I am 100 percent Filipina, my parents are and I grew up in the Philippines, despite spending my high school in Florida. I think like a Filipina and I was born and raised in a home that emphasizes Filipino culture
In a few weeks, Katarina Rodriguez, a 26-year old Davaoeña, Philosophy graduate of De La Salle University, model, taekwondo black-belter, long-distance runner, and only a year ago the first runner-up in the Miss Intercontinental 2017 after having been crowned Miss Intercontinental Philippines 2017, will represent the Philippines in the Miss World 2018 pageant to be held in Sanya, China.
At 26, Katarina typifies the 21st-century beauty queen who has matured and has seen enough of the world, an experience that gave her the poise, confidence and eloquence that every international title holder should possess.
She is very hopeful and considers herself “more prepared” having participated in a number of pageants and searches, making her a household name in the Philippines. In 2014, at age 21, she emerged third in the second season of Asia’s Next Top Model.
Although an American citizen, Katya considers herself “100 percent Filipina although I was born in the United States because my Filipino parents wanted it that way.” Only a few years ago, beauty contest scouts in the United States were asking her to join the search for the US representative to the Miss Universe pageant, but she adamantly refused, making clear “that I am 100 percent Filipina, my parents are, and I grew up in the Philippines, despite spending my high school in Florida. I think like a Filipina and I was born and raised in a home that emphasizes Filipino culture.”
Katarina grew up in Davao where “there were so many animals in our backyard,” she now recalls, enumerating carabaos, chickens, turtles and even snakes as among those she would see while playing. Her playmates as a tot, according to her grandfather, businessman Jack Rodriguez, were the children of the orphanage that the Rodriguez family built for the children of displaced families.
Katarina’s paternal grandmother is Sonja Rodriguez, a former Broadway performer, who is well-known for her efforts in promoting Marian devotion in the Philippines.
In high school, in Florida, where she lived with her parents and siblings, Katarina “took up taekwondo because I was inspired by my eldest brother, who was a state champion,” she recalls.
Years of exposure and practice, coupled with determination and strong will, have made her who she is today, a beautiful Filipina now raring and ready to represent her country in the Miss World 2018 pageant.
Her involvement in sports extended to running and once she ran a half-marathon.
She recalls, “In Florida there’s Disney World and I was such a Disney freak. And then I was invited to run the Disney Princess Marathon in the Disney World. And if you could complete it, you can go to the park for free. And you can bring in four other people. So I ran as fast as I could. I didn’t stop because the faster you run, the earlier you finish and you can enjoy. And there were coaches from my high school who were there and they saw me, so that’s how I got into athletics.”
Long-distance running, in a way, serves as a metaphor for Katarina’s journey to the Miss World Pageant. It was not an overnight preparation that brought her to where she is today, but instead, years of exposure and practice, coupled with determination and strong will, have made her who she is today, a beautiful Filipina now raring and ready to represent her country in the Miss World 2018 pageant.
Daily Tribune visited Rodriguez in her grandfather Jack’s office at the Bonifacio Global City where the gentleman from Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Mindanao regaled us first with interesting stories about his granddaughter. Since the Rodriguez couple has four sons and no daughters, Katarina became sort of a daughter when she stayed with them both in Davao and Manila.
“Every time I would ask to join a pageant or a modeling show or competition, I would ask his permission and he would ask for everybody’s opinion first,” recalls Katya.
When she joined the Asia’s Top Next Model, a television series, she fell into the pool in the first episode.
“I was so happy, because I knew that was it, she would be eliminated,” recalls her grandpa Jack.
But as it turned out, “she stayed up to the finals.” Today, he is her number-one fan, and has given her his all-out support in her forthcoming quest for the Miss World title.
While her proudly beaming and supportive grandfather was with us during the interview, adding a tidbit or two about his granddaughter, it was Katarina, for the most part, who gamely answered our questions. She was confident, relaxed and engaging, as a real international beauty queen ought to be.
When we asked her how she intends to project herself in the forthcoming pageant in China, Katarina said, “I will just be myself. I am just going to be my sincere self.”
The interview with Katarina Rodriguez:
Daily Tribune (DT): You have just won a major title, the Miss World Philippines. What was your initial reaction when you heard your name called?
Katarina Rodriguez (KR): You know, you get nervous even if you feel confident. Of course, you don’t want to be too confident because you never know what will happen. But I had two feelings at the same time. First, I was really happy and I felt that a huge weight just came off my shoulders. But I also felt like falling. I was so tired. It’s kind of like running a long, long race. Maybe a 21 kilometer- race and you pass the finish line. And you feel so rewarded and so accomplished.
The point of pageantry is women empowerment. By comparing yourself to the other candidates, you’re completely cancelling out what pageants are really for.
The second thing I felt was I have a little less than two months, actually like a month and a half, to prepare to leave, to do it all over again. So, you really need a lot of endurance.
DT: When you join a beauty pageant, do you psyche yourself up into being a winner?
KR: You know, people always say things like “claim the crown and it’s yours na” but I even forget there are titles and prizes. Instead of thinking that way, I really think of my intentions of joining, ‘Why did I join to begin with?’ This way, I stay in my purest form, instead of getting distracted by the glamor and the pretty stuff. I think of what pageants are really for, which is woman empowerment.
DT: You saw all these other contestants. How did you feel? Did you feel more confident? Or were you intimidated by the way they looked?
