HomeGood PinoysMeet Lasallian Angela Okol: How the Winner of Miss Manila Tourism Rose...

Meet Lasallian Angela Okol: How the Winner of Miss Manila Tourism Rose Above Online Hate and Shed Light on Her Advocacies

Angela Okol Miss Manila Tourism
Angela Okol is making waves in the pageant world, one crown at a time. Angela Okol photos.

“For me, the rewards of pageantry aren’t confined to crowns, trophies, or recognition. What makes it truly fulfilling is the opportunity it affords me to be a voice for causes close to me, whether that’s sustainable fashion, women empowerment, or inclusivity,” Filipino beauty queen Angela Okol shares with GoodNewsPilipinas.

A Lasallian student by day and pageant idol by night, Angela Okol brightly stands as one of the Philippines’ up-and-coming pageant stars. Recently crowned as Miss Manila Tourism 2023, she debuted her pageant career in the Miss Universe Philippines 2021 competition and has steadily made her mark in pageantry ever since.

Bringing pride to her hometowns of Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, and Paco, Manila, the 22-year-old is ready to shake up the pageant scene with her passion and purpose. With a heart brimming with determination, she is undoubtedly poised to make a difference in the pageant world and beyond.

Breaking Beauty Pageant Stereotypes

With the number of accomplishments under her belt, many would be shocked to know that Okol’s pageant career was born out of serendipity. In fact, she did not initially see herself as a pageant queen – especially because of her petite frame. “I had never really seen a beauty queen with my height and looks win a title,” she narrated. “Usually, tall and slender women graced both local and international stages, thus the idea of joining a pageant – let alone Miss Universe Philippines – never really crossed my mind.”

In the pageant scene, a towering stature is traditionally set as the golden standard. However, changing times prompted the Miss Universe Philippines 2021 pageant to open its doors to represent women of different sizes. As soon as she found out that the height requirement was removed, Okol was encouraged to turn in her application through a homemade photoshoot. It was the first pageant she ever participated in.

“To be honest, my mom and I applied on a whim, never expecting that a newcomer like me, with zero training or experience, would even be considered,” she remembered.

Against all odds, Okol eventually got accepted into the world-renowned pageant, where she represented Siargao Island. However, a barrage of hateful online comments would beset her journey soon after. “Many Filipinos still aren’t very open to the idea of supporting or crowning someone on the petite side. Additionally, my inexperience in pageantry, combined with my youthful appearance, didn’t sit well with online critics who expect Miss Universe Philippines candidates to look fierce and confident,” she said.

Okol’s MUPH headshots went viral on Facebook, with many netizens unfairly poking fun at her unique features. “In the beginning, I had no one to guide me on the right poses, makeup, or styling, so my early outputs definitely fell short of my current photo shoots,” she shared, adding that she was merely a beginner who had been thrust into the massive pool of more experienced models.

“Long story short, people didn’t believe in me – including some of my own relatives – and I nearly lost faith in myself,” she admitted. However, it was her community of support among her loved ones that allowed her to keep going; today, her journey of self-acceptance is one of her proudest achievements in the pageant world.

“Nowadays, I’m more comfortable in my own skin and no longer feel the need to fit into a particular mold… Despite the negative aspects of pageantry attempting to break me down, they’ve only made me stronger and helped me realize that it’s the unrealistic standards and narratives that should be broken, not me,” she declared.

Into a Life of Advocacy

Equipped with the valuable lessons pageant life has taught her, Okol is staunchly devoted to using her platform for good. As a resident of Siargao Island, a highly sought-after tourist destination, she is intimately familiar with how tourism plays a crucial role in people’s livelihoods – a viewpoint she aims to bring as Miss Manila Tourism.

While her official plans with the city’s tourism office are still in the works, Okol has established her own personal projects to boost the city’s beauty. “During the competition, I created coloring books featuring various landmarks. Each illustration was accompanied by a description, and I distributed these books to children. This September, I plan to return and distribute a second set of coloring books and prepare food as a way of expressing my gratitude for their support throughout my journey,” she said.

The beauty queen also shared her vision of how Manila should be promoted. “We should highlight the city’s rich cultural and historical background. Today, Manila’s architecture offers a blend of the old and new – from historical landmarks like Intramuros and Rizal Park to modern shopping malls and vibrant nightlife. Furthermore, Manila serves as a hub for cultural activities, festivals, and international events, acting as a microcosm of what the Philippines has to offer,” she stated. “By enhancing the tourist experience in Manila, we’re not only boosting tourism in the city but also setting the tone for a tourist’s entire stay in the Philippines.”

