to represent the Philippines even if I came from very humble beginnings,¨ she intoned.
A consistent top favorite in the polls, Venus has a better shot at the title. That she´s named after the Roman goddess of beauty is something.
If she wins the much-coveted title, she´ll break the 37-year drought last won by Margie Moran in 1973 at the Parthenon in Athens, Greece.
Fortunate Bb. Pilipinas title holders who win in their respective pageants will join the elite roster that includes Gloria Diaz (Miss Universe 1969), Aurora Pijuan (Miss International 1970), Margie Moran (Miss Universe 1973), Melanie Marquez (Miss International 1979) and Precious Lara Quigaman (Miss International 2005) as well as runners-up Evangeline Pascual (Miss World 1971), Ruffa Gutierrez (Miss World 1993) and Miriam Quiambao (Miss Universe 1999).
Good luck Venus! The entire country is pinning its high hopes on you. Venus is one of the 83 hopefuls from around the globe having their eyes set on the title. Her dream, combined with an optimistic view, is her motivation to bag the most sought-after international crown. Who knows, she just might end the country´s long drought for a Miss Universe title. Until then, Venus will carry the nation´s hope with gutsy determination and perseverance that she has come to learn through years of hard work. That, in itself, is the mark of a victor. ¨The crown means a lot to me. It would be God´s gift. He ll give it to you for a reason! If I win, I want to be an inspiration to other people who went through hardships as I did but succeeded. As our horizon broadens, dreams will now be within our reach. Then nothing seems impossible.¨
Miss Vietnam has backed out from the pageant earlier on, bringing down the list of delegates from 84 to 83.
The Miss Universe 2010 coronation rites will be beamed live to a nationwide audience from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada through the ABS-CBN network at 9:30 in the morning of August 24. For schedules on satellite broadcasts, simply log-on to www.abs-cbnnews.com.

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