ILOILO CITY—In a country where “brightening” products and treatments rake in millions of pesos in revenue, the Miss Iloilo pageant has broken the old beauty standards with a dusky athlete of African American descent capturing the title.
American Filipino heptathlete Alexie Mae Brooks from the town of Leon emerged a convincing winner at the 2024 Miss Iloilo pageant held at the Cultural Center of the West Visayas State University in this city on Jan. 13, besting 14 other aspirants for the crown that came with a P200,000 prize.
Brooks also took home the lion’s share of special awards—Best in Swimsuit, Best in Cultural Costume, Best in Designer’s Fashion Show, Miss Biscom, Miss Bingo Plus, Miss Dito, Miss Layson Group of Companies, Miss PLDT, Miss Fiesta Philippines, Miss The Medical City Iloilo, Miss Carelon Global Solutions, Miss AirAsia, and Miss SM Iloilo.
Her background is quite different from the typical pageant candidate. While many contestants dabble in runway and commercial modeling, the new Miss Iloilo has seen action in the athletics arena. She dominated the high jump at the Palarong Pambansa and was tapped to join the Philippine heptathlon team sent to the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Brooks’s winning spirit carried her to the pageant stage, and she impressed the judges with her quick wit. During the final round of questions when the Top 7 delegates were asked what they would tell the Ilonggo women of the past, Brooks responded: “One thing that I’m proud of … we’ve always kept the spirit of dinagyang (merrymaking), we’ve always kept the spirit of pagpalangga (expression of love).” She also mentioned “the food that we have,” for which Iloilo is known, and that “we are selected as a ‘creative city of gastronomy.’”
She continued: “And one thing that I also want to say is, I want women to move forward, abanse babaye! This is something that comes from my heart. I want empowered women to educate, to [be inspired by] women from the past. Women can be so much more, we’re capable of so much more, abanse babaye! My name is Alexie Mae Camaiso Brooks, and my heart will always beat in Iloilo City.”
A week after the coronation night, the Miss Iloilo organizers held a public event to announce that Brooks will represent Iloilo City at the 2024 Miss Universe Philippines pageant, to try and succeed Michelle Marquez Dee who finished in the Top 10 of the international competition held last year.
The assignments of the “Heartfelt Queens” proclaimed during the coronation night were also announced. Nicklyn Jutay from Tigbauan and Raniella Louise Aguila were assigned to the Binibining Pilipinas pageant and the Miss Philippines Culture and Heritage Celebration, respectively.
Angel Jed Latorre from Santa Barbara, who was crowned Miss Iloilo Queen of Dinagyang, will compete in the Reyna ng Aliwan contest. Hamda Judicpa, 17, who was awarded the “Ambassadress of Heartfelt Beauty” title, will be reserved for a national competition next year because of her age.
Second runner-up Shaima Al Yansuri from Guimbal was later crowned Miss Iloilo Paraw Regatta and will be sent to the Miss Philippines Earth pageant. First runner-up Pearl Angel Franco from Ajuy was also belatedly proclaimed “Ambassadress of Heartfelt Beauty.”
The Miss Iloilo pageant was first held in 2020, and the winner, Rabiya Mateo, eventually captured the Miss Universe Philippines title in the first-ever staging of the stand-alone competition that selects the country’s representative to the Miss Universe pageant. She finished in the Top 21 of the international competition.
Brooks will try to score another national win for Iloilo City later this year, and eventually carry the Philippine flag again, this time on a global pageant stage.