Even with her extensive pageant experience (she won Ms. Sinulog 2011, Ms. IPI 2012, Ms. Mandaue 2013, Reyna ng Aliwan 2014, and
Ms. Beauche International 2015), newly crowned Binibining Cebu 2018, Mandaue City’s Steffi Aberasturi admits that she was a bag of nerves offstage.
“If you think about it, the last 12 remaining girls, sila man gyud gud akoang mga bet and these are brilliant, intelligent and stunning ladies. When you’re there on stage it can be nerve-wracking and my thinking back then was either I would make it, or worse, ma-backstage ko,” says the amiable 24-year-old beauty queen, who works as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher.
Then again, Steffi’s road to current glory wasn’t paved in gold.
Instead of jumping through every hoop the industry once presented to her, the lady took her while and bravely took a two-year sabbatical owing to personal choice—the thrust for life’s meaning, and what she deserves.
Up close, Steffi radiates the wide-eyed girl with childlike candor. In sheer simplicity and sans flurry, she personifies the Cebuano spirit: ever smiling and accommodating, and unflinching to the core.
In between interviews and meetups, her amiable attitude of the obedient daughter and her feet firmly planted on the ground, Steffi candidly answers our questions the way she knows best—heart and soul.
You’ve always been winning. So where do you get this drive to go for the win?
Well, I was first runner-up in a CESAFI event once and I am always thankful. Because in joining a competition I never join something na I feel that I don’t have a chance of winning. I always make sure of my chances and probabilities of me bagging the title. I don’t know, like naa lang ko’y ma-feel nga kani siya nga competition naa ko’y dako nga chance. So dili lang ko go lang nang go just for the sake of joining, dili ko ingon ana. So when Binibining Cebu opened its doors I just trusted my gut feel, like there’s something inside me urging me that I am destined for this. It’s like this, every time I join a competition I always think that I am already the winner. The mind is really powerful and when you’re optimistic about something you can push yourself to the limit. Pushing yourself harder to be better. When I was signing the application form I was already claiming it, winner na ko.
Take us to the night of the pageant. What went through your mind before you walked on stage?
During that time I was just trying to relax myself lang gyud. I prayed so much because I am a devotee of Señor Sto. Niño since 2011. It was weird because that very day I sort of felt numb, it was as I if I wasn’t feeling something. I don’t know whether I was just feeling scared or not and eventually I just set my thinking to not put pressure on myself and just enjoy the evening.
Who do you think was your biggest competition that night?
It has to be Kim Covert because knowing that she won Miss Philippines Earth-Water and dungan baya sila sa akoang sister, and my sister wasn’t able to make it that time. So she won a title sa Miss Philippines Earth and also she performs really well. Like everytime we practiced for our performances a number of us candidates kay maglisod pero grabe kaayo siya because from afar she seems effortless. She can be a challenger so wala kay choice but to push yourself to also perform well. I’d like to believe that she’s already the (complete) package like, with her height… her tallness can be intimidating because I am 5’6” and she is like 5’11” and for some time I thought nga she will make it.
What do you think was your edge over other candidates?
Up to now I still don’t know (laughter). Because objectively if other candidates were performing very well, mas mo-perform man ko. Kana lang.
What was it like waking up the next day and you’re already the proclaimed winner?
You know what, dugay kaayo siya ni-sink in. So I slept at around five or six a.m. and my mind was still wandering. In my bed, everything was just overwhelming like, nakadaug gyud diay ko! I remember dugay kaayo ko nimata kay lami kaayo akoang tulog, it was like the best sleep ever (laughter). Looking back I do miss the girls and our rehearsals.
How much do you aspire to have the title?
You know what, every night I prayed so hard and I’d cry. Yes, it was like I was sincerely praying for it and without me knowing it naghilak na ko. It has always been like if I wanted a thing so badly I’d pray hard for it. Mura ug prayers somehow added up to my determination.
Do you remember what you spent on the first time you received your prize?
I am more into spending a lot on food (laughter). I do remember I saved up part of that win. I am not much into clothes because close man kaayo ko sa akoang sister so almost all of her clothes mo-fit ra nako. So mag sige siya ug shopping ako kay manghuwam ra niya. I love eating out, I love desserts, when I was young I kept on eating marshmallows and ice cream.
Did you always want to be a beauty queen?
I really love joining pageants because I’d consider them as fun. However it was way back in 2015 when I decided to stop and just choose to stay in my safe zone. I was starting to lose my confidence back then. It was that realization nga kapoyan na ka og compete. Nga mag sige lang ka og pa-gwapa, it was not making me happy and mao na ang reason why dili sab ko ganahan mag artista kay they try to be competitive all the time, and I don’t want that. So for two years, I was just relaxing and eventually, I realized that I missed the people. On some days there would be young girls who’d chat with me online telling me that I am an inspiration to them and indeed I missed those kinds of interaction. It was from there nga I realized that I missed joining pageants, not for the title or the crown but because I can inspire someone.
