By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com
CERRITOS – She turned in her military uniform and boots for an evening gown and high heels.
FilAm Melanie Felix, a 23-year-old Sergeant in the US Army, is going to do her best Sandra Bullock impersonation when she competes for the Miss Philippines-Earth 2008 title, a preliminary competition vying for a spot on the Miss Earth World international pageant for environmental awareness.
In the movie, Miss Congeniality, Bullock played an FBI agent who went undercover in a beauty pageant.
“I sort of feel like that,” said the precocious Felix. “Just like in the movie Miss Congeniality, I find myself doing some of the same things she (Bullock) was doing like practicing the cat walk during my military drills.”
Last weekend, friends, family and media personnel at the Pinoy Bistro in Cerritos gave her a grand send-off before she headed to the competition in the Philippines. The Ms. Philippines-Earth Grand Coronation will be held on May 11, 2008 at the Airport Casino Filipino Theater in Parañaque City.
Felix was recently crowned Miss Filipinas-USA to represent the FilAm community for the competition. She will compete against 23 girls representing the different parts of the Philippines as well as Filipinas from Australia, Norway, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Germany, and Europe. During the competition, the girls learn about the environment; compete in a swimsuit, eveningwear, and talent competition before a question and answer segment.
“We have to remember that this pageant is not just about beauty and poise but it’s about the environment,” said Dexter Echeverri, a producer for the Miss Filipinas-USA pageant.
Echeverri said that Felix has a lot going for her in this year’s competition.
“There was something about Melanie that stood out,” said Echeverri who chose Felix out of 17 other aspiring Miss Filipinas-USA candidates. “Her personality, intelligence and I think her spirit. She really has that enthusiasm and special spirit that always stands out.”
Last year, the former Miss Filipinas-USA 2007 Emerald Morales made it to the semifinals of the Ms. Philippines-Earth competition. Echeverri likes Felix’s chances for this year.
“Emerald made it far last year,” he said. “Although she didn’t win, Emerald made us proud… Melanie’s chances are really good. We checked out some of the other contestants, she is going to have some stiff competition but she’s very well prepared and she exudes an air of confidence and with that she’s already a winner.”
Morales said she learned a lot from her experience competing in the pageant last year.
“It was a great experience and I never expected anything like that,” said the 26-year-old Morales from Carson. “I learned a lot from it. I met a lot of great friends who I still keep in contact with. It’s a just a great experience for me. I learned that a lot of Filipinos are in need of help and that we also need to care more about the environment.”
As for advice, Morales told Felix to just have fun.
“I just told her to enjoy the moment and try not to stress too much about it,” she said. “I told her she’s going to have a lot of fun and that she’s gong to have a great time there.”
From Boots to Heels
“It’s polar opposites. Totally different,” said Felix comparing the Military and Beauty pageant duties. “I really love the experience. There’s a time and place for everything and there’s a time to get dirty and that’s when I get in my overalls and boots and then there’s a time to be pretty, girlie and get your nails done.”
Felix entered the Miss Filipinas-USA pageant after her aunt encouraged her to compete.
At first, Felix was apprehensive about the idea but warmed up to it because of the environmental cause it supports.
“The environment is very important,” she said. “We only have one home and one earth and if we don’t preserve it or maintain it right now then we’re not going to have a place for our future kids.”
Felix has served in the US military for the past five years. She is an E-5 Sergeant in the Army National guard for California. She works as a mechanic or as she says, “anything that deals with wheels – diesel, humvees, and five-ton vehicles.”
Felix said that she enlisted in the Army to follow in her father’s footsteps, First Sergeant Gerardo Felix.
“My father means a lot to me,” she said.
As for the competition, she’s using her military background to set her apart from the other contestants.
“I’m different,” she said. “I’m unique. I’m sure all the girls are unique but I have the military background. I’m proud to serve my country the USA and the FilAm communities of the USA. I just want to take that with me and show everyone who I am.”
But more importantly, Felix said that by competing in this pageant she wants to get the word out about the environment.
“If I can just get one person listening to me, to hear my voice about the environment that would be everything to me,” she said. “I already feel like a winner because of where I am right now and where I’m going.”