The past weekend was highlighted with the visit in the city of one of the crowd favorites, Filipinos included, in the recent Ms. Universe pageant, Ms. H’Hen Nie or more popularly known as Ms. Vietnam. Ms. Hen landed in the Top 5 of the most prestigious beauty pageants in the world, with our very own Catriona Gray bagging the crown. It was the highest that Vietnam placed in the Ms. U.
Her first time in the Philipines, Ms. Nie was here as guest of honor and primary speaker of the yearly Youth Congress of the Francis Padua Papica Foundation Inc. (FPPFI). This year’s congress’ theme which was participated in 12,000 students from all over the province was “Game Changers: Filipinos Making a Difference Here and the World.”
Awed by the life story of H’Hen, the lawyer philanthropist Francis Padua Papica, invited the beauty queen to share her story of hope and triumph to the Bicolano youth. It is the first time a non-Filipino was invited to speak at the annual youth conference held at the JMR Coliseum.
Ms. Vietnam touched the heartstrings of many people with her inspiring story of triumph over adversity. She belongs to the Rade minority tribe of Vietnam where girls are married off at the age of 14. She defied the tribe’s practice and decided to pursue education by working at lowly jobs including being a domestic helper. She melted people’s hearts with her non-generic look (fair, long hair), her happy vibe, and her very inspiring life story.
In her desire to help her community, Ms. Nie donated all of her Ms. U prize money, about $43,000, to her advocacy Room to Read which she is also the global ambassador. The money will be used to send poor children to school and complete her social project to build libraries to help children leard how to read.
H’Hen’s mother supports her all the way. In a report, she was quoted as saying, “Money you can earn.” And in case it’s money not hardearned, she can give it away.
Atty. Francis Papica’s and Ms. H’Hen Nie’s heart for moving and shaking things to help elevate lives through literacy programs and education are alike. Atty. Francis started his flagship program Read to Live, encouraging schoolchildren to read with books he ships in from the USA, when he opened his foundation in 1997.
Since then, Atty. Francis’ 22-year-old foundation’s advocacy of literacy, leadership, and education has produced men and women who empower their families and other people to reach for their dreams through education. One of his most notable scholars is Venus Raj, a major major achiever in her own right. Venus is a yearly speaker in FPPFI’s youth congress.
Atty. Francis’ mantra is to make a difference a life at a time. In his foundation’s 22 years of existence, he surely has made a world of difference in countless lives. One of the reporters present in the late night presscon at the Avenue Plaza Hotel to welcome him and Ms. Nie said she was once an attendee of the youth congress. Attending it made an impact in her life, she said, and she thanked the much loved Bicolano philanthropist right there.
Ms. H’Hen told this writer that for a woman to jojn the Ms. Universe contest, “she should have a beautiful soul, because a beautiful soul is like a fragrant flower, everyone can smell its perfume. It is more important that mere physical beauty.” Her message for the Filipino youth is for them to always be positive, think positive, always have a dream, be determined, and use education as a stepping stone for reaching their dreams.
During her visit to Naga City, Ms. Nie smiled a lot, gamely posed for selfies, ate gulay na natong, was stunning in a baro’t saya and a terno, was profuse in her gratitude for all the love she received, and mesmerized everyone she met, including me.
Coming to the Philippines reunited Ms. Nie with her coach Anjo Santos, our very own beauty queen maker, whom everyone calls Mama. He was instrumental in Ms. Nie’s visiting Naga City.
Congratulations to Atty. Francis Padua Papica for another successful anniversary leadership congress! Congrats to all those behind the event, especially Ms. Leanne Zuñiga Montemayor, who is herself an inspiration for her strength and fortitude amidst a personal trial. Job well done!
Thank you for the loads of inspiration and good vibes. Till next year!