WHAT DO beauty queens Miriam Quiambao, Precious Lara Quigaman and Shiela Alonso have in common?

They had once joined the Miss Ideal Thomasian Personality (ITP), the UST-wide beauty contest.

None of them won but they went on to win far more important beauty titles outside UST. So do winners of ITP really reflect the “ideal” Thomasian? Does the contest have any relevance?

Yes, said Student Organizations Coordinating Council (SOCC) president Ma. Luisa Villena said. She said winners are supposed to reflect in their persons the ideal Thomasian student. She added winners are supposed to promote the University’s “3 Cs,” referring to the Thomasian values of competence, commitment and compassion.

But critics said the Mr and Ms ITP goes against the very spirit of Thomasian values because it is nothing but a vanity trip and pure crass commercialism. It’s just a contest of show-biz wanna-be’s, critics said.

Faculty of Arts and Letters sophomore Gabriel Joseph Lim said it is highly doubtful that the contestants and winners can embody Thomasian values.

Lim added contestants are made to strike a pose, sometimes shirtless or in tank top, aping commercial models selling shirts or underwear. He said the shots are blown up in huge tarpaulins like the huge billboards that clutter the Metro Manila landscape.

He added that it is doubtful if the contest could really show the personality and intelligence of the contestants inasmuch as contestants give “prudent,” safe answers that are at best, platitudinous.

“Safe answers are expected from them, but are they really sincere?” Lim said.

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This year, the Mr and Ms ITP was not exactly show biz. It was more like a wild life excursion.

Contest organizers adopted the “Safari” theme. Each college was represented by an animal seen from an African safari.

But what was the panda, an animal endemic to Asia and carried in the contest by Mr. and Ms. Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management, doing in an African safari?

SOCC vice president Jason dela Cruz said the safari theme was “a metaphorical and modern approach.” He explained: “We learned that in a safari, different animals are always in a journey.

Pageant 101

Psychology professor Marc Eric Reyes of the College of Science said that while a beauty contest is only remotely related to academics, it may form part of campus life.

“A pageant is an avenue to showcase talents,” Reyes said. “It developes the ability to socialize.”

“Is there a need to scrap this kind of activity? Perhaps not. But should it become a priority? Of course not,” Reyes said.

Sociology professor Josephine Placido of the Faculty of Arts and Letters said that campus beauty contests appeal to the highly competitive streak of many persons.

She explained that competitiveness is “integrated in their (beauty contestants’) system.”

She said beauty contests should be seen as a form of “recess” or reprieve from academics.

She added that for many of the contestants, a beauty contest is a “channel” toward “personal rediscovery.”

Some students defended the Mr and Miss ITP.

College of Architecture sophomore Patrick Andrew Tanhuanco said that while he is not interested in beauty pageants, the contest may be a good way for UST to cultivate its values in students.

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“The contest may be an opportunity to select students who can best embody the Thomasian virtues,” he said.

Medical students Mary Ann Guzman and Jason Ryan Ramon said the Mr and Ms ITP may be an opportunity for the University to recognize the talents of its students and develop their personality.

“Students from different colleges meet and bond together,” Guzman said.

“They do not only make new friends but also discover new personal growth,” Ramon said.

Looking back

Former Student Organizations Coordinating Council (SOCC) adviser Rowena Castro said the criteria for the contest are continuously refined so that the contest would hew more closely to the identity and mission of UST.

She explained this was the reason the contest, known before as ‘Mr. and Ms. UST,’ was rechristened the ‘Search for the Ideal Thomasian Personality.’”

Wendell Capili, a former public relations officer of the Artlets Student Council and his college’s representative to SOCC during in the late 1980’s, said the contest had several forerunners or precursors which should show beauty or personality development contests are a staple in campus life.

“I think it is one occasion for UST students to know more about students from the other colleges,” Capili said. “Instead of being too myopic, the activity became an occasion for people to realize that UST is in fact a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic university.”

“Whenever the right set of winners is chosen, Mr. and Ms. Thomasian Personality winners can be student leaders and role models for the University,” he added. Jonathan Eli A. Libut and Carla Rose R. Malupeng

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