KR: This goes back to the question that was asked to me during the coronation night. One thing people need to understand, especially women who compete in pageants, is that you cannot compare yourself with the other girls. The point of pageantry is women empowerment. By comparing yourself to the other candidates, you’re completely cancelling out what pageants are really for. And that’s something that I picked up right away. That these girls I am going up against are not my competitors. I shouldn’t worry about them, they should not worry about me or the other candidates, but rather focus on themselves, and really support one another.
DT: Many thought that you were going to make it as Miss Intercontinental. What happened?
KR: I think it has a lot to do with what I wanted to use the crown for, and what they looked for. They don’t have an advocacy and I am very advocacy-oriented. They just really wanted a queen. They just wanted to put on a show. It was so nice of them to know what I wanted and to take that into consideration while choosing their winner. The winner is gorgeous, she looks like an old classic Hollywood actress of the 1950s. She’s also very kind and I think she is exactly what they are looking for.
DT: So, tell me about your grandparents. What kind of relationship do you have with them? Do they spoil you?
KR: My grandfather and grandmother are very opposites. My grandfather likes to say that he has helped develop my mind. And my grandmom naman, she’s the one who molded my heart. She’s very creative. She plays the piano. I remember that in Davao, I’d wake up to her playing the piano. Even in our house in Orlando. And she’s the one who got me to join.
Long-distance running, in a way, serves as a metaphor for Katarina’s journey to the Miss World Pageant. It was not an overnight preparation that brought her to where she is today.
She’s just very creative. And my grandfather naman, he sees the bigger picture of things. So, if he says you should do this, he’s thinking 10 years ahead, a year ahead. While my grandma deals with the little details. My grandmother is amazing. I’d be so lucky to be half of the woman that she is. She is so strong and she is such a private person yet she is so friendly to everybody.
DT: So, how are you with your parents?
KR: My dad is my best friend. I wouldn’t say I am necessarily daddy’s girl because he also didn’t spoil me. I talk to my dad about boys over my mom. Isn’t it funny?
My mom naman is an amazing mother. When everyone says their mom is the best mom, my mom is really what a mother by definition should be. She wanted to be a teacher, she is very maalaga (caring). And she always wanted to be a mom. She is so sweet and so kind, she doesn’t have a bad bone in her body. Very pure. I didn’t get a lot of that until recently. That maternal domestic nature. If it was natural, I didn’t have that till recently. And she had so much of it.
DT: Did you inherit your lola’s spirituality?
KR: The beauty pageants have made me more religious. This is the most spiritual I have been. I pray the Memorare of Mama Mary. You pray it eight times a day, my lola taught me that just before I joined Miss World Philippines.
Now, I am not a perfect Catholic. Very far from it. But with what I just went through, the past three months with the Miss World Philippines competition, I felt that there was really something that was helping me. It was a very tiring pageant.
DT: People want you to bring home the crown and they’re praying that you will make it, how do you intend to project yourself in the Miss World Pageant?
KR: I met with Megan Young yesterday (The interview was done last Monday). We had a very long meeting, about three or four hours. And I hope to meet her again. She is an amazing model. Very sincere, kind, genuine. She has amazing work ethic. She’s the one who taught me I need to be strong but very sweet.
I really intend to be myself to be comfortable. What I like about Miss World is the whole glam part is exactly that, a part of it, but they’re not extremely focused on that. It is not heavily weighted. Of course, you have to be appropriate, be presentable, always sharp. But you don’t have to be extra bongga. Whatever is happening, you don’t have to make pasabog. I’m just going to be my sincere self.
DT: Let’s talk about your personal favorites. Just one-liners. What’s your all-time favorite movie?
KR: V for Vendetta.
DT: Favorite actor?
KR: Oh, that’s so hard. I just watched A Star is Born and Bradley Cooper was so good, so amazing. But I love Brad Pitt.
KR: I think Natalie Portman.
DT: Your kind of music?
KR: I love all kinds of music except heavy rock. And not so much country.
KR: My favorite song is “Mundo” by IV of Spades.
DT: What television show do you watch often?
KR: I don’t have time, but if I have time, I try to get updated with Game of Thrones.
DT: What’s your favorite destination?
KR: That I’ve been to? Anywhere in the world? Maybe Egypt.
DT: What is your favorite food?
KR: Filipino. Sinigang (sour soup) .
DT: So, let’s talk about boys briefly. So, what’s your ideal man?
KR: Tall, dark and handsome. No, ha ha, just kidding. But I am attracted to taller guys. My ideal man? He should be clean, smells good, hardworking and definitely persistent. Not just persistent with me but what they do. They need to have a plan. Everybody likes a person who has a plan.
DT: Where do you see Katarina five years from now?
KR: Married with a lot of kids (laughs).
DT: What is your wish for this country?
KR: My wish for this country is to definitely find that sustainable living and sustainable tourism and for people from other countries, especially those who have never been to our country, not to tell us how we should live our lives because we do know how to. I wish too that all Filipinos stay genuinely and sincerely kind.
DT: What is your personal Christmas wish?
KR: I haven’t even thought about that. But my personal Christmas wish would have to be to win the blue crown.
DT: What is your message to the Filipino people?
KR: My message to the Filipino people would be, thank you so much para sa lahat ng support. You guys are the best. When you’re proud of somebody, you really give your all.
Whether they are in Egypt, or China, or Europe or on social media, you’re very strong and you believe so much in those who are representing them. And because of that I work three times as much as I normally would.