“After winning the pageant, there were so many doors of opportunity that opened for me—it was short of a whirlwind experience of everything good and going well.”
Wondering how the reigning Mr. & Ms. Chinatown Philippines are doing? We sat down with Jonah Chantong, and got to know how life has been since being crowned Mr. Chinatown 2019. Read on how to see his journey in the past year as he pursued his advocacy, the challenges he faced, and how he was able to #RISE amidst the pandemic.
Q: How was your experience in joining Mr. and Ms. Chinatown Philippines 2019?
Looking back, I was ecstatic to be part of Mr. & Ms. Chinatown 2019. It was a very exciting and fulfilling experience together with all of my co-candidates, as a lot of us were newbies to the world of pageantry and each of us needed to overcome the challenge of getting out of our little bubbles. Despite that, though, we were all able to be actively immersed in the programs and enjoyed being part of them! I definitely learned a lot, and I am happy to have that shared experience with everyone to have had an opportunity to learn a lot about myself.
Q: How has your life changed after winning the title?
After winning the pageant, there were so many doors of opportunity that opened for me—it was short of a whirlwind experience of everything good and going well. I was exposed to a larger audience and was surprised that I was actually enjoying it! I attended several important events, sponsor meets, and the like. Although, the most memorable activity was the celebration of the Chinese New Year in Binondo, where alongside the previous circle of winners, took part in the Binondo Float Parade and were also invited to become speakers during the Chinese New Year’s Eve Festival. Truly, it was an exhilarating experience being recognized by other people, hearing them clapping and shouting our names.
With that, another heartwarming experience was when I was invited to speak in my high school alma mater—Xavier School—during their Chinese New Year event. Not only did this give me a chance to share with them my advocacy efforts, but I was also able to provide insights to motivate them to overcome personal, social, and academic challenges and, most importantly, be proud of their Chinoy identities.
Q: How’s life during this ongoing pandemic?
Shortly after this, sadly, the pandemic struck and the lives of people—both young and old—were all profoundly affected. In an instant, everyone’s lives changed and threatened us all physically and psychologically. The economy became unstable, businesses were challenged, everyone’s health was compromised. To be candid, I was not able to escape these negativities as well – all too suddenly, I lost all of the opportunities just like that.
My partners and I lost our bar which at that time was thriving, and my job, as well as my contract with a network, were both affected. For a while, I felt my self-esteem being challenged as everything just happened so suddenly. I’ve never expected to face a pandemic in my lifetime and certainly not during what was supposed to be the best year of my life. I was twenty-four, starting to create a name for myself, hoping to become an inspiration to other people, especially the youth, and I suddenly did not know what to do. But despite these challenges, I knew I needed to rise above the situation.
I took this as a test for my perseverance and resilience, and with that, I’ve come to realize that we cannot allow ourselves to wallow at the enormity of the pandemic. Rather than as a hindrance, we need to face it and see this as the potential to grow. Through this, I’ve learned to appreciate the more important things in life which I otherwise would have taken for granted before; I learned to be happy and content with simple joys and to treasure these moments alongside my family and friends.
Q: What are you looking forward to when your reign as Mr. Chinatown ends on October 18?
As Mr. Chinatown, I hope that in my own way, I can inspire people to see things the way I‘ve come to. It isn’t easy and we know it will be a long and winding road for some if not most of us; but we need to put on our brave faces and prepare our highest selves to watch out for opportunities, be they small or big, and survive this.
Despite all that has happened, I’m still motivated to pursue my life goal of becoming successful in business. Hopefully, after this pandemic, there will be windows of opportunity which will open up not only for me but for everyone who has been affected by this widespread disease.”
Don’t forget to witness how the candidates rise as one this October 18 (Sunday) at the Grand Coronation Night, live via Kapamilya live-streaming at 11:00 a.m. with an encore cable TV airing on the Kapamilya Channel at 10:45 p.m.!