Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — To be with six fully-prepped beauty queens in one room — when you’ve just freshly woken up, face devoid of makeup, hair still wet from the shower — is, in itself, a test of confidence and grace under pressure. But when you’re with the most recent winners of the Binibining Pilipinas 2017 pageant, there’s actually little room for insecurity.
For one, the titleholders — who were crowned on April 30, besting 39 other candidates — might as well be sisters, each comfortable in the others’ presence as it is with any tight-knit barkada, each at home with their own quirks.
Bb. Pilipinas Universe Rachel Peters might be a little sleepy, but is still perky enough to answer questions about her motivations for joining. Bb. Pilipinas Supranational Chanel Olive Thomas, on the other hand, is a ball of energy, vivacious and apparently still on a high from her Bb. Pilipinas win. Bb. Pilipinas International Mariel De Leon (daughter of celebrities Christopher De Leon and Sandy Andolong) sits like a student, earnest and eager to answer questions in class.
Meanwhile, Bb. Pilipinas Intercontinental Katarina Rodriguez (who finished 2nd runner-up in “Asia’s Next Top Model” Season 2) seemed just a bit distracted after the early morning interviews, while Bb. Pilipinas Grand International Elizabeth Clenci and Bb. Pilipinas Globe Nelda Ibe are both happy enough to be pitching in answers every so often, letting others take the lead in the conversation we’re having about their coronation, and what they can expect from here.
Between shoots for CNN Philippines’ "New Day" and "The Source," CNN Philippines Life sat down with the six stunners and asked them how they are doing after the pageant, and what makes winning a worthwhile experience in a pageant-crazy country such as the Philippines. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.
Beauty pageants make such an impact in the Philippines. Why do you think Filipinos give so much adoration to our beauty queens?
Chanel Olive Thomas: There’s two things I want to express. The reason why the Philippines is such a strong force … is because of the fact that the country does not only get behind you and support you all the way, but also the training behind it — all that combined and the support is the reason us girls are always prepared and confident and ready to take on the world. And some of us the universe, some of the supranational, the international, everything.
I guess the reason why Filipinos love pageants so much is we like to celebrate each other, and we’re very proud of our country and our people. So it doesn’t really matter if it’s a pageant. It could be the best person at eating at pizza in the Philippines! We will support you all the way. That’s our country.
Mariel De Leon: I think Filipinos love getting together. Family dinners, it’s always a big thing. Even basketball games, they just like coming together and cheering and enjoying and being entertained. That’s one of the reasons why people love pageants.
Do you think there’s something you would lose after winning, after becoming a public personality?
Chanel Olive Thomas: I really believe before you enter the pageant, you should already be considering that to happen. From my case, I was already prepared. I was aware that with this, comes great responsibility, and I always, always, always, always, always, always recommend for young girls — wait ‘til you’re a little bit older, when you have lots of experience, you grow up a little, and you know what you want before you enter. Because once you enter, and it’s God’s will, and you win, you have to step up, because you’re not just living for yourself, you’re living for others around you.
Nelda Ibe: Before joining Bb. Pilipinas, I [was] a pilot. I’m still on training to get my commercial pilot [license] so I’ll be able to get into the airlines. Maybe after my reign I’ll continue my flights.
Katarina Rodriguez: I think I’ll just get busier. That’s pretty much it.
Is there any point in the pageant where you doubted you would win, and what did you do about it?
Mariel De Leon: I think we all go through that at one point in the competition. It’s always just about getting back up again and telling yourself you can do this.
Rachel Peters: They specifically said with our batch, it was very even. Other years, it was clear who was going to be the winner, there were obvious standouts from as early as the screening process. This year, they said it was every level, and girls were just always overtaking each other. It was really exciting, especially for us. None of us knew who was going to win which title.
Were you girls bonded in any way before the coronation night?
Mariel De Leon: No, not all actually. We would talk a bit, but then that’s it. I’m really excited to get to know everyone.
What are you looking forward to?
Chanel Olive Thomas: I’m so excited. Once [I won the crown], I was like, whoa, the potential begins right now. There’s so much I want to do. Even right now. I haven’t even had one day off to think. I’m a planner, I plan my life, I’m very ambitious. So when I got the crown, my gosh, my life is just beginning now, I got this, kaya ko pa! And I’m so excited to support the girls, and make sure that they are going to be amazing and they’re going to be epic at their pageants. I love it!
Elizabeth Clenci: I think it’s just as exciting as going on your own pageants. I’m super excited that I’m reigning with all of these girls. I love this group! It’s so amazing. It’s an international pageant. You’re wearing the Philippine sash!
Mariel De Leon: I’m looking forward to meeting with the girls from other countries. ‘Cause you never … you have no idea … you know people would post pictures but you never know all of them. So I’m excited to see how those girls are and how that competition differs from this one.