By Ricky Matthew
Katharina Weischede, Miss Philippines NZ 2023. photo / Mel Fernandez, Migrant News
AUCKLAND – Just like in the Philippines, Filipino pageants in New Zealand are becoming a source of pride for Filipinos all around the country. It is evident that communities are eager to get involved in uplifting contestants and supporting them to learn about their cultural heritage.
“Beauty pageants are like sporting events for Filipinos,” says Maricel Weischede, proud mother of the Miss Philippines NZ 2023 winner, Katharina Weischede. “Just like an athlete needs a team of coaches and trainers, Katharina had a team of passionate supporters who helped her win the crown and get closer to her cultural heritage.”
What was the motivation for her to join the pageant? “My mom and I started watching beauty pageants together when I did a research project for school about the significance of beauty pageants when I was in year 10,” admits Katharina, a Year 12 student at Auckland’s St Cuthbert’s College.
“Even at a young age a lot of my Filipino mates were saying that I had what it takes to be a beauty queen. But my mom never encouraged me or said that I was born to do pageantry. It was never like that.
“Then last year my Mom told me about the Miss Philippines NZ Pageant and inspired me to join. But it was more an impromptu decision to participate in it.”
Maricel chips in: “My only expectation when she joined was for her to have fun, enjoy the moment, do her best and embrace the Filipino sentiment towards beauty pageants.”
As the dazzling crown graced Katharina’s head, it wasn’t just the radiance of the tiara that illuminated the moment; it was the culmination of efforts from a diverse village that helped raise this queen.
Katharina’s Philippine national costume, a ‘traje de mestiza’ adorned with an intricate handwoven badjao pandan ‘tapis’, was a masterpiece representing the pageant winner’s rich cultural heritage.
Delia Richards a community leader in Christchurch, provided Philippine costumes for Katharina to select from and wear for the pageant.
Auckland-based Filipino-Kiwi fashion designer Dennis Sayat repurposed Katharina’s Princess Belle gown into a Filipiniana ‘terno’ and paired it with a headpiece and ‘tapis’.
The ‘traje de mestiza’ gown was customized by Dennis Sayat. “The golden yellow gown symbolizes elegance and grace, reflecting the vibrant spirit of the Philippines,” explains Maricel. “Katharina was born on Philippine Independence Day and was named after the sunshine. The gown she chose to wear was a rightful reflection of Katharina’s personality, as she always brings sunshine and warmth whenever she is around.”
Even at the last minute, a couple of hours before the final night, another fashion designer, Pi of Paraluman, came to the rescue to adjust the hem of her dress.
The ‘tapis’ wrapped around her waist is a garment meant to showcase the region of the Philippines it came from. The handwoven fabric for the ‘tapis’ was made from indigenous textiles from the Mindanao region.
Before it was replaced with the Miss Philippines crown, Katharina wore a headpiece representing the rays of the sun featured on the Philippine flag, which symbolises freedom and independence.
The Mindanao fabric tapis and the headpiece were provided by Delia Richards, who heads a Filipino migrant group in Christchuch.
Her hairstyling was done by Belen Mitchell, who magically transformed Katharina in a matter of minutes.
Katharina’s rendition of ‘Kataka Taka’, a popular Filipino folk song, during the Talent and Cultural Night of the pageant was facilitated by two talented musical artists who provided guidance.
The assistance of Ann Jiminez De Guzman proved to be a big help for Katharina. This Filipino-Kiwi music teacher, who h as a master’s in music, utilised her expertise to give vocal coaching to Katharina and help refine her pronunciation of Filipino words.
Susan Be recently migrated to New Zealand as a song writer and recording artist. She recorded the music accompaniment for the pageant winner’s performance.
A couple of days before the pageant Dwayne Mallo, also a Filipino-Kiwi fashion designer, came on board to give tips on how to walk and pose on stage.
“It takes a village to raise a queen,” says Maricel, acknowledging the community support that helped Katharina, right from picking the dress to refining her performances and ultimately in securing the title.
Now Katharina is on another mission, this time in the Philippines. “One of my personal advocacies is to work with street children and orphans in the Philippines,” she shares. “I have been involved in this area since I was five years old.”
This January 2024, she is travelling to the Philippines to give aid to charitable organisations such as the ‘He Cares Foundation’, ‘Vision of Help International Foundation’, ‘Cribs Foundation’ and ‘Scot Foundation’.
To cap it all off, on January 17th she will be welcomed by officials at the NZ Embassy in Manila.
How you can help:
Katharina is currently fundraising to provide donations, food supplies and gift items to orphanages and street children. “My goal is to reach up to 200 children and spend fun and interactive moments with them through conducting games, giving away prizes, sharing a meal with them and bestowing financial assistance upon them.
“It takes a minimum of $20 to sponsor a child,” says Katharina, “but any amount will be gratefully received.”
Please make a donation to: Account name: K E Weischede. Account details: 12- 3232-0081296-00.