Miss Cebu 2016 Raine Baljak talks about her advocacies for the youth’s health and well-being, natural farming and providing a venue for the disadvantaged children, and how she plans on using the crown to fulfill her causes
Dawn was breaking, and while most people have yet to get up and start their day, the scene at the 8 Hills Farm is already quite busy in preparation for this issue’s cover shoot. On one end of the farmhouse, Raine Baljak sits for hair and makeup, talking to the team about the farm. “We have papayas, calamansi, pomegranate, passion fruit, rose apple, lanzones, rambutan, soursop, red custard apple, malunggay, mangoes, ginger, guyabano, and much more,” she explains rather energetically for someone who’s been up since four in the morning. Occasionally, in the midst of her chatter, she would clarify something with mom Merce, who was busy preparing sandwiches and fruits for everyone. Mother and daughter would yell—good-naturedly, of course—over the blasting hairdryer just to be heard across the room.
Despite the welcome intrusion of the Zee Lifestyle team, it was a wonderfully domestic scene, like a preview of life at the Abellana home when they’ve taken off their high heels and makeup and are ready to relax. Of course, with Merce occupied with the family business and Raine’s increasing responsibilities as the reigning Miss Cebu, the pair barely has enough time to sit down. Although Raine, a media relations officer at Create Cebu, a sought-after model at Origin Model Management, a radio jock on Monster Radio, and the newest member of 22 Tango Records’ street team, is quick to admit that the busy schedule has only brought her closer to her family and that she treasures any free time she has. Whenever she is fulfilling her obligations and attending functions, you can almost always expect Merce standing on the sidelines, proudly supporting her daughter’s every move.
While Miss Cebu is her first pageant, Raine is not a complete stranger to them. Her mom was crowned Miss Cebu Tourism in 1986, while her aunt Mae Beverly Lao-Abellana was a runner up in Binibining Pilipinas in 1981. Her grandmother Maria Fe and great-grandmother Mercedes Durano Lao were also beauty queens, having been Miss Danao during their times. Ever since Raine was little, Merce had always talked to her about Miss Cebu, although Raine herself wasn’t quick to follow into her footsteps. “I was never really interested in the beauty world, because I was more focused on my school commitments,” Raine says, citing her participation in the varsity football, volleyball and basketball teams, along with various school musicals. Other school activities she enjoyed volunteering for were the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Beep Beep Books and other fundraisers.
Her story took a different turn when her grandfather Eulogio was hospitalized. “Both my grandparents influenced me a lot during my younger years, and I wanted to do something to show my gratitude to them—something that would help preserve our family history on this island.” Alongside the beauty queens, the men in Raine’s family were also quite the achievers, with her great-grandfather Gregorio having fought against the Spanish as a Katipunero, while her grandfathers Jovito Abellana and Reuben Lao fought in World War II.
The family history, Raine shares, has given her the confidence and pride to stand tall, although she says that growing up in a clan of leaders, inventors, artists and perfectionists wasn’t easy. “The idea of being ‘good enough’ is never enough, because just as my mother has instituted in me, ‘If you are not practicing, someone else out there is,’” she says. “This allowed me to become very globally aware and conscious of my actions at an early age.” She thanks her mother for giving her the drive to achieve more, but is bashful in confessing that she’s still trying to pick up on the feminine grace that her mother exudes. “Special thanks to Jonas Borces and Mark Shandar for teaching me the ‘walk’!” Raine quips.
The early morning sun brought the farm to life, making the greens of the field and the colors of the flowers more vibrant as Raine—decked in an intricate floral Philip Rodriguez gown—hoists herself up on the side of a terrace for the first shoot of the day. It didn’t exactly look like a comfortable spot, yet the beauty queen managed to carry over that grace she is so dedicated to perfect.
Being Miss Cebu goes beyond having grace, as Raine found out herself throughout the entire duration of the competition. “When you’re in a room filled with brilliant, bodacious and beautiful young women, how can one stand out from the other?” she questions. “That’s when personality comes to play, and how being your unique self is your greatest weapon. At the same time, self-esteem and paranoia are your biggest opponents, so my biggest challenge was really myself.”
