LAGAWE, Ifugao – Her beauty and her simplicity in life describe her personality which, no doubt, won for this 21-year old, the Miss Cordillera 2016 title during the coronation night on November 11, 2016 at the Convention Center.
Joemay Leo was born and raised in Poblacion Tuba, Benguet. She represented Benguet province in the Miss Cordillera search, besting 16 other beauties from the different Cordillera provinces. Aside from the sash and crown, she received 50,000 pesos cash award.
Joemay started joining pageants at the age of 15 when she was in 3rd-year high school. According to her, “I never dreamt of being a beauty queen, neither did I imagine myself joining beauty pageants because my dream is to serve the public not a to be a beauty queen”. However, her teachers in high school encouraged her to join their high school pageant where she won as 1st runner-up. After that, one of her teachers at the University of Baguio urged her strongly to join the Ms. UB contest. Her adamant refusal was finally broken when her teacher invoked the school department’s name to convince her to join. “Because I loved my department, I just closed my eyes and said yes to my teacher. As if I had a choice,” she joked. She joined the Ms. UB contest to enjoy, and amazingly, she was the first high school student crowned as Ms. UB 2011
“I was just 15 years old so it was such a great achievement for me,” she said. Aside from her family, her school was very proud of her. Her father did not even know that Joemay was joining a beauty contest and so he was very surprised when he was invited to her school to watch her daughter. But after the surprise, Joemay’s parents actively supported her in her next pageants becoming her no. 1 fan.
But like other successful individuals, Joemay also went through challenges before she got to where she is now. For two years thereafter, she stopped joining beauty contests since she lost her confidence and thought that beauty contests were not really for her. ”Sometimes we have doubts in ourselves, we lose self-confidence and think that we could not do it because there are other better, sexier, smarter and taller candidates than yourself,” she mused.
After two years of disappearing from the limelight, Joemay decided to make a comeback when she realized that joining beauty contests is also a way to realise passion, to give public service. She once dreamed of being in the military but she realized that as a beauty queen she could let more youth listen to her advocacy about cultural awareness and sensitivity.
She became Ms. Tuba 2014 right after she came back becoming the 1st runner-up that year to Ms. Benguet. The following year, she joined the Ms. Baguio contest ending as 3rd runner-up. Now she is Ms. Cordillera 2016.
“As I walk on the stage, I always ask God to walk with me. That is my only secret to all my success,” Joemay said. Her only dream, for now, is to give pride to the Ibaloi tribe and be a beauty queen who could, in the future, be added to the roster of world-class Igorot beauties.
She will continue to be an ambassadress of her province and her region. It might be tough, but a true beauty queen does not know how to give up. They only rest if tired and then continue to fight. That is the real beauty of a true Cordilleran.
By Zyce Guinolia