By ANNE NATHALIE RUTH MONTEALEGRE LONGAKIT
“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” ~ Ferdinand Foch
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Born in the Philippines, my family and I immigrated to Canada in 2003. As an only child, I was surrounded by an unwavering sense of love and support from my parents who ensured that I was given every opportunity. I devoted my time to a multitude of extracurricular activities such as dance, music, swimming, art, and volleyball from the age of four until high school graduation. My bustling schedule instilled the values of discipline, hard work, and passion into me, allowing me to excel in my academics; I received honor roll status from grade 8 – 12 and earned the Governor General’s Bronze Medal for graduating with the highest average in my class.
Throughout all of these experiences, I was able to collect various awards, memories, and lessons, which have all shaped me into the person I am today. However, a large part of who I am and who I would like to be, began in my grade 10 leadership class. Our class was comprised of students with a diverse background of experiences, each bringing their own sets of opinions and ways of thinking. This class taught me the power of teamwork, collaboration, and diversity. With its focus on community service, I was able to become more involved in my school by planning and volunteering at large annual events. Leadership class provided a greater sense of belonging and purpose within my school community. As a result, I continued to be involved in school clubs such as Student Council and Project Equal.
In my senior year (spring of 2014), I was fortunate enough to travel with a group of students from my high school on a Me to We trip to Ecuador. We worked in a small rural community called Shuid, where we helped with ongoing community projects such as painting school buildings, and digging the foundation of a new building. In addition to the building projects, we were able to learn more about the local culture and way of life in the communities tucked away in the Andes Mountains. Although we were not able to see to the completion of the projects ourselves, I know that our small contribution to the community made a lasting difference.
Upon entering my first year of university, I found my community involvement to be non-existent, as I struggled to meet the demands of the University of British Columbia’s rigorous first-year science program called Science One. I felt that something was missing in my life, but I couldn’t quite figure out what. In the second term of my first year, I helped coach U12 girls volleyball. Coaching provided me with a means to give back to my community and simultaneously bring back the sense of purpose that had missed since high school.
In the summer of 2015, I devoted my four month break volunteering at the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), and the Pinamalayan Community Hospital in Oriental Mindoro, Philippines. It had been my dream to become a Doctor ever since high school; therefore the hospital exposure enabled me to get a taste of what it was like to work in a healthcare environment. In the Philippines, I was given the opportunity to work in the outpatient department where I learned how to take blood pressure, and practice my Tagalog as I attempted to converse with patients. My experience in the Philippines reinforced my motivation to become a medical professional as I saw the assemblage of people waiting for hours in the hot foyer of the hospital every day to be treated.
When I returned to Vancouver, I felt refreshed and ready to take on my second year with more conviction. I was able to enjoy my courses, and finish the fall term off on the Dean’s Honour List. I was content and felt confident enough in myself to step out of my comfort zone and pursue something I had not previously thought I would ever attempt. Pageantry. My mom had presented the idea to me in my first year of university, but I felt ill-equipped and had thought the timing to be poor. However at 19 years old, it was my last opportunity to enter in Miss Teenage Canada, and the prospect of having a platform for community involvement was appealing, so I applied. In April of 2016, I competed in the regional competition in British Columbia; I was declared a finalist, winning the title of Miss Teenage Surrey 2016, and securing a spot in the National Pageant – Miss Teenage Canada that was to be held in Toronto that July.
I spent the months leading up to the Pageant Final volunteering at local events, finding sponsorship, and fundraising for Free the Children which is the Miss Teenage Canada Organization’s charity of Choice. Despite not being able to achieve my goals at the pageant final itself, I was able to meet an uplifting group of girls from across the country, and share an unforgettable week in Toronto with them. In addition, my year as a titleholder provided with much more than the opportunity to compete on the National stage. My proudest moments as a titleholder came after the national competition, when I became involved in events hosted by the Philippine Consulate of Vancouver, and became an Ambassador for SOS Children’s Village of British Columbia.
Pageantry is much more than the makeup, gowns, and crowns. It is the work and dedication that is invested before and after the event; the advocacy, is what makes a true queen.
Photos Credit: Evan Chen Photography