Anna Velas-Suarin

Religion and beauty pageants: Why our Shamcey did not win the title

This is my first time to write about beauty pageants. I have nothing against this type of competition but I also think that the pageants can be a lot wiser and more gender-sensitive if the contestants are not required to wear skimpy bikinis. After all, women are beautiful creatures (and even men, for that matter) and they do not have to reveal too much skin to prove that. 🙂

Shamcey: Truly an honor to this country. (Photo credits: Binibining Pilipinas website)

However, I will not dwell on this sensitive issue because that is not really the reason for this post. Let me share my two-cents’ worth on why I think our Ms. Shamcey Supsup did  not covet the Ms. Universe 2011 title. Let this be clear though: I really liked her and have high hopes for her. In fact, I was already predicting that she will be Ms. Universe. My No. 2 choice was Ms. Angola, Leila Lopes (who was eventually crowned). However, I started to have some doubts when Shamcey began responding to the question during the final round. The question for her went something like this,  “If you were asked to change your religion first before getting married, would you agree?”

On an intellectual point of view, her answer was a very intelligent and clear one. She explained that she will not do that because her God, being her Creator, is her priority, and if her boyfriend loves her enough, he should also love her God. Biases aside, I think her answer was the best among the five finalists’. The others’ responses were either too ‘generic’ or ‘played safe.’

However, if we will scrutinize closely (and I think many of the judges did this), her answer–without intending to–may have sounded like it was bordering on being discriminatory vis-a-vis religious freedom. (Again, Shamcey may have not intended to make it sound that way… we won’t know for sure and we have no right to judge her.) On the philosophical (or even spiritual) point of view, it sounded like her religion (I suppose that she is a Catholic or Christian believer although that is not even important in this discourse) is a “better” religion than the others’ (e.g., in the hypothetical question, her boyfriend’s) or that her God is better than the God of others (or her boyfriend’s). It may be quite disconcerting to many people. She did not really say it outright but the message that got through was clear enough. She–again, without intending to–sort of debased other people’s religion. I would choose to assume that she was simply nervous to choose the right words. (Who wouldn’t be, anyway, in a moment like that?) We are not in the position to judge her or anyone, for that matter, but I think this question reminds us that we also have to be careful when affirming our faith, beliefs, or religion (although they are not the same concepts…but that is another long post so I will refrain from discussing this either).

We only have one God and He is not a discriminating God. No matter what our religions are, there is only one God. And your God, Shamcey’s God, and my God are the same. We call him in different names and we go to different churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples, but for sure, we all believe in the same God. There is only one God who is the source of the Truth. [As we think about this, we also need to remember that some people do not believe in “God” or the presence of divinity or  deities so we also have to accept and embrace this reality as a part of a very diverse world and no matter what a person believes or holds on to, it should not deter us from treating him as an equal.]

Anyway, you may find it interesting that I am of different Church from my other immediate family members’ congregations. Nevertheless, I find the same peace and comfort even if I attend services inside another Church/congregation. A few months ago, I joined my Mom in attending Saturday services in another congregation. It was a beautiful service not only because the speakers and pastors were great leaders but also because it gave me a quiet time to pray with my Mom. I enjoyed it not because the “Church” is different or better or anything like that but because wherever I may pray, I know that God is just there. I can pray under the rains or on top of a mountain or inside an MRT coach because I know that God is listening.

To be fair, I genuinely believe that Shamcey did not intend to belittle other people’s faith. The sheer tension of the moment will definitely make anyone nervous. I think that if she was given another minute to think about it (which, of course, does not happen in the final moments), she would have come up with a very carefully-worded, well thought-out, and less discriminatory-sounding response.

However, when all the pageant’s noises have gone down, a profound moment may find Shamcey thinking and she may look back on her reply. For example, what if her boyfriend is non-Catholic/Christian or of different religion from her? He may feel some discomfort also. It is not really about the fact that he will make her choose (I think genuinely sensible and well-grounded men will not make their girlfriends choose between them and their girlfriends’ religions) but more really on the fact that actually, there should be no “contest” on whose religion is better (e.g., so it will be the “winning” religion, the religion that the marrying couple should choose as their “unity” religion). Because between two persons who are truly in love and united by a common God–the  One God–there is really no contest. Sometimes “religion” muddles up the whole equation. Actually, at the end of the day, for a couple who has a very strong foundation and whose relationship is not confused by religious ideologies, faith is clear enough. God is clear enough.  

No matter what our faiths or religions are, we are all the same in the eyes of God. He does not teach us to love and respect only those who belong to our Congregation or religion. He teaches us to love and respect one another. He does not care in what name will we call him. He only wants us to do what is right and follow our inner compass because in our core lies our true connection with Him.

