The Philippines has found an unlikely ambassador in Bradford, Ontario beauty, Denise Garrido, the reigning Miss Canada.
Garrido, 21, is one of 85 candidates in the worldwide search for Miss Earth 2008 and is currently travelling to destinations in southeast Asia with 30 of her pageant peers promoting environmental conservation and poverty eradication.
But it was Miss Canada’s stop in the central Philippine city of Puerto Princesca, the capital of the island province of Palawan, that really set The Philippines abuzz with the name Denise Garrido.
The recent Laurentian University graduate – she earned a degree in biochemistry, with honours – was awarded $1,000 by Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn and first lady Ellen M. Hagedorn for winning the “Miss Earth Puerto Princesa” title during the Swimsuit Competition held at the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) last week.
The PPSRNP, home to the world’s longest navigable underground river, was this year’s Miss Earth venue for the swimsuit parade and was sponsored by the city government in a bid to further promote its chances to be included in the search for the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
Garrido, a statuesque Second Degree Black Belt, is donating her prize money to a certain “Mary Joy,” a little girl she met in Las Pinas in Metro Manila. Mary requires medical help, and Garrido was moved by the youngster’s plight.
Among the 30 Miss Earth candidates that visited the city, Garrido instantly became a crowd and judges’ favourite because of her “extraordinary appeal and charm.”
Mayor Hagedorn was impressed by Garrido’s plans for her prize purse, but her enthusiastic support for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring a spectacular limestone karst landscape and a subterranean river that flows directly into the sea, earned the Canadian daughter of Portuguese immigrants many kudos in the island nation.
During a tour of the natural phenomenon, Garrido told the assembled media that she was amazed at the beauty of the subterranean river and its cathedral-like rock formations, and would be encouraging other people around the world to also vote for its inclusion in the seven wonders of nature.
“It is definitely lovely,” she said, promising that she’s casting her ballot as soon as she gets online.
“It’s a very unforgettable cave experience because you have to do a little sailing before you see wonderful rock shapes.”
While Denise Garrido is enroute to Indonesia and Guam in advance of the Nov. 9 Miss Earth 2008 pageant, back home in Bradford, her family says it comes as no surprise that Garrido is championing environmental causes in far away Asia.
“I just saw the (Miss Earth 2008) website and her visit to Puerto Princesca and I’m very proud of her,” says mom Julia, a factory worker at a Bradford auto assembly plant.
“She has always been involved with the environment,” adds mom. “At home she always tell everyone this goes here, that goes there, what gets recycled.”
Julia says she and husband Luis – a retired construction worker – and their two sons will be watching Sunday when Denise goes up against 84 other young women in the final pageant competition at the Clark Expo Amphitheater in Angeles City, The Philippines.
Win or lose, the Garrido’s expect their daughter home on November 11.
“She’s been there since October 19,” says Julia. “We do miss her.”
Julia says her daughter has always been a “lover of pageants” and became involved in the modern day Miss Canada and Miss Earth competitions because of the world causes the contestants are encouraged to support.
Garrido, says her mother, will be attending medical school upon her return to Canada, and is particularly interested in continuing the work she began researching cancer as an assistant at the Sudbury Cancer Centre last summer.
Her boyfriend Nick, whom she met at university, will also be rooting for Garrido this weekend.
“He’s just so proud of her, what she’s achieving,” says Julia. “Her dad (Luis) and her brothers, they’re all so proud. We’ll be watching on the Internet.”
Carousel Productions re-launched the annual Miss Earth contest in 2001 in an attempt to reinvent and improve the concept of beauty competitions for the new millennium.President Ramon S. Monzon announced that this year’s contestants will be more aggressive in promoting the causes of Miss Earth.
“The times call for urgent action. With the onslaught of global economic slowdown, we need to spread the message that adopting a simpler lifestyle, one that respects the boundaries of environment exploit, can help ease the effects of the crisis. All the delegates represent the countries which in one way or another are affected by said adversity,” Monzon said in a statement.
And that works for Puerto Princesca mayor Edward S. Hagedorn, who sees in young women like Denise Garrido an opportunity to elevate his environmental cause – namely the preservation of his city’s subterranean river ecosystem – onto the world stage.
Mayor Hagedorn said the visit of the Miss Earth 2008 candidates will not only boost the chances of the subterranean river in the New 7 Wonders of Nature search, with the final declaration of winners in 2011, but will also encourage the candidates to appreciate more the importance of the environment and maintaining its natural beauty.
Currently, the underground river in Puerto Princesca occupies the No. 1 spot in the live rankings of the New 7 Wonders of Nature search.
Thanks is no small part to the help of Bradford beauty, Denise Garrido.