Pio Paolo Fernandez from the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and Honey Pie Tagon from the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) hailed as the newest titleholders of Mr. and Ms. VSU 2023, respectively. As surreal as it may be to become representatives of the region’s top university, the path to these coveted crowns was no walk in the park. 

The Birth of a Winning Combination

An aspiring veterinarian with a vested appreciation for the mundane aspects of life people take for granted, such as watching movies and sleeping, Pio Paulo Fernandez not only appreciates simplicity, but he also rises to life's challenges with a charming and laidback optimism. Fernandez is also passionate about self-improvement and growth, which led him to take the risk and grab the chance to participate in the search for Mister and Miss VSU—a risk that eventually paid off when he was crowned Mr. VSU 2023.

Meanwhile, joining the search for Miss VSU was the culmination of Honey Pie Tagon’s journey as a seasoned Viscan pageant queen with multiple crowns under her belt. In spite of the challenges she faced during the pandemic, she managed to keep this dream alive. Now in her senior year of studying for a Bachelor of Arts in English Language Studies, she was determined to claim the crown and leave a lasting legacy to the VSU community.

How Consistency Gets the Crown

A true winner has to excel in all aspects of the competition to fully deserve the merit.After consistently acing all pre-pageant activities, Honey Pie had the veteran status that most pageant candidates would be cautious about going against, placing a keen eye on every turn she took in the competition. During the preliminary question and answer round, where she was asked to give words to someone who has no ambition in life, Tagon related her own struggles in keeping her own goals and motivation afloat amidst the persistence of life’s challenges. With a determined smile on her face, she asserted the importance of keeping that ambition alive since this would ultimately guide you to make the right decisions in life.

Fernandez primarily excelled in sharing his thoughts, specifically when he was prompted to give the advantages of joining the Mister and Miss VSU pageant. Fernandez highlighted the importance of pageants and beauty contests as an avenue to bridge the gap between the public and the contestants through the spotlight, and personally, he hoped his participation would allow people to see and accept him for who he truly is as a person, flaws and all.

Beauty with Wit Weighs It All

With the potential of winning the crown and the pressure of having the spotlight directly on him, Fernandez grazed the finals night stage wearing an ash-gray barong that accentuated his statuesque form. With the most charming smile to spare, he ultimately wowed the audience with his confidence. In the final Q&A round, he was asked to give his thoughts on current issues surrounding China and the United States' territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea. He reiterated the importance of having the Philippines create a common ground for mutual development instead of actively picking sides in the conflict.

Tagon’s force during the pageant night was undeniable, as she came out wearing a white-winged ensemble dripping in gold for the production number. The crown once again goes wild as she glides down the catwalk wearing her silver-embroidered gown with faux feathers to match the evening gown portion. During the final question and answer portion, she emphasized how technology can be disadvantageous when it is abused and how we should use these innovations in a way that we can extend their benefits from our own to other people, relating how these actions can have consequences and how they can reflect their purpose. After reaping four out of six special awards, namely: Best in Production Number, Best in Swimwear, Best in Evening Gown, and Miss Photogenic, there was only one award that she was bound to claim, and that was the crown.

When Diamonds Finally Rise Among the Stones

The moment Fernandez bestowed the title, he admitted that he did not expect to win it, and he expressed his interest in utilizing the title in his future advocacy. "This win could serve as a milestone for my future endeavors," he declares. Ultimately, Fernandez expressed his gratitude to his friends and family for their endless support.

In the end, he managed to accomplish his goal of wanting to be understood and seen for the person that he is and the person that he had worked hard to become. This very same authenticity shaped the fruition of his slowly becoming the person that Viscans can now look up to, and he was not the only one that was over the moon after hearing the final verdict.

"I have dreamt of this moment even when I was still in my first year of college, and I’ve waited for almost half a decade, so it really means a lot. That’s why I cried when the host announced my number", Tagon exclaims in an exclusive interview with Amaranth as she tries to contain a multitude of emotions right after her crowning moment.

With tears streaming down her face, Tagon considers this victory a redemption in her life, as she has been feeling defeated lately. None of these would have been possible if it weren’t for a great support system consisting of her dearest family and friends. With her perseverance and ability to take risks, Honey proved that anyone could do anything as long as they set their mind to it, and she did just that by winning the title and making her dreams come true.

The bejeweled crown of Mister and Miss VSU holds expectations, prestige, and a set of responsibilities that Honey and Pio now have to uphold. Whether or not they had expected to win the title at the end of the night, they are now bestowed the role of being the epitome of the values we uphold in the VSU community. The crown symbolizes not just the beauty and wit that propelled them to victory but also the pride and commitment to aspiring as holistic role models of excellence for Visayas State University in all of its 99 years of existence.

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