When I saw Maricar Balagtas coming up onstage to present a special award at the Binibining Pilipinas 2014 Coronation Night, I could only imagine how important her presence was, especially to her fellow Kagandahang Flores beauty, Candidate #25 Mary Jean Lastimosa. The latter is very vocal about her idolization of the former, whose rise-to-fame story has inspired her to soldier on despite defeats and against all odds.

Both of them were three-peaters in a hope to cinch the most prestigious crown in the country. Maricar Balagtas only got the Miss Close-Up Smile minor award at Binibining Pilipinas 2000 but failed to reach the semifinal round. So, again, she gave it another try at Binibining Pilipinas 2001, and thanks to her previous experience plus its learnings gained, she made a decent placement in the top five, with the Best in Swimsuit major award.

As second runner-up, Maricar Balagtas was appointed by the BPCI (Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc.) chairman and founder Stella Marquez-Araneta to represent the Philippines to Miss Globe International 2001 in Istanbul, Turkey, wherein she won the crown, becoming the first Asian to wear the sash. And then she took part in another Mediterranean-based search, Model of the World 2002, from which she came home with the Best in Evening Wear award and the honor of being in the top five.

But she didn’t rest on her laurels despite the international title already under her belt. Maricar Balagtas returned to the Big Dome, enlisted in Binibining Pilipinas 2004, and finally, got what she kept coming back for: the Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2004 crown. And although she may not have been able to bring home the Miss Universe 2004 crown from Quito, Equador, she has inspired aspiring beauty queens like the recently crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2014 MJ Lastimosa with the strength of her determination and perseverance.

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