EXCLUSIVE: Bb. Pilipinas International 2018 Ahtisa Manalo—Why This Queen Deserves Her Crown And Has All The Makings Of A Winner
FROM FESTIVAL PRINCESS TO WORLD-CLASS BEAUTY QUEEN. • . #BbPilipinasInternational2018 #AhtisaManalo (@ahtisa) is not a queen, nor a woman, to be underestimated. After all, her name says it all - she's in it to win it. The once-aspiring spy and policewoman quips, "Bakit pa ako nandito kung hindi naman ako mananalo?" . Produced by @gracelibero Photography by @rxandy Styling by @stylizedstudio Creative direction by @theonlychookiecruz Make-up: @justinenavato Hairstyling: @jaymarlahaylahay Special thanks to Gines Enriquez, Ivan de Lara, Terry Dy of @cafeamazonph, and Stephen Capuchino Writer: @saraloopdeloop Shoot assistant: James Mangile . Shot on location at @zoomburst . #BbPilipinas2018 #BbPilipinasonMetroStyle #Queens #wellstyledlife #lifestyled #lifegoals #inspiredliving @bbpilipinasofficial
Bb. Pilipinas International 2018 Ahtisa Manalo is not a queen, nor a woman, to be underestimated. After all, her name says it all—she’s in this to win it.
“Bakit pa ako nandito kung hindi naman ako mananalo?"
It’s a powerful statement by Ahtisa accompanied by an expressive smile that beams with the confidence of a woman beyond her years.
At 20 years old, Ahtisa is the youngest of this year’s Binibining Pilipinas titleholders, but is certainly at par in terms of focus, drive, and maturity with her five “ates.” Despite those who doubted her potential, this former Candelaria, Quezon festival princess has proven that she has what it takes to become a world-class beauty queen—even though, as it can surprise many, life as a pageant queen was one that she didn’t always want.
Bravery, brains, and beauty
This young woman who now carries the title that stands for peace and harmony might appear delicate and dainty, but what she once dreamed of becoming was a member of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
When asked what she wanted to be when she got older, Ahtisa’s primary school self once said, “a spy,” or more specifically, one of Charlie’s angels. Growing up with lots of boy playmates and having made her dolls pellet gun targets, Ahtisa was sure she had what it took for a career in crime fighting.
Eventually, the dream made a teenage Ahtisa go as far as applying for the PNP academy without her family’s knowledge, making it up to the very last steps that led up to the entrance exam. But being the respectful daughter that she is, Ahtisa couldn’t keep the secret for too long, and in the end, her family successfully convinced her to pursue a different path.
The shift in gears turned her into an Enverga University accountancy graduate—one who would most probably be a practicing accountant at this very moment had she not listened to her gut.
“After six months of accountancy board review, I would wake up every day feeling that I didn’t love it anymore. And when you feel that way, nothing [good] will happen anymore. I no longer saw myself pursuing it,” Ahtisa recalls.
Feeling like a compass unable to find due north, she turned her energies to something she knew she had a talent for but never thought of working on full-time—pageants.
“Natutunan kong magustuhan,” Ahtisa shares. Her newfound love for pageants was, in fact, encouraged by her family members who were always her biggest fans for as long as she can remember. From her days as a Little Miss University, Miss Young University, and Quezon Festival Queen candidate up to her decision to join nationals, her family made it a point to be the best cheerleaders she could ask for.
And so—with her family’s full consent this time around—her road to Binibining Pilipinas 2018 began.
Without high expectations, she auditioned—and got in. The triumph transformed what was once just a small flame in Ahtisa’s heart into a crackling fire.
Three more months passed and Ahtisa trained in everything from hair styling and makeup application, walking and posture, to personality development, and even physical endurance at the gym, dancing, weights, and Q&A skills. (Ahtisa’s pro tip: Aspiring beauty queens, learn to zone in during Q&A! Focus on the person onstage with you and pay no attention to the audience. “'Yung nagtanong sa'yo, siya lang 'yung kakausapin mo.")
Come coronation night last March, she was named Bb. Pilipinas International 2018. “When my name was called, I just smiled… Sabi ko, ‘Sure kayo?,'” she jokes.
With the victory, Ahtisa came out burning with passion and discovered a sense of purpose.
Now, she knows where she’s meant to be, and she can be sure of three things: although not a policewoman, she was brave for taking a leap of faith and trusting herself to succeed. Although not an accountant by profession, her intelligence shines in her words, insights, and worldview. And although still on the road to becoming Miss International 2018, her beauty was always made for the world stage, the kind worthy of representing her country and deserving of the support of all Filipinos.
Keep calm and carry on
While Ahtisa says she’s still learning to embrace her new identity as a rising public figure, she recognizes that success is not without its struggles. Who she was once in the past—a low-profile girl who didn’t mind being bare-faced and dressing in t-shirts and denims—is now being challenged.
