Reina Hispanoamericana is a pageant that was constrained within the confines South American continent and has been ongoing since 1991. The main aim of the pageant is to promote Hispanic-American culture and has since expanded to include Central American countries. This year, for the first time in its history, Reina Hispanoamericana decided to include an Asian country and it is no other than the Philippines. Eventually, on its very first participation, the Philippines won the crown and its representative, Teresita Ssen Marquez, will be written in the pageantry history books as the first Asian – and Filipina – to win the crown.
Why was Philippines chosen to participate in the pageant when it is not a Latin American nation? Well, the Philippines is a unique Asian country that is in essence more of a Latin American than Southeast Asian. It is predominantly Catholic due to centuries of Spanish colonization and while it does not speak Spanish, its languages are peppered with Spanish words. In fact, it is in the Philippines that the only Spanish-based creole language in Asia exists. Called Chavacano, it is basically Spanish with no conjugation and is spoken today in the southern city of Zamboanga.
The victory of Teresita Ssen Marquez at Reina Hispanoamerica pageant is indeed a historical milestone for the Philippine pageantry. It also signifies the renewed interest of the Filipinos to their Iberian heritage. And even though she is not fluent in Spanish, Teresita Ssen Marquez is determined to promote the Hispanic-American culture. When she was asked about it during the interviews, she said, “Language can be learned but the will and determination to contribute to the organization cannot. It has to come from the heart. It has to be natural. I believe that kindness is a universal language that if you treat people with tolerance, patience and love, you will understand each other. The Hispanic culture is not about language only. It’s about love for God, love for country, love for history and culture and love for family. As a Filipina with a unique heritage, I have instilled that. I am ready to promote the Hispanic culture not just in Asia but in the whole world. It is time to celebrate the Hispanic culture. It is meant to be celebrated.”