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Watch the live telecast of the 2013 Miss Earth Beauty with a Cause Pageant tonight, Dec. 7 at 8:00 p.m. on StarWorld, or its delayed telecast tomorrow, Dec. 8 at 10:00 a.m. on Abs-Cbn. But before that happens, let us remember the first and only Filipina who has walked away with this most germane crown on the planet: Miss Earth. She is Karla Henry, a Filipina-Canadian pride of Cebu, currently the most sought-after pageant host in the Queen City, and certainly one of the most lauded events host in the Philippines. Below is an article I wrote about Karla Henry . . . which was published in The Freeman’s Entertainment section following her victory at the Miss Earth pageant.

KARLA HENRY: The Down-To-Earth Beauty From The Queen City

If Venezuela is known as home to world-class beauty queens, the Philippines is haven to down-to-earth daughters of Mother Nature.

This has been proven hands down by Karla Paula Ginteroy Henry, our country’s bet to this year’s Miss Earth, the very first Asian to have inherited the title after seven summers, the first Cebuana to have made it beyond the national sphere.

To say that she captured the crown by edging out the planet’s most environmentally responsible women and winning the judges’ nod with her bewitching charm and regal bearing would be an understatement for the country’s first titleholder who awakened the children of the earth that significant night.

“I would suggest that environmental awareness be included in the current curriculum not only in U.S. schools but also here in the Philippines . . . for I firmly believe that children are definitely our hope in resolving global environmental issues,” replied Karla to the final question: If you are to meet the newly elected U.S. President Barrack Obama, what will you tell him?

But what if she were to talk to our very own president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? The quick-witted Cebuana charmer admits to having said, “I would tell President Arroyo the same thing as I would President Obama. The lack of awareness and ignorance towards the environment are issues relevant not only in our country but also in the entire world. The youth, specifically young Filipinos, are eager to learn, and inasmuch as we want them to advance in their academic endeavors, we should also consider that the children are our best weapons for the fight against many of our environmental issues.”

Tough competition

In an exclusive interview for The Freeman Entertainment, Karla, a certified responsible woman of the earth, wouldn’t have changed a bit of her answer to the question, given another time and circumstances. “I wouldn’t have changed the content of my answer. I stand proudly by my advocacy which is environmental education. The delivery may have been more fluent, but the content would still have been the same,” she says, adding that one of her dreams as Miss Earth is for her to really be given the once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to meet Obama in the flesh, so that, together, they can discuss relevant issues of today, especially as far as global warming is concerned, and talk into best resolutions via their respective positions.

She may have had a lot of pageant and modeling experiences, but Karla couldn’t underestimate the fact that she was competing neck and neck with fellow veterans from all over the world. While she was bent on becoming the first Filipina to win the Miss Earth title, Karla had her share of qualms and whatnot. However, she was more excited than nervous throughout the pageant. She shares, “I think that any of us 84 delegates could have easily been crowned that night given the right time at the right place. All of us were chosen by our respective countries because our countrymen believed that we are intelligent and beautiful women, and that we would make perfect ambassadors for the preservation and conservation of the environment not only in our respective homelands but also in the entire planet.”

From the onset of the competition down to the last round, Karla was apparently a stand-out amongst the bevy of beauties vying for one of the top three most prestigious positions in the international pageant field (vis-a-vis Miss Universe and Miss World). But inasmuch as Miss Earth is organized and held annually in our own backyard in the Philippines, controversies couldn’t help surrounding our very own environmental advocate—which would bring back to this writer’s conversation with Karla, as her official chaperone during her homecoming from winning as Miss Philippines last May.

Asked where Miss Earth would be held in a few months, Karla answered, “I heard it’s going to be in Korea, but negotiations have not been finalized yet. It would be exciting if it were to be held in one’s own country, but then I heard that it would lessen a local delegate’s chance of winning—for ‘delicadeza’ reasons, that is. But if it should be happening here sometime in November, please let me just do my best, and let’s cross the bridge when we get there.

Unfazed by controversy

Karla, a Filipina-Canadian mestiza who once was chosen as Miss TriMedia representing The Freeman, is nonetheless poised in the face of all the scuttlebutts around her winning the most coveted crown of Miss Earth 2008. “I respect people’s opinion, but I would disagree if they said that the organization was biased and unfair. For eight years that Miss Earth has been held in the Philippines, not once had our country won the main title. Even our very own Miss Philippines last year did not make it to the top 16 cut, thus paving the rumors that this pageant was fixed. I would rather dwell on my responsibility to care for our Mother Nature because that’s what I’m here for, in the first place. I believe that the judges were right about choosing me, and the organizers didn’t do anything to influence their decision, because that’s beyond their control. If, still, there are critics out there, I urge them to review the pageant either on Youtube or otherwise and be the judge for themselves. Besides, if we paid more attention to caring for our environment than putting down this one pageant for a cause, for sure we can gradually become a cleaner and greener nation,” says the brainy beauty from the Queen City.