It’s almost hard to believe that, given Raine’s shining confidence on the stage that fateful January evening. Behind the seemingly poised composure, however, Raine was nervous just like any candidate would be, especially at the final question and answer portion in which the candidates were asked, “If you could talk to the reigning Miss Colombia to convince her to visit Cebu, what would you tell her?”
Raine’s answer, which sealed her victory, was definitely one for the books in Miss Cebu’s recent history. “As a proud Cebuana, I would tell her to visit Cebu because it is where the heart sings. And with that, Cebuanos have a genuine passion and we love to share. Miss Colombia is gorgeous and confident, but during that night, she might have given a little too much confidence and sometimes that gives another meaning. I believe we can show her how to enjoy the little things. Because Cebuanos are happy no matter what, and that’s what makes Cebu where the heart sings.”
“My initial reaction was, ‘Really! This is the final question?’” she reminisces. “But then I was like, ‘Oh, okay, gotta calm down…’ and then I recalled the three prominent historical tourist destinations—Magellan’s Cross, Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, and Fort San Pedro—but I thought locations are worth nothing without the people.”
“That is what makes any history live on, the culture that is deeply embedded in the hearts of the people. Found in our resiliency, compassion and appreciation for the simple things,” Raine adds. “That is why I answered looking into the genuinity of what makes Cebu where the heart sings.”
Winning the crown is just one of the many significant steps that Raine is taking to further her cause. “My advocacy is to create a venue for the disadvantaged children of Cebu to develop their potentials in a safe and nurturing environment, while appreciating art, culture, history and nature,” she shares. This young adventurer hasn’t been given the opportunity to fully work with the government yet because of the upcoming May 2016 election, but her crown has already given her an advantage. “My presence has a significant impact on our community when I participate actively, and when I use social media,” Raine explains. “Whenever I connect with other members of the community to push my advocacy, or to speak up for those who do not get enough credit, I am a voice that is heard.”
Raine further regales us with tales of her family’s farm as we move on to the second layout, this time she’s dressed in a stunning white Barbie Alvez two-piece. It looked like any other ordinary photo shoot, except the aspiring singer-songwriter was cradling an adorable—yet rather noisy—kid in her arms.
Even with the flawless makeup and the carefully styled hair, Raine looks well and truly in her element walking around the farm and cooing softly to the baby goat. Her love for the place is quite evident. “Only with Mother Nature I find serenity and sanctuary because I know, this is home,” she shares, explaining how she used to live in Danao until her family moved to the city when she was seven.
Witnessing the development of Cebu City is astonishing, she says, but it’s also painful to face the problems of commuting within the city because of the rush, noise, pollution, and other related stresses. “When I’m in the farm, I feel so refreshed by the space surrounding me, as the only noise I hear are the birds, the bees, the crinkling of the leaves, the goats, or the neighboring cows.” The farm is her sanctuary, where she can free her mind to write a song, draw, or paint at ease. “I like spending my breaks here with my squad goats,” she laughs.
The Abellanas’ family farm, pioneered by Raine’s grandmother, started out with only a few goats, some coconuts, other crops, and one farmer to take care of everything. Since her grandmother passed away, Raine’s aunt Mae took over, and it is currently a work in progress towards being a certified organic farm.
It’s hard to talk about Raine without mentioning her vegetarianism—one of the things that she kept highlighting throughout the Miss Cebu pageant. Back when Raine was a child, her immune system had difficulty adapting to the surroundings, leading to diagnoses of eczema, atopic dermatitis and skin asthma. She was 13 when she began exploring the concept of ‘you are what you eat’ and through personal research and the inputs of an allergist and a traditional Chinese doctor, she became a pescatarian. At 17, however, her skin began to react to seafood, leading to a transition to vegetarianism. “But as I learned more about the world and myself, I realized that veganism is the best for myself and our planet, because just as Hippocrates said, ‘let food be thy medicine.’”