What triggered that two-year absence?
Looking back it was after I won Ms. Beauche, and if I remember right, the prize was really big—P500,000. And strategically, to move up ahead, I was looking for a pageant that would exceed or match the prize and that time there weren’t any. Except for major pageants like the Binibining Pilipinas or Miss World Philippines and back then I wasn’t ready for them yet. Winning Binibining Cebu I saw myself starting on a long journey. I was inspired with the previous winners, silang Samantha (Lo), Maria (Gigante), and Apriel (Smith), seeing their pictures doing their charity works. The long two years’ wait was worth it because unlike other pageants nga there’s nothing more after you win the title, there’s just not much ahead of you, with Binibining Cebu everything is meaningful and with direction.
How do you take care of yourself?
I try to exercise every day or at least every other day and there should be complete rest and good food. However, kuan lang, dili kaayo ko mo-drink og water. Yes, I am not into liquids and I know that it’s bad for the health but it can be trying and challenging for me to drink water gyud.
What sacrifices did you make to get this crown?
Siguro it has to be time. Most especially that I need to go home every day because my parents don’t allow me to stay here in the city. So every day I have to drive home to Liloan. Looking back nindot ilaag with friends but I have to respect the decisions of my parents so maybe soon I can do those things pero not now. Indeed it’s a sacrifice, and this is my choice because if only I want the complete freedom I can always go to Manila and stay there. But part of me just can’t, I just can’t seem to let go of my parents.
How important to you is looking good to you?
During the day I prefer to not wear makeup. I prefer to go natural because putting makeup all the time can be tiring.
How would you describe your personal style?
I prefer things to be simple. Because before when I was young I used to be a little boyish, like I hang out with my dad. I would play billiards and basketball and my sister is kikay gyud ni siya so she taught me how to put makeup and how to dress up.
How do you destress?
I usually go to the beach. Mostly sa akoang Instagram account kay mostly naa ko sa beach. I am not really fond of reading because once I do I
become sleepy but I do love movies. I have to say this—I love the movie “Titanic.” I watched it many, many times and it just makes me cry.
What was your childhood like?
I was raised by my parents to be always confident, and looking back I’d remember na I would initiate things like in school, I would volunteer nga ako ang mag muse (laughter). I have to say that before, my parents were very strict pero now that I am of age, they are kind of chill na, they are relaxed na. Because before it was like hatod-kuha gyud ko and as a child my focus back then was just my studies. Back then I don’t even have time to hang out with friends because if I’d ask permission daghan kaayong questions, however I never took it against them, strikto lang gyud kaayo sila back then since they want me to be safe.
Do you consider yourself more of a giver or a taker?
I am a giver like with my friends, or even with my boyfriend, I feel happier if I’ll make them happy rather than thinking of myself.
What makes you mad?
Again it’s related to food. Like times nga hungry na kaayo ko and dugay pa ang food. It’s the waiting that I don’t like.
Who would be your role model?
It has got to be Pia Wurtzbach. Ever since she won Miss Universe she has been an inspiration in terms of reaching one’s goals and in making a positive mark in this world. Aside from her being generous, she has such adorable qualities. Her bubbly personality inspires many people, she made us believe that we can be our own Miss Universe in our own way.
How do you like to see yourself in the next five years?
Siguro I would still be joining pageants and at the same time, I would also be into business. Business man gud is sustaining if you work your best. Showbusiness can be good however it can be selective and lisod sab siya in the long run.
What’s your take on the notion that pageants can sometime be ruthless?
For how many years we have been celebrating feminity and with Binibining Cebu as a pageant is for a cause, so we are doing something for the society. We are empowering people and it’s our passion that bought us here. I am happy that I won Binibining Cebu. It’s a platform for me to speak out, for my voice to be heard and promote of my advocacies. So I don’t see pageants on the negative. To some siguro, or this could happen before, but now it’s different already.
What will be life ahead for you as Binibining Cebu?
Aside from being an ESL teacher I also sell native bags so in line with my advocacy is to establish that there’s life in weaving. Because weaving plays such a sensorial story in our country like it promotes our heritage and culture and the past years there’s been a growing problem for this beautiful art. Weavers aging along, and their children not willing to continue the legacy. So that’s why I am an advocate of it in reviving the tradition of weaving. Now, especially that Mr. Kenneth Cobonpue is with us and I know that he can help us out not just for my business, but I can generate more jobs. To uplift the socio-economic status of the people most especially these women who are striving so hard and earning so little. Their quality of their craft deserves international attention. I would like to leave a legacy nga I’m a beauty queen in title and in deed. Nga if I’ll say something I should do it. I want to prove to the people na it’s not just words, not just being beautiful, it’s more action and imbibing change. I want to make a difference.
Your message to those aspiring to be like you.
Always aim high and never give up on your dreams. In life, failure is always inevitable so don’t give up easily. Fight for something that you really want and love.