KAREN IBASCO: THE PHYSICIST BEAUTY QUEEN
“Always ground yourself in God’s plan,” Karen Ibasco shares, which serves as her life motto. That plan brought her in very unexpected directions, from establishing a career as a physicist to winning the Miss Earth crown in 2017.
AN UNEXPECTED DIRECTION
Growing up in a conservative Christian Chinese-Filipino family, Ibasco finished high school from Hope Christian High School before graduating BS Applied Physics, Major in Instrumentation form the University of Santo Tomas in 2011. Upon finishing graduate studies, she became a college instructor in UST and a practitioner of medical physics in St. Luke’s Hospital. So what led her to the pageant world?
“I can use a great platform to reach a wider range of audiences,” she explains. “I can use my field of study to break stereotypes of beauty pageants.” She wanted to combine her field of study with her background with the climate change advocacy of Miss Earth.
Ibasco’s road to pageant life took a few bumpy roads, from being denied by her parents to join Miss Chinatown to losing out in Binibining Pilipinas 2016. She had the burden of not knowing anyone in the pageant industry, until she managed to come across a connection in church that brought her to train at the Kagandahang Flores (KF) Camp. She prepared extensively for Miss Earth, as she used her greatest strength as a scientist – research – to study previous winners, to formulate the right answers, and to be credible enough to reach the ears of people.
She described the pageant as “beauty and brains” with a “strong batch” of girls with various backgrounds and specialties. “I learned not to compare myself [with others], but to find my strength, and to make the judges see who I am,” she expressed.
THE CROWNING MOMENT
All her efforts came to fruition on November 4, 2017, when she was finally declared Miss Earth 2017. To Ibasco’s surprise, the whole stadium erupted in cheers for her, with her recounting that “I’ve never met an audience that was so united for [me.]” On winning the crown, she recalled, “I felt so happy. I was overwhelmed with happiness when I won, because it’s my dream to shout ‘the Philippines’ [on] the international stage, and it did happen. I couldn’t believe it [at the] time.”
On what she thought was what made her stand out among the rest, she felt that “I was just myself. I wasn’t trying so hard to stand out. Being myself was the major factor of making me be seen among the pool of girls.” Ibasco mentally prepared herself to accept whoever would win that night, but she had a gut feeling that she would wear the crown. “I had a really strong feeling, even before the crowning moment, that I felt the crown on my head,” she remembers.
Her role as Miss Earth brought her all around the world to continents she’d never been to before and conferences that tackled climate change. Even as she’s passed on her crown, she’s still connected with NGOs such as WWF Philippines and CORAL. While she plans to continue her advocacies, Ibasco plans to branch out to enter the entertainment industry as well through hosting and possible acting roles.
STAYING TRUE TO HER ROOTS
Ibasco continues to be proud of being a Chinese-Filipino for the values instilled in her growing up. “Until now, I’m showing to the whole world that I’m very proud to be a Chinese-Filipino because of what they see in my right now. And I will never be who I am aside from my Chinese and Filpino blood,” she shares. One of the said values that she personally cherishes most is being family-oriented, calling her family as her “backbone.” She believes, “blessings come when you obey your parents, and I know that they are partners when it comes to making good decisions.”
Her advice to aspiring beauty queens? “Just be yourself….[and] finish your studies first, so you will have the credibility on what you want to say,” she says. At the same time, she advises to not compromise on values and to take heed of parents’ words. “Always have a purpose of why you want to join the competition,” she shares, “not just for the sake of winning the crown and being popular, but having the heart for what you do, and to really help other people with the opportunities given to you.”
She encourages that anybody from any profession can partake in beauty pageants, noting that “It’s important to have the maturity and experience, followed by a good desire,” resulting in a purposeful desire to join. “It’s not just because I have a profession, it’s because [I want] to help people in the younger generation.”
If you want to learn more about this Chinoy, watch her extended CHiNOY Profiles here!