Category Archive for Philippines

I judged the Miss Scuba Philippines Pageant! Cebu beauty queens, ocean conservation.

mermaid skirt, costume

Why am I waving like a beauty queen? Because I was a judge in the 2014 Miss Scuba Philippines contest, held at Pacific Cebu Resort

Unlike typical pageants, Miss Scuba has the meaningful goal of promoting marine conservation. All the contestants learn to dive, and are questioned on how they’d preserve the ocean ecosystem.

beauty queen wave, waving

Let me tell you, it was difficult to crown a winner from the 12 contestants. Read on, and I’ll show you what went down at this unique Filipino beauty pageant.

pacific cebu resort lodge

Hong Kong-based hotel group sáv Hospitality hosted Miss Scuba Philippines at Pacific Cebu Resort. Since the resort is right on the water and home to a diving school, it was a perfect fit.

mermaid skirt, fashion

What I Wore: didn’t plan this outfit in advance, but somehow it came together and fit the ocean-theme of the pageant.
Crop top: Show Me Your Mumu Lil Miss Crop Top in teal green (get it on sale, they also have it in black).
Skirt: The bottom half is actually a scarf with a fish-scale pattern, similar to this tie-dye maxi skirt.
Browse more mermaid-styles by clicking the images below:

princess jasmine costume, cosplay

Princess Jasmine meets The Little Mermaid. The shell hair accessory is a gift from the Nalusuan Island marine sanctuary that we visited.

cebu swimming pool, vacation

Before heading to the pageant, I waded in one of the hotel’s three swimming pools. (There’s one just for the diving school — you can see it in this post.)

pacific cebu resort spa

Spa treatments are available at all hours — the resort can even send a masseuse to your room. But if you’re a DIY type, there is this self foot massage from smooth white rocks.

miss scuba contest

To get to the pageant, I walked down a jungle path lit up with torches. At the entrance, I posed for photos with the Miss Scuba backdrop, and left a drawing of my Scottish Fold cat. 

travel tv crew, equipment

My film team and I also posed for a nice souvenir: Polaroid photos to take home. (Images in this post by Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle.)

miss scuba competition judges

I went to my judge’s head table, and found my place card. The other pageant judges included the mayor of Lapu-Lapu, and sáv Hospitality founder/CEO Edwin Chuang.

2014 miss scuba pageant contest

The sáv team did an impressive job with the stage design, lighting it up in colors with a big screen in the back.

filipino beauty queens, models

Here come the Miss Scuba contestants! They wear sashes that indicate their hometown in the Philippines. Amazing how they can walk in those heels, and toss their heads just so.

This contest is held in English, since it’s an international pageant (founded in 2011). The winner of this regional round will go onto the Miss Scuba finals in Kota Kinabulu, Malaysia on November 28.

philippines traditional dance

Between the pageant segments, there were singers and performers, such as this happy number by the University of Cebu Dance Company.

swimwear pageant contestants

So hard to give a score for each lady! There are typical sections like the swimsuit contest, but the most important criteria is how well the contestant advocates for marine conservation.

asia beauty queens, runway walk

Pageants are a huge deal in the Philippines, and many young women spend a year in beauty queen training. They learn how to walk, carry themselves well, and speak eloquently — and all of them do their own hair and makeup.

witch costume theater

In the Talent contest, their personalities come out. Some danced, some sang, some drew pictures. This contestant did a theatrical monologue, complete with evil queen cackling! 

beauty contest talent piano

It was fun to get to know these young ladies during my stay in Cebu. I learned a lot about their daily life and pop culture — such as their love of “chika time” or girl chatting, and karaoke. Celine Dion’s “All Coming Back to Me” was stuck in my head because I heard several people bawl it out!

evening gown contest, miss scuba

A quick change, for the evening-wear presentation. Everyone wore long, sparkling dresses that reflected the colors of the ocean. 

asia beauty contest, pageants

They make it look easy… but the competition takes a lot of dedication. I was impressed by their unshakable poise. (Love this lady’s long blue ball gown — shop more styles like this below.)

beauty competition question answer

Pick an envelope, and it’s time for the question and answer. Since Miss Scuba is a spokesperson for “saving oceans through beauty,” they were quizzed on how they’d educate the public on marine conservation.

miss scuba 2014 contestants

Cebu’s “Prince of Ballad” Philip Mancol serenaded all the contestants, while I handed in my final scores to be tallied up.

miss scuba philippines winner

Congrats to the winners of Miss Congeniality, Miss Photogenic, Bets Evening Gown and Swimsuit. They received a sash and cash prize.

amanda arbitrario, miss scuba winner

Confetti rained down for Amanda Arbitrario, winner of Miss Scuba 2014! Last year’s winner, Christine Paula Love Bernasor, gives her the tiara, while the mayor of Lapu-Lapu and Edwin cheer.

miss scuba contest winners

Amanda stands with Princess and Reygin, the second and first runner-ups. Congratulations to all!

sony dslr fireworks

We ended the night with cocktails at the afterparty by the beach. Fireworks exploded above us — I’ve never seen them from so close.

pacific cebu resort, sav hotels

It was an honor to be a judge in Miss Scuba, a beauty pageant with the goals of protecting the planet’s oceans, promoting safe diving practices, and inspiring the next generations.

Above is a selection of brands and styles featured in this post. Select the images for more details, and to shop.

Does this story make you think differently about beauty queens?


Sailing, Snorkel & Seafood in Lapu-Lapu, Philippines! Unif rainbow kimono.

unif rainbow tie dye robe

I chalked up a lot of amazing travel memories this year, from the lost city of Petra to petting owls in Japan. However, one of my absolute favorite days of 2014 was the one I’m sharing with you now.

