“A modern Bacoleña is a woman brave enough to face the challenges in life – the one who is ready to give the best that she can.” – Ella Mae Mercado, MassKara Festival Queen 2018
IT HAS always been Ella Mae Vargas Mercado’s dream to join the MassKara Festival Queen pageant. That dream came true. But never did she expect that she was going to bring home the crown.
“Win or lose, I want to join the pageant. I want the experience,” Ella Mae – a 17-year-old Grade 11 student – told Panay News.
Ella Mae is a resident of Barangay 16, Bacolod City. She is under the Humanities and Social Sciences strand of the senior high school class of Negros Occidental High School.
In one of her interviews, Ella Mae said she is just a “simple girl” who wants to grow through the pageant.
She also told Panay News that she is torn between taking Education or Criminology in college.
“I really wanted to be a teacher because of my sister. I’m also into kids. I find them cute and lovable,” Ella Mae shared. “But when we had our career guidance talk, I was inspired to take up Criminology. I realized I want to serve not only the kids but [also] the whole city.”
Ella Mae is among the first batches of Filipino students under the K-12 program, which adds two years to the previously 10-year Basic Education Curriculum in the country.
The additional two years of high school, according to Ella Mae, are an advantage for students like her who have yet to decide what course to take in college.
“The K-12 program helps us to develop our skills, too, for us to be globally competitive,” she added.
Her journey to the crown
From the onset, Ella Mae had the support of her family, friends and her glam team. But the pageant screening did not come easy.
According to her, the screening process was more difficult than the actual pageant itself.
“I thought I couldn’t make it. I was so nervous,” Ella Mae said.
Ella Mae qualified as one the 10 candidates for the MassKara Festival Queen 2018. They were first presented to the public on Oct. 13 at Robinsons Place Bacolod.
Before that, they already had pre-pageant activities like rehearsals and corporate trips.
Ella Mae had to juggle her studies and the pre-pageant activities. A week before the coronation night, she had her exams.
“Usually, we ended our rehearsals at 11 p.m. My class the following day is at 6 a.m. Worse, it was our exams week,” Ella Mae shared. “It was very hard. But I was able to manage my time.”
Her bond with other candidates – whom she calls her “sisters” – made the ordeal bearable.
“At the end of the day, I can say that it was all worth it. I made memories with my sisters. We helped each other get through the pageant,” she added.
Ella Mae still can’t believe that she got the crown.
When the results were announced, she said she had to pause for a while and ask herself if all of that was indeed happening.
Ella Mae said she even doubted that she can make it to the Top 3.
“Am I really the winner?” Ella Mae recalled asking herself on stage. “It was unexpected. I had mixed emotions. I was grateful and happy.”
Aside from the crown, Ella Mae also got four awards: Best in Swimwear, Best in Festival Costume, Miss PH Care, and Miss Congeniality.
When asked what she did after the pageant, she said she had a lot of sleep – getting back the energy she lost to the weeks of rehearsals.
“Now, I am rested well,” said Ella Mae, adding that she is ready for the responsibility the crown entails.
Queen with a purpose
Being MassKara Queen, Ella Mae said she will continue her advocacy for gender equality in Bacolod.
“I know society can be selective. I have friends who are members of the LGBTQ+ community who are not accepted by their families. I want to help them,” she stressed. “LGBTQ+ members are humans, too. They deserve acceptance.”
Ella Mae also said she will push for programs that empowers the youth.
“Cliché as it may sound, but the youth is the hope of the motherland,” she quipped. “The youth can contribute so much for the betterment of the city. We just need to be empowered.”
The MassKara Festival Queen pageant has been a side event of the MassKara Festival since 1982. This year, it was held at the SMX Convention Center, produced by the Silver MassKara Festival Organization. The pageant has been an avenue for young Bacoleñas to showcase their wits and talents./PN