If we will also look at it from the “universal” point of view–after all, the pageant is called, “Ms. Universe”–her response can also be misconstrued as an attack against the concept of ‘universalism’. Or even the philosophical underpinnings of “universal human rights”, which clearly state that we should not discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, color, or religion. Her reply, without meaning to offend or hurt anyone, may have raised some eyebrows simply because it somehow compared her hypothetical boyfriend’s religion and her religion. Her answer seems to oppose the very core principles of ‘universalism’ and the context of “Ms. Universe” as ambassador of global peace. A “Ms. Universe” is expected to epitomize the values of open-mindedness, of embracing other cultures and religions, and her answer clearly showed where she stands amid a world where conflicts, wars, or terrorist attacks happen because of religious differences or in some cases, fanaticism.  But again, it is a tough competition–the final moments even tougher–and not everyone can land in the Top Five.

Ms. Angola brings beauty pageants a notch higher. Congratulations! (Photo credits:

So to Ms. Shamcey–thank you for doing your best. We are proud of you! The whole country honors you for going that far in the competition. You may have not won the title but to our hearts, you are already a winner.

And to Ms. Lopes, congratulations and best wishes! I am sure that great things are in store for you. May your reign bring you to new levels of personal and spiritual awareness. God bless you and Angola!


This is not a paid blog.


  • Richie | Pinoy Spoilers

    You have a point here. We may think that there is no correct answers to questions like this one, but there really is.

    Because of her answer, the principles that Shamcey said she has been holding on appeared misguided.

    But then again, she must be under a lot of pressure on that moment.

    • Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

      Thanks, Richie, for your time and the visit. 🙂 I can very well imagine the intense pressure during that moment so I can completely emphatize with her. However, as you said, there are really correct answers to tricky questions like that. Hers was a very smart answer, actually, but one that seems to oppose the very core principles of ‘universalism’ and the context of “Ms Universe” as ambassador of global peace. 🙂

  • lynn yunson

    She was asked about changing her religion not changing her God. In any religion we only have one God but we have diffrent religions. it’s very clear that she was not asked to change her God. She could have been nervous. I was very positive she would bag the title but after she answered, I felt she won’t win..

    • Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

      Hi Lynn! Thank you so much for your comments and the time spent visiting my blog. Yes, that’s one probable reason for her reply. She may have thought–in the intense pressure of the moment–that she was asked to change her God but actually, it was not the question. Nevertheless, I think her reply is a strong and intelligent one–it shows her deep convictions and consistency–but unfortunately, the ‘intellect’ of the answer may have also caused the downside: some judges may have thought that it was bordering on religious intolerance. Sometimes, answers come out naturally from our core being and her answer came from that place that has been deeply instilled in her. And in a way, that is also her strength. She can enhance that strength, step and look back, and I am sure, she will eventually reconcile the meaning of that day (and the question) to who she really is and her mission in life. Last night, she was interviewed in ABS-CBN and she said something like being surprised with the question because she thinks that the religious aspect /religion is so far from or has no connection with the beauty pageant (I cannot remember the exact words anymore). But actually, if we will look closely, our faith is the well where all water come from. 🙂 And that is a reminder for all of us, too. Congrats to Shamcey! She still did her best and she is still a winner. God bless you, Lynn! Thanks again for your visit.

  • Maria Elena Radaza - Smith

    I agree with you Mei. She should have equated love with respect for her beliefs. Love transcends religious beliefs and you accept the person you love for whatever he or she is,unconditionally. There is a difference between getting a person to respect your faith than insisting that he/she follow your faith. Maybe Shamcey didn’t mean that but that is probably what got across the judges. Shamcey was still lucky because out of 89 contestant, she got the third runner-up position.She may not bagged the elusive international beauty title but to a lot of Filipinos, she is still a true winner.

    • Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

      Thanks so much for dropping by and your insights, Elena! I liked what you said: “There is a difference between getting a person to respect your faith than insisting that he/she follow your faith.” Perhaps she did not mean it in that sense but sadly, it may be the first thing that came across the minds of some/many of the judges. However, after all is said and done, we still have a 3rd Runner-Up so yes, let us celebrate Ms. Shamcey’s victory! Kudos to her!

  • deckshoes

    Hi, I just saw the clip of Ms. Shamcey’s Q and A and wondered if somebody wrote an article about it. After reading this, I could just nod and say, my thoughts exactly! Your post is spot on. Nevertheless, yes, she did really well, answering the way she did. Anyone with the most intelligent answer would just go tongue-tied if they had to be put on the spot like that. I am Catholic and my husband is Church of England (non-practicing). We didn’t even discuss it but we just started going to Catholic masses together. I won’t mind going to CoE once in a while, as I think it doesn’t matter whichever church you go to, if you believe and love God and your neighbour, that is the most important thing.

    Oh, I almost forgot to say, what a very positive and engaging post! Well, your blog is very positive in general. “Mei” your great dreams about the Philippines come true!

    • Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog and the very kind words! Yes, it was rather unfortunate that her reply may have been the reason why she did not win the crown. Nevertheless, she gave her answer with strength and intelligence and she is really admirable. I am happy to know that you and your husband are united in faith and in God. I wish you all the best and all the happiness. I visited your blog and I liked it, too! I will visit again. 🙂 Have fun!

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