Samantha Bernardo missed the Philippines' first Miss Grand International crown by a heartbeat, advocating for senior citizens' immunization from COVID-19 in the three-way tiebreaker question. Did it cost her the title?
The top three were asked whom they would choose to get vaccinated if there were only one dose left, a teenager or a senior citizen. Miss USA, who won the title, and Miss Guatemala, who placed third, both picked the teen, justifying their answers with the pageant favorite line -- they are the future of the world.
Bernardo took a more personal route, and something Filipinos can relate to, she can't afford losing her senior citizen mother after losing her father. Teens, she said, have the resistance to fight COVID-19. Unlike the two, she delivered her answer without buckling.
At the end of the live telecast from Bangkok late Saturday night, Bernardo settled for first runner-up, breaking two consecutive years of non-placement. It was also the Philippines' highest placement since 2016.
Samantha's answer is grounded in science
Seniors are among populations that are at high risk of COVID-19, according to the World Health Oganization. They are also recommended to be on the priority list for vaccines.
In the Philippines' vaccine priority list, seniors 60 years old and order are listed as A2, second only to health frontliners, listed as A1. Senior citizens are ahead of persons with comorbidities such as heart disease (A3), frontliners in essential industries (A4) and indigent people (A5).
Quarantines in the Philippines also prevent those above 65 from leaving the house, underscoring their susceptibility to severe COVID.
Children who are 10 and younger produce more antibodies in response to coronavirus infection than adolescents and adults, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.
The study showed that that aged one to 10 years showed median IgG levels almost five times higher than 127 young adults aged 19 to 24 years. Immunoglobulin G or IgG antibodies prevent the spike protein in the coronavirus from invading healthy cells.
A paper in Nature Communications last month by researchers in Australia suggested children have a more active "innate" immunity -- the immune system's first line of defense which gets triggered before it raises antibodies, and involves cells such as neutrophils that patrol the body looking for infections.
“My heart goes to senior citizen because my mom is turning senior citizen," Bernardo said.
“And I’ve experienced the loss of my dad four years ago, and I cannot afford to lose my mom. My heart goes to them because they are the most vulnerable during this time," she said.
“A fifteen-year-old has the stamina to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and with proper exercise and healthy living, they can live with it. I know as well that every citizen here will choose and never afford to lose their parents, and so, I choose senior citizen," she said.
Samantha's answer is grounded in Filipino values
Love and respect for parents, grandparents, and elders are strong in Filipino culture. However, this is an uncommon advocacy for pageants that are wired to applaud those who advocate children's welfare and world peace.
In 2019, Miss Universe Philippines Gazini Ganados finished in the top 20, advocating elderly care.
Thailand-based Miss Grand International, which crowned eight winners so far, has the motto "Stop the War" and is run by impresario Nawat Itsaragrisil or Mr. Nawat, a former Miss World franchise holder.
The giant video screen on the stage flashed images of the SARS-CoV 2 virus during the live telecast, underscoring how Mr. Nawat has so far been the only international pageant organizer to host one during the pandemic. Miss Universe, the Philippines' favorite, will be held in Florida in May.
Samantha simply slayed
Starved for glitter and camp, hashtags related to Bernardo's quest trended on Twitter on the same night as the announcement of ECQ in Greater Manila -- #InaaSAMnaGintongKorona and #SAMthingGrand. Bernardo, a malaria awareness campaigner, gave a good fight, possibly her last since at 27, she will soon age out of major competitions.
Her first runner-up finish was redemption for Bernardo, who placed second runner-up in Binibining Pilipinas for two consecutive years, 2018 and 2019. She was a candidate in Binibining Pilipinas 2020 last year, which was pushed back to April this year because of the pandemic.
She was appointed Binibining Pilipinas-Grand International 2020 on Feb. 5. With a little over a month to prepare, she competed in Bangkok like she prepared for it for years.
Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray frequently cheered Bernardo on Instagram, calling her performance pure "slayage." Gray was crowned the fourth Filipina Miss Universe in Bangkok.