Solar Sports reporter Monique Cuyugan Tuzon is up for anything…at least once, she says.
“My life motto is to try everything once – not even just food, but even adventure. Like, I want to skydive, bungee jump, basta outdoor activities, I wanna do it,” she enthuses.
Mo (or Momo, she says) has been making headlines lately as one of the contestants of the upcoming Miss World Philippines 2018 pageant because of her refreshing personality.
Humorously describing herself as “chexy,” a word coined from the combination of chubby-sexy, Tuzon tells the Daily Tribune she never planned on joining a pageant.
“I’m interested in lifestyle, like food and travel. I want to have my own show like in Food & Travel. I’d like to think of myself as a foodie. Entertainment as well, like E News, I love E News also,” she reveals. “I know how to make ensaymada! I love to bake!”
Monique was born in San Jose, California. When she was three months old, they moved back to the Philippines. “I grew up here till I was 11, and then from 11 till last year, I was based in the United States. I just moved here here recently for Solar,” she relates.
Tuzon, 25, who graduated with a degree in Communications from the University of North Carolina, was recruited by Jonas “Mama J” Gaffud, noted as a leading beauty queen maker.
Gaffud runs Aces and Queens, which became known for its stable of winners including Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, Miss World 2013 Megan Young and Miss International 2016 Kylie Versoza.
Monique admits she did not think she was suited for the pageant life.
“Before, starting training, nase-stress na ako (I was getting stressed), right? Like, oh my God, kembot pa more, landi pa more (sway some more, be flirty some more)! I’m not really landi in person. I’m a very sporty person, smiley lang. But the other beauty queens under Aces and Queens told me, ‘Just be yourself.’ So now I’m just having fun. I’m not really stressing about the pageant. I’m walking lang my normal walk, but with more poise and elegance and just smiling,” she laughs.
Monique, comfortable in her skin, is obviously letting herself enjoy the experience to the full. “I just go with the flow,” she talks about her approach to life. “I don’t really care about what people think of me. Say what you want, I don’t care,” she explains.
Growing up, Mo played tennis, badminton, football, basketball and was on a nationally ranked high school rowing team. As a member of said rowing team, she shares as an example, she would wear a bandanna all the time because she tended to perspire. She also wore high socks even though these weren’t considered fashionable. They called it the “Mo Look,” she laughs.
Tuzon wore a similar outfit to one of the pageant events recently, where others girls, she noticed, looked nicely made up.
“I do my own take on it, the Mo Way,” she quipped.
Not many know it, but growing up in North Carolina was perhaps one of the best trainings she had as a Filipina pageant contestant.
“I love everything about Filipino culture,” she says. “But in North Carolina, it’s Trump country. People would look at me and ask, ‘What kind of Asian are you?’ I get that a lot. It’s not like they are being discrimanatory, they’re just being ignorant. I don’t get offended, I just educate them. I just tell them about the Philippines.”
Not just outgoing and spontaneous, Monique also confesses to being open-minded. “I’m very accepting. I accept everybody,” she stresses.
“My dad’s younger brother is gay. Two of my sisters are gay, and two of my aunts in the US are gay. I have friends growing up…gay. I’m just really very exposed to the gay community.
They don’t have the same rights as us, legally.And I just want to enlighten the people about the legal aspects of it. Kasi they don’t know, right? That they’re not entitled to get the same mortgage together, adopt a child…If they’re sick, their partner can’t tell them what to do because they’re single on paper. It’s really the legal part that I’m trying to fight for. I get affected because they’re my family and my friends, and I really want to be the voice for them,” she explains.
Whatever happens in the pageant, she tells the Tribune, she is glad to be given the platform to express her views on matters like body image and gay rights, among others.
“Win or lose, I am already happy I made it this far as an official candidate [finalist]. The experiences I gained from this and the friendships I am making along the way, I am very happy already,” she recently told another publication.
Along with 39 other finalists, Monique will compete for the Miss World Philippines 2018 title on 7 October in Manila.