Raine plans to take a more proactive approach about her veganism through the family farm. This month, she plans to attain her formal training on natural farming. “With this, I hope to make the concoctions for our own natural pesticides, natural fertilizers, fish amino acids and everything else involved in the processing of our raw produce,” she expresses. “One day, I would like to develop [the farm] to be a venue for healthy living, including yoga, cooking, education and so that it becomes a playground for all ages to come together and enjoy.”
For now, creating awareness on eating clean with proper nutrients, knowing where your food comes from, how they are produced, and living a healthy lifestyle is Raine’s immediate priority. “The more educated we are with our food and the environment, the more concerned we become in taking care of everything around us, so that we do not deplete the resources for the future generations.”
The Cebu City Tourism Commission, through the Miss Cebu pageant, seeks unique, confident, and goal-oriented women of potential and substance to represent the Queen City. With Raine’s achievements since winning the crown and her long-term plans to fulfill her advocacies for the environment and the youth, the Commission single-handedly did quite the Raine check on the crown by handing it over to Raine Baljak.
by Patty Taboada sittings editor Shari Quimbo photography Dan Douglas Ong makeup Arnauld hair Gino Fonghe styling Blaq Mafia locale 8 Hills Farm
Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, April 2016. For back issues, subscribe via Magzter.
LADY CYCLISTS HIT THE ROADS AND SLOPES OF CEBU.
Cycling has been a growing sport and hobby for many years but it’s popularity has erupted since the Covid pandemic. People biking to work and for recreation is an everyday sight in Cebu. More and more are joining the ride. Many are quite serious about cycling. I know three ladies who are among those who’ve gone long distances across Cebu.
How did you get into serious cycling? What was your motivation?
Blinky de Leon. Event Host, Product Endorser & Influencer
“ I’ve been into cycling since I was a kid. A little backstory, I was around 10 years old when my dad surprised me with my first custom-made mountain bike. I still keep it until now, in fact I had it refurbished. It’s the most sentimental thing I ever received since it was his way/gesture to catch up with me after not seeing each other for almost 6 yrs. My dad is based in Germany and he also loves cycling and makes his own bamboo bike.”
“Just a year ago though, my friend Gazini randomly, out of nowhere, picked me up from home to bike with her to the South of Cebu. I felt really excited and motivated to get back on track because it’s very nostalgic and brings back so many great memories. And since then, the rest was history. We’ve been joining different groups, tried different routes and conquered different heights. I’ve met so many cyclists with very inspiring stories in the bike community who kept me feeling motivated too. I also look forward to the sights and the adventure that comes along with it.”
Yumz Mariot. Branding & Marketing Consultant
“I used to bike along with rock and wall climbing. I am lousy with ballgames which is why. Our usual route were Talamban and Mactan but one time, managed to ship gears all the way to Dumaguete for a quick ride to Valencia, the next town located at a higher elevation. Those were days when I did it for fun and what bike I was using did not matter.”
“Fast forward to 2021, a year after the pandemic lockdown began, I realized I have been lazy to do any fitness routine. Too caught up on juggling between house chores and Work from Home deliverables (I work as a Branding and Marketing Consultant), I started to feel my body needs to move as much as my brain does. A hysical fitness routine is as important as what I eat, or what I read or watch. So I decided to invest on a decent MTB, just very recently and got myself a much necessary restart. What motivates me even more is the area where I currently reside at. It is vast, fresh, green and safe for solo bikers like me.”
Prime Sarino. Digital Media Creative
“I started biking as a young teenager and I got the idea to start it as an adult hobby 3 years ago. I was already into running and I thought it would be great to venture into another outdoor activity to keep me occupied after work hours and weekends. I was set to travel for a year so I had to put aside the idea first but came pandemic. We were all forced to stay put and everything was put on hold. Cycling became my diversion. My cyclists friends invited me to quick and short rides. I enjoyed my first 50km ride and the sceneries and routes most of all. It also helped channel a positive mindset during the hard hit season of the pandemic. Not to mention it’s also another way to stay fit when we were forced into inactivity during the quarantine.”