Those who have the trained eye for beauty and grace, not to mention the keen ear for wit, couldn’t have been more downright quick in contesting the hearsays that the results were rigged out of a homecourt decision. Karla’s magical aura, let alone unblemished tasteful opulence in her stage presence that particular Sunday night at Clark Expo Ampitheater in Pampanga, stunned even the millions of viewers squatting before their respective boob tubes.

No less than The Freeman’s fashion scribe Dexter Alazas, managing director of A.D. Models Philippines, the modeling agency that handles Karla Henry’s career and the same that entered her in Miss Philippines-Earth, says “I wish everyone were intelligent enough to see through a beauty queen’s class and elegance, the inner beauty in her, and, of course, her EQ (Environment Quotient) so that they would understand why our very own delegate was picked as the fairest of them all.”

The very morning after being unplaced in last March’s Binibining Pilipinas marked her foray into what she later realized as her life-changing stride in this planet. Dexter Alazas had arranged an appointment for her at Carousel Productions, the outfit that organizes both Miss Philippines and Miss Earth, wherein she was to become an official candidate to Miss Philippines-Earth 2008 representing Cebu City. The next thing Karla knew, she had emerged as winner from a multitude of more than 50 delegates representing different municipalities, cities, overseas Filipino communities, organizations.

Commitment to the environment

During Miss Earth, we couldn’t help wondering what would have been her thoughts from the start of the pageant, up until she was announced as one of the last four standing. And when it was just she and Miss Tanzania left to be proclaimed as either Miss Air or Miss Earth, what was Karla saying to Miriam Odemba (Tanzania) as both of them were holding each other’s hands? “I was telling her that no matter what the result would be, we had made our respective countries proud, and so we should be both proud of it, too, especially that it would’ve been the first time for either Philippines or Tanzania to be Miss Earth or Miss Air. Miriam was always full of energy, and I couldn’t be happier to have spent the one month with her, as well as with Abigail Elizalde (Mexico) and Tatiane Alves (Brazil). I’m sure Miriam would’ve also become a wonderful Miss Earth had she been the one chosen,” Karla admits, and reacts to doubts out of curiosity whether she sensed an air of jealousy, “Miss Tanzania was never like that. She was a sweet and kind woman who’s never afraid to speak her mind—that’s why she and I got along very well. She was very happy for me. We were very close from the very beginning. She was like a sister to me all throughout. I remember how fond she was of discussing politics, career, family, and love.”

That would’ve been an exhausting night for Karla and all the other girls who had been gearing up together, prepping up for one month en route to the grand coronation night. Hence, who wouldn’t want to know what was it like sleeping with a Miss Earth crown on her head and also what was the first important thing she did upon waking up in the morning? “To be completely honest, after many weeks of nonstop activities, I was just thankful that, finally, I had the privilege of a good night’s sleep knowing that I had reached my ultimate goal. I was finally able to sleep at peace that night,” she sighs.

In the midst of her controversial victory, what could have her first morning as the brand-new Miss Earth looked like? “The next morning was quite intense. The four of us were immediately rushed off to certain activities, throughout the hustle and bustle of the day. We didn’t have the opportunity to notice any other delegate who might be sour-graping. Plus, I think the girls were too busy cherishing their last few moments with each other before departing for their respective countries,” Karla remembers.

With the pageant’s thrust in promoting environmental awareness via Miss Earth’s mission to dedicate her reign in addressing issues concerning the environment, it seems a rather tall order for this 22-year-old brown-eyed beauty queen whose highest goal before her reign ends is “to travel to many different countries promoting Miss Earth’s message of a Green Lifestyle, and to actively participate in their respective environmental organizations.” As the eighth Miss Earth, she would like to be remembered for having accomplished many things for our Mother Earth in the course of her reign and beyond. “I’m not going to consider my turnover next year as the end of it all, for the world’s environmental problems will not go away with the relinquishing of my crown to my successor. I would still gladly be ready to lend a helping hand to the new batch of Miss Earth beauties,” she admits.

Currently based in Manila to fulfill her duties and responsibilities as both Miss Philippines and Miss Earth, Karla Henry may either choose to come back to Cebu or decide to stay in the metropolis after her reign. It goes without saying that we Cebuanos would like to know if she is going to give it a shot, should showbiz beckon—just like it did to her fellow international titleholders Gloria Diaz, Precious Lara Quigaman, Miriam Quaimbao, Michelle Aldana, and many others.

“I’m taking things one day at a time and cherishing every minute of my reign. To think of the end would be quite depressing for me so, as I said before, let’s cross the bridge when we get there. But as for now, nothing fills my head but the duties and responsibilities entrusted to me by the organization and the Miss Earth Foundation,” Mother Nature’s most beauteous daughter beams, with a promise to be well worthy of both her title as Miss Earth 2008 and her cause, which is to make this planet a cleaner, greener place to live in.