As a survivor of the taxing preparations for one of the world’s most prestigious beauty pageants, Maria Luisa Santos is no stranger to a grueling routine. Uno had no trouble convincing Miss Earth Guam 2009 to get her hands dirty in this shoot.
Photography by Jason Tablante | Styling by Ana Kalaw
Makeup by Omar Ermia | Hair by Borge Aloba
How did you end up competing in a beauty pageant like Miss Earth Guam?
I joined my first pageant back in 2005, and then in 2008, I decided to run for Miss Guam Earth. Frank Santos, the national director, spoke to me about what the pageant was all about. I was so used to competing in pageants based solely on beauty and brains, but I had never heard of the Miss Earth pageant, which merged beauty, brains, and a desire to protect the environment.
So what did you do to prepare for Miss Earth Guam?
The preparation process was intense! Aside from makeup training, hours of practice interviews and wardrobe planning with my friend Drew Murphy, numerous photo shoots, and keeping myself in shape, I also had to commit myself to spending a lot of time reading and doing research on environmental issues, not only those affecting the island, but the rest of the world as well.
Which question struck you the most and what was your response to it?
The question that struck me the most was when they had asked me: “If you were given the opportunity to go back in time and change anything in your life, what would it be and why?” If I had an opportunity to change anything in my life, I wouldn’t change a thing. My life has become what it has become and I need to accept it. Are there things that I could change that I think would be better for me? Possibly, but the grass is always greener on the other side. I just look to make the best of what I have. There have been many obstacles that I’ve had to overcome in my life, but I’ve also been gifted with many, many blessings. All the experiences that I have been through, choices and mistakes I have made, whether positive or negative, have helped build my character and mold me into the person I am today. So overall, I don’t wish to change the course that my life has taken, nor do I have any regrets, just lessons learned. The way I see it, I believe everything happens for a reason. You may not realize it at that particular point in time, and things may not always work out the way you had hoped or wanted, but when you look back on it, you realize that it was well worth it. This realization comes from believing that it’s all a part of God’s will and grander plan that He has in store for us. We were never promised an easy life, just a promise that it would be worth it. And so far, my life has been just that!
How did your victory feel, knowing you would represent Guam in what is essentially an environmentally themed pageant?
The moment I realized I had won the title, it was just a blur of mixed emotions! I was nervous, excited, happy; the list goes on! Since that day, I have never felt such a strong feeling […] knowing that I was chosen to represent Guam in a prestigious pageant. I was no longer competing as just “Maria Luisa Santos, Contestant #14”; I WAS GUAM. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would go this far representing the island. It struck me with an even more humble realization when I returned home with 2 awards for Guam! I couldn’t believe it… I may not have placed in the top and took home the crown, but the memorable experience was the “intangible crown” I took with me.
How did you practice and prepare for the Q&A portions of Miss Earth?
Honestly, the Q&A portion is always horrifying and nerve wracking! I’ve always been very shy, and answering questions in front of a panel of judges is not exactly the most comfortable situation to be in! Thanks to dedicated committee members and family and friends, they helped me prepare with practice interviews. The more you practice, the more comfortable you get [and] a confident attitude was […] key. If you believe in your heart you can answer whatever question, [half] the battle is won. Continuous education [and devotion to] read up on current issues [also played an important role].
We heard you teach in an elementary school. Could you tell us more about that?
I’ve been teaching for 3 years now. I currently teach 2nd grade, and I learn new things every day, especially from my students. [I learn] to deal with children from all backgrounds in a kind and unbiased manner. It’s a constant back and forth cycle where they learn from you, and you learn from them. My desire to be a teacher was not something I was born with, but grew from years of experience helping my mom teach AWANA classes […] when I was a teenager. At first, it wasn’t that interesting to me, but as time passed, I actually grew to enjoy it. It requires a personality and character beyond the ordinary [and] patience, determination and an open mind to help you to get you through the low points and tougher moments. You learn to smile at the challenges.