Next in Part 2, we ask the ladies about their cycling experiences and memorable moments…
#CebuPride: Cebuanos in Multi-awarded Pride-Themed Films
Multi-awarded International Gay Movies with Cebuano Lead Casts
By: Allain Dumon Fonte
Pride-themed movies are starting to invade the film industry as people become more accepting and are more intrigued on the stories about LGBTIQ. Many have shared the intensity of emotions and laughed with the craziest jokes on gay-themed movies. In the Philippines, these kinds of movies were questioned as to their morality and their message to the society. The strong influence of the country’s religious standards had branded gay-themed movies as sex-oriented and nothing more. Yet, with Thailand’s more tolerant culture, Thai BL (Boy’s Love) movies and television series have created a new perception to the viewers; and that is gay-themed movies are remarkably alike to all other movies – there is romance, comedy, drama, and the continuing struggle of living like normal people. Hence, Thai BL TV series have a massive following all over Asia. At the end of 2019, they became available in Netflix and are being watched by millions of viewers all over the world.
The Philippine film industry is not that far from Thailand’s. Some of the LGBTIQ-themed movies and television series are slowly getting a following in Asia and are now accessible to viewers worldwide. A few of these pride-themed movies that casted or directed by a Filipino have already been receiving nominations and awards from Golden Globe, The Berlin Film Festival, the Venezia Film Awards, and even the Emmy’s…and the Filipinos in these films hail their roots from Cebu!
1. Lingua Franca
Lingua Franca is a film directed by a Cebuana, Isabel Sandoval. Sandoval also plays the main character of the movie, and she even wrote the screenplay. Lingua Franca tells the story of Olivia, an undocumented transgender woman in New York who works as a caregiver to a senile old-lady of Russian-decent. When Olivia is challenged to attain legal status in the US, she is left with a “marriage-based green card”. While in search for her groom-to-be, she becomes romantically involved with Alex, Olga’s grandson.
The film is now available on Netflix and has received positive reviews from the media. Stephen Dalton of the Hollywood Reporter wrote Lingua Franca is a “heartfelt personal statement rooted in timely, gripping issues that obviously resonate deeply with its author, notably trans rights and Trump-era immigration anxieties”.
Isabel Sandoval graduated summa cum laude with the degree in psychology from the University of San Carlos in Cebu, Philippines. In New York, she pursued graduate studies in Film at NYU. She is now currently residing in NYC, and already has award-winning films under her belt like Apparition, Lingua Franca, Senorita, Ritwal, The Unstoppable, and Judgement.
2. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
This television series was aired in Netflix and has gained so much popularity because it showed the murder of world-renowned fashion designer, Gianni Versace, by a serial killer, Andrew Cunanan. Based on Maureen Orth’s book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History, this television series has 9 episodes of suspenseful scenes, and is star-studded with casts like Ricky Martin and Penelope Cruz. However, the main actor who played Andrew Cunanan is Darren Criss who gained his popularity after being a regular on the top rating TV show, Glee. Darren Criss hails his roots from Cebu, Philippines.
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story received positive reviews from critics. At the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, it received 9 nominations, and won 3 awards, including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for Darren Criss.
Criss was born and raised in San Francisco, California, USA. Criss was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended roman catholic schools. He later moved to Michigan where he studied Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Theatre Performance and minor in music at the University of Michigan. Criss’s father, Charles William Criss, is a banker and served as CEO of the East West bank in Honolulu, Hawaii. Criss’s mom, Cerina, is a native of Talisay, Cebu, Philippines. When he was younger, he visited Cebu a couple of times with his mother. Darren Criss is very proud of his Cebuano roots and wants to portray Filipino characters in films and in theatres to promote visibility of the Filipinos in the American films.
3. The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela
The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival where it grabbed the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film. It was also awarded the Grand Jury Prize in the 10th 2008 Cinemanila International Film Festival at Malacañang Palace’s Kalayaan Hall. It starred Raquela Rios also known as Minerva to her Cebuano friends. Raquela is a local of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines. The film is directed by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson.