Addressing tourism’s impact on the country overall, Okol highlighted how over-tourism is a pressing issue in popular destinations and stressed the need to “distribute tourist traffic more evenly”. Most importantly, she advised that Filipinos maintain a holistic view of what their country has to offer; not only should beaches be considered tourist spots, but also the Philippines’ unique mountains and volcanoes.

Wearing Sustainable Fashion

Besides tourism, Okol’s advocacy for sustainable fashion also plays a big part in her pageant life. When she was 12 years old, she began sewing and altering her clothes at home. Originally wishing to pursue a career in fashion design, Okol would buy materials from her local thrift shop and craft outfits for herself and her family.

This advocacy paired well with her ascent to the pageant world, as she attested that “the visibility granted by the pageant platform has increased public awareness about issues related to fast fashion”. While her do-it-yourself clothing aims to stand as a bulwark against overconsumption, she firmly declared that sustainable fashion does not stop at this point. She proclaimed, “It’s essential to understand that sustainable fashion goes beyond just using eco-friendly materials or upcycling clothing. It is a lifestyle that demands daily commitment.”

“It’s a systemic issue that needs political will and action to bring about widespread change,” she maintained. She noted that sustainability goes hand in hand with political decisions, especially around current laws on waste management, education, and taxation.

But in the same vein, she held that the current socioeconomic landscape has presented many barriers to individuals seeking to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle – with plastic-wrapped, one-time-use products and environmentally hazardous clothing often being the only affordable options for the average consumer. With this, Okol has kickstarted several initiatives to help make sustainable fashion more accessible, such as her donation of portable sewing machines to a public high school in Del Carmen, Surigao Del Note.

She declared, “In light of these challenges, empathy should be at the forefront of our sustainability and environmental advocacies. Numerous obstacles are often out of individual control, and political frameworks need to be adjusted to better facilitate sustainable lifestyles.”

Life Behind the Scenes

When Okol is not donning her sash, she is attending class at De La Salle University-Manila, where she is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in political science. She plans to become a lawyer one day. “My top priority is education. While I’m passionate about the world of pageantry, I know that my degree and educational background are assets I’ll have long into the future,” she mused. “Beauty pageants are not my end goal, nor are they a permanent job for anyone. They serve as platforms for sharing advocacies and speaking up, but it’s essential to have a life beyond that stage.”

In large part, she credited her grasp of social justice to her political science education. “It has heightened my awareness and sensitivity to current events and social issues,” she remarked. “I never want to come across as tone-deaf or insensitive or make generalizations that could misrepresent complex issues. These principles align closely with what I’ve been taught academically.”

At this juncture, Okol is grateful for the critical shift that is meeting the pageant industry today. What was once a competition solely for physical looks has become a blossoming avenue for diversity, empowerment, and sisterhood. “Given that pageantry has a significant cultural footprint in our country, it’s heartening to see that it is evolving beyond mere physical competition. The platform now enables individuals to voice their advocacies, concerns, and opinions effectively,” she expressed.

The future holds so much promise for the 22-year-old pageant queen. But to Okol, one thing is most important. “My ultimate milestone will always be authentically living my advocacies and making a meaningful impact on the lives of others – crown or no crown,” she declared.

Filipina advocates like Angela Okol who have lent their talents to the pageant world include 2021 Miss Ecosystem Michelle Arceo and 2018 Miss Eco International Thia Thomalla.

Angela Okol isn’t just a pretty face; she’s a force of nature who rose above online negativity to shine the spotlight on causes close to her heart. If Angela’s story has inspired you, it’s time to step up and make your own mark! CLICK the SHARE buttons to spread the word about this Lasallian beauty with an advocate’s mission.

Good News Pilipinas is a Lasallian Scholarum Awardee. TELL US your good news story tips by messaging GoodNewsPilipinas.com on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, or e-mailing editor@goodnewspilipinas.com

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Summer Sanares
Summer Sanares
Summer is a political science student with a twin passion for journalism. Her hobbies include watching geography documentaries, searching the metro for plant-based food, and free-falling through Wikipedia rabbit holes. Her works have previously been featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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