My team and I were in the Philippines to film a video about Pacific Cebu Resort (did you see my post about this gorgeous place?) We met the mayor of Lapu-Lapu — one of the biggest cities in Cebu — and she arranged for her tourism board to take us on an island-hopping beach excursion. 

ksubi bellatrix round sunglasses

I’m all smiles before we sail away for the day. I wore Ksubi Bellatrix sunglasses from West LA Boutique. Love the anime-Goth round shape of the glasses.

unif colorful kimono, coverup

There’s no better backdrop for this Unif rainbow tie-dye robe, also from West LA Boutique (check out their fabulous online store, which carries brands like these). It’s the perfect swimwear cover-up, with a fringe that moves in the wind. Unif also makes a rainbow tie-dye skirt and colorful sneakers.

philippines sailing, boating

We met our Lapu-Lapu guide, and hopped onto a boat. I walked the front plank like a pirate, and let the wind blast through my robe and hair.

unif fashion blogger

(The above 5 photos are by K of Bright Production in Hong Kong. The rest of the images are by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann.)

unif dollskill clothing model

A Titanic moment, at the bow of the boat. How I love my Technicolor dream coat. 

caohagan island, cebu

About 30 minutes later, we docked at Caohagan Island. I couldn’t believe my eyes: white sand, pristine waters, and almost no-one else there.

Travelers tend to overlook Cebu as a beach destination, which is a mistake. It’s not expensive to stay in the Philippines, and you get a far more authentic experience than if you went to a place like Phuket, which is over-run with tourists.

mantis shrimp prawns

There aren’t any Starbucks on this island. You pick your seafood fresh from the local vendors, and they’ll cook it up for you.

What on Earth is this striped sea-creature?

big southeast asian shrimp

It’s a mantis shrimp, a lobster-like Southeast Asian crustacean. They move in a creepy-crawly way, as you can see in my Instagram video.

philippines shellfish

I find it thrilling when I come across local food that I can’t recognize. Not sure exactly what type of conch and clams these are, but I’m willing to try.

caohagan island seafood

Our Lapu-Lapu tourism rep took charge and ordered a selection of seafood for us to share.

filipino jewelry

While we waited for our meal to be cooked fresh, we browsed other stalls that sold handmade jewelry. The Philippines is an easy destination to visit because many locals speak English, and accept American dollars as currency. 

cebu boat, caohagan beach

Black Mustache meets Rainbow Brite. Filmmaker Melissa and I waded into the calm and warm shore.

skeleton swimsuit, goth swimwear

The waters are so shallow in Lapu-Lapu that you can walk between some of the islands during low tide! Here’s a shot of my skeleton-print swimsuit, similar to this ribcage one in black and white.

black heart shaped sunglasses

In the reflection of Melissa’s heart-shaped sunglasses (get them here), you can see the palm trees and beaches of Caohagan.

cebu vacation tour

Apparently, these Japanese men are in on the secret! Cebu is not far from Japan and Hong Kong, but still, not many people think of it when they plan a vacation.

philippines fish seafood

Time to chow down on seafood, lightly seasoned with Asian flavors. Crab, squid, fish, abalone, mantis shrimp, conch… I’ll let the photo above speak for itself.

cebu ocean beaches

After, to wash off, all you need to do is jump back into the ocean. Ah, the island life!

cebu village hut

Only a few hundred people live on this tropical isle, mostly working as fishermen and craftspeople. I enjoyed seeing how the residents of Caohagan lived.

filipino kids parade

It didn’t take long to walk across the barangay (or village). We ran into a lively parade of Filipino schoolchildren! 

philippine school children uniforms

They all waved and smiled at us. So sweet, these school uniforms.

asia jungle treehouse

Aren’t you tempted to climb this treehouse, camouflaged by leaves?

southeast asia smiling kids

These children insisted on posing for photos. I must have taken a dozen snaps of them.

island hopping cebu

Sad that we had to leave Caohagan, but there were more islands to explore. Since the waters were so shallow, we had to ride this little “jukung” in order to board the larger “banca,” or pump boat.

sailing in cebu, lapu lapu

By now, I’m sure you see why this Lapu Lapu adventure was one of my favorites this year.

tie dye hippie coat

Cebu’s weather is humid, and I was glad to cool off during the boat ride.

boat tour lapu lapu

We arrived at Nalusuan Island, a resort and marine sanctuary. Located in the Olango Reef, these waters are rich with sea life.

starfish seaweed ocean

Case in point: this is what the sea floor looked like, from the pier. How many starfish can you count? 

nalusuan island Resort and Marine Sanctuary

Sipping a fresh coconut in the Philippines, under waving palm trees. If this doesn’t convince you to come here, I don’t know what will.

nalusuan island cebu

Cebu has it all. Marine diversity, snorkel and scuba, white beaches, clear waters, an intriguing culture, flavorful local food… and at much lower prices than Bali or Bangkok. 

snorkel underwater camera go pro

As I mentioned before, I have some eye and skin sensitivities that make activities like snorkeling impossible. Melissa and I stayed on shore and threw fish food at Eric, and he filmed them splashing around.

snorkeling fish underwater

He used a Go Pro underwater camera to capture the experience of snorkeling. We’re excited to show you the fish in action, when we release our travel video.

philippines boat tour islands

Huge smiles for Lapu-Lapu — what a perfect day! None of this would have been possible without the sáv Hospitality team, which brought us to Pacific Cebu Resort.

How do you like my rainbow Gothic beachwear? Were you as surprised by Cebu as I was?