These days, there aren’t only people who recognize and praise her wherever she goes, but there are also others who are quick to criticize her.
Drawing from personal experiences, she thought that her question during the nerve-wracking Q&A round was especially apt. In response to being asked about how beauty queens should handle ruthless criticism, she answered that they, including herself, should have the ability to know which comments are worth listening to, and which must be ignored.
As a person who tries her best to avoid negative situations, Ahtisa’s words have become her own advice after she was judged for her ability to represent the Philippines given her age and range of experience.
Spoken with grace, Ahtisa shares, “I think [my age] is not a disadvantage… And lack of experience can also be an advantage because you’re a clean slate. You can learn more. I always think positively. Kahit bata pa ako, when you set aside [thoughts of] failure, your chance of success is even higher.”
Besides, she adds, beauty queen hopefuls get so caught up with working for their crowns that they often forget one crucial thing about joining pageants: to have fun! Win or lose, and regardless of what her detractors have to say, Ahtisa will always think of the pageant as a great experience. More than anything, she’s here to find happiness and make memories that will last a lifetime.
“I’m relaxed. Other girls are always nervous, but I’m here always just enjoying myself,” she shares.
Best of all, it was in Binibining Pilipinas where Ahtisa expanded her network and learned valuable lessons from the best of the best in the industry.
“Everyday [these girls and I] were together from sunrise to sunset, so we formed relationships that weren’t just like relationships of co-candidates. It wasn’t just "hi," "hello;" here, you’ll really find true friends. It’s a good venue if you really want to find lasting friendships,” she describes.
From Quezon, with love
Even with her eyes on the prize and no distractions in her periphery, it’s clear that Ahtisa has a caring, loving center.
The causes that are closest to her heart, many of which she actively supported in her younger years, are what she hopes to bring to the spotlight should she win.
The Scandinavian, Spanish and Filipino beauty is a vocal advocate of LGBT rights and animal welfare (she’s a proud owner of 15 cats!), and thirdly, but certainly not least, is also a volunteer patron of street children. As a teenager, she would organize Christmas parties for homeless children in her town—out of her own pocket!
“Given that I’m really not a social butterfly, I didn’t have connections [in my hometown] to tap for sponsorships or financial assistance, but I wanted to help. So I just ended up using my own money, but it was alright. It was for street children. How often do they get to feast or try fast food?” Ahtisa says.
In it to win
But before she can raise awareness on her chosen causes on a larger scale, Ahtisa admits that she must first win the pageant. The Miss International 2018 competition will take place on November 9 in Japan, and she’s definitely looking forward to getting tips from Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa and Miss International Philippines 2015 Janicel Lubina before the big day.
For now, Ahtisa continues her training—for the stage, and in life.
She’s keeping her head up no matter what challenges come her way, and her humility, also kept in place amidst all the praise and outpouring of support from her growing fan base. Once in a while, she’ll take a break and watch an episode or two of her current guilty pleasure, the K-Drama Uncontrollably Fond.
Ultimately, Ahtisa has decided to step up to what she believes a true beauty queen really is: “We, beauty queens, we’re given a platform where we can enact change and call support to our causes. Since we’re always in the limelight, this is a better way to express our thoughts to the public. People these days, they’re so quick to believe everything they see on social media. What they need is a good influence, and us, as beauty queens, we’d like to be influencers in a good way."
Even when the pageant has passed and no matter what the results are, when it comes to this admirable queen with boundless potential, we’d love to see her ascend to the throne that life gives her.
Q&A with Bb. Pilipinas International 2018 Ahtisa Manalo
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My idea of happiness is being contented.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I don’t like that I’m too trusting.
What do you like most about yourself?
It's that I’m forgiving.
Which living person do you most admire, and why?
I like Angelina Jolie and also Kris Aquino.
What do you most like and dislike about your appearance?
I like my eyes, but I wish I was taller.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
I want him to be driven, responsible, independent, and daring.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
That I’m too trusting.
What is your greatest regret?
That I didn’t take all the opportunities that came my way.
What is your motto?
This is what my mom told me: Always be kind to everyone, because you don’t know what they are going through and you don’t know their life experiences. The best thing you can do to help them is just to be kind.
White top, Zara; shoes, Charles & Keith
Blue green gown, Steph Tan
Blush dress, Steph Tan
Produced by Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Creative direction by Chookie Cruz
Styling by Stylized Studio – Danae Dizon, Patrick Perez, Joy Bernardo, Steven Coralde, Aina Ampil, and Aia Tabuzo
Makeup by Justine Navato
Hairstyling by Jaymar Lahaylahay
Shoot assistants: Jovi Figueroa, Mariel Abanes, and James Mangile
Special thanks to Gines Enriquez, Ivan de Lara, Terry Dy of Café Amazon, and Stephen Capuchino
Shot on location at Zoomburst Studios