Raquella Rios is a native of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines, and she went to the University of San Carlos in Cebu, studying sociology and anthropology. Before finishing her studies, Raquella left the Cebu and went to Iceland after being casted by Icelandic film director, scriptwriter, and producer, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson for the movie The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela. She is now based in Bangkok, Thailand as a fashion stylist and wardrobe assistant to some local Thai movies. Raquella is also an activist for sex workers rights and trans rights in Southeast Asia; pushing for the recognition on the choice of their gender and the right to change their birth names.
There are still plenty of pride-themed films in the Philippines that gained recognition all over the world; yet these movies mentioned are special because of the talented Cebuanos that have brought Cebu to world. They truly are #CebuPride.
37 Years of High Fashion; Arcy Gayatin leaves a Legacy of Edginess and Elegance
Arcy Gayatin: A Legacy of Luxury in Fabrication
By: Allain Dumon Fonte
The brand Arcy Gayatin gave the Queen City of the South a distinct reputation in the fashion industry. The fashion line of Arcy Gayatin sets the bar higher each year for clothing luxury and fabrication techniques.
Araceli “Arcy” Ancajas Gayatin is the daughter Galileo Ancajas and Remedios Zanoria Ancajas who founded Cebu’s home brand, Gal’s Bakery. Arcy went to the University of San Carlos and studied Political Science. And just like Dr. Muccia Prada, who completed her Ph.D. in Political Science and established the luxury line of Prada, Arcy also got in touch with her artistic side and started her own fashion line. However, it was not Prada that influenced Arcy. Arcy was introduced to fashion and tailoring at a very young age by her mother, Madame Remedios Anacajas whom they dearly call Mama Eme. Mama Eme was running a tailoring business back then. It was called Arabel; named after Arcy and her sister Belma. Ara from Araceli and Bel from Belma. In those years, Arcy was fascinated by fabrics and was intrigued by how to manipulate the fabrics to come up with fashion-forward designs without compromising comfort and taste.
After 37 years of creating haute couture pieces for the most fashionable personalities in the Philippines, Arcy Gayatin is now laying down her sketchpads and pens to rest. As she enjoys her retirement, may be on a cruise to the Bahamas or a holiday to the Swiss Alps, Arcy Gayatin has left the fashion industry a legacy of elegant and edgy clothing ensembles that understand and define the shape of women; without compromising comfort and good taste.
To salute the lady who brought Cebu fashion to the world, a retrospective exhibition of Arcy’s incomparable masterpieces can be seen today at Ayala Center Cebu’s The Gallery; curated by fashion editor and writer, Clint Holton Potestas, and interior and fashion designer, Jul Oliva.
BALANCE. Arcy Gayatin is known for her perfect symmetrical lines when fabricating. She knows how to balance edginess and class; understanding well the strength and the finesse of a woman.
RHYTHM. Arcy’s expertise in draping and fabric manipulation can be seen in how she achieves rhythm between architectural lines and soft fabrics like silk and cashmere.
TEXTURE. With her thorough knowledge on fabrics, Arcy Gayatin has achieved the perfection of fabrication by working on different types of fabrics and creating a single piece of art out of them.
HARMONY. The simplicity of the silhouette plus the intricacy of the details create a wonderful harmony, making Arcy Gayatin’s design a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
The photos below show an up-close look at the intricacy and the exquisite craftsmanship of Arcy Gayatin’s fabrication techniques:
THE SPIDER WEB: one of Arcy’s genius fabrication techniques.
MATCH and PATCH: Arcy’s unique fabrication craft by patching layers of different types of lace and lace patterns
PLEATS: The perfection of symmetry in pleats on silk.
LA ROSE BLEUE: U.P. student, Danielle Alessandra Deutsch, inspired by the artistry of Arcy Gayatin, designed this midnight blue dress. The cabbage rose made from layers of silk organdy gave this evening ensemble a romantic appeal.
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LADY CYCLISTS HIT THE ROADS AND SLOPES OF CEBU.