Faces of Cebu Life!

FACES OF CEBU: Maria Gigante, 29, Universal Woman 2024

Cebuana Miss Universal Woman

Miss Universal Woman 2024 Maria Gigante.

CEBU CITY, Philippines — A host. A model. An entrepreneur. This is Maria Gigante from Bantayan Island in Cebu.

Her friends already know how hardworking she is. When she doubted herself, her friends believed she would make history.

And guess what? It turned out, they were right. This after Gigante became the first-ever Filipina who earned the Universal Woman title.


FACES OF CEBU: Dr. Juvel Ducay, 29, Miss Bantayan Island

Cebuana beauty queen Maria Gigante maoy gikoronahan nga Universal Woman

The pageant took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last March 22.

“I’m so happy na finally for the first time in a long time we brought an international crown back to Cebu,” Gigante said during her homecoming press conference on April 8 in Lapu-Lapu City, which was hosted by her friend– also a title holder, Miss World Philippines 2021 Tracy Maureen Perez.

Maria Gigante Universal Woman

Newly crowned Universal Woman Maria Gigante from the Philippines (center) poses with her court, composed of (from left) Lisandra Chirinos, Brianna Mai, Tavera Pena Chabellie and Elisa Myshyne. Image: Facebook/Universal Woman

Gigante: ‘I faithfully portrayed me as myself, as a Cebuano

A month before the competition, Gigante said that she was appointed to represent the Philippines to the international stage in March.

With only a few days to prepare before the coronation night, Gigante, who felt pressured and excited at the same time, assured that she had all the necessary things she had to make a mark for the Philippines.

“What was most important to me was that I faithfully portrayed me as myself and me as being a Cebuano,” Gigante said.

Having had roots in a town in northern Cebu known for its crystal beaches, Gigante prepped so well to echo her advocacy which has a lot to do with sustainability.

“I wanted to show not just our countrymen or the rest of the world but most of the people who live here in the Philippines, all of the reasons why we need to make changes for the better when it comes to protecting and preserving the natural resources of the Philippines,” Gigante said.

More to being a queen


That is the word that Gigante chose to describe herself as a Universal Woman.

As she started carrying the title, she has been traveling a lot. From that, she learned that “there is so much more to being a queen than a glamorous life.”

Maria Gigante, during her homecoming press conference | Photo by Christian Dave Cuizon

An achievement becomes the most meaningful when there is an inspiration behind it.

And recalling this made Gigante emotional. Her pageant mentor and uncle, Jonas Borces, is one of the pillars of the beauty industry in Cebu.

Growing up in a conservative family, Gigante said that Borces was the very first person who saw something in her.

“[She] took the time to really impart knowledge that she knew would help me later on. I only wish she was here today because she always say that someday I was gonna get the crown for the Philippines and it finally happened…part of it is for her,” Gigante said in between sobs.

She considers Borces as her great inspiration for her pageant journey.

“When it comes to pageants, Mommy Jonas was the first person. She came to me and she was like, ‘We’re joining a pageant.”

Moreover, Gigante said that she never imagined that the fat, eight-year-old girl, who plays soccer, and fond of eating chocolate sauce, would become the first Filipino Universal Woman later on.

The last to get the ‘Miss Philippines’ crown

Having belonged in a group full of beauty queens, Gigante revealed that she was the last person to get the “Miss Philippines crown.”

Some of her friends who already represented the country were Perez in the Miss World pageant, Gazini Ganados and Beatrice Luigi Gomez in Miss Universe, and Jamie Herell in Miss Earth.

Miss Universe Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados, Cebuano stylist Edward James Castro, Daina Nelson, Al Radomesm, Mark Sy , Aiaha Arceta, Sven Chua, and Binibining Cebu Charity 2017 Maria Gigante. | contributed photo

“In every step of the journey, they’re always giving me advice and I always ask them ‘what do I need to improve? Be honest’ and they’re like ‘no, find something.’”

Gigante said that her beauty queen friends genuinely gave her advice and tips along the way.

Although it was nice to have them for advice, Gigante said that she got even intimidated by the thought that she had huge shoes to fill because her friends did great on the international stage.

Biggest takeaway

“Oftentimes we give up before the miracles happen.” This was Gigante’s biggest takeaway.

Gigante revealed that she also experienced a time when she had no stamina, strength, and even optimism to continue pageantry.

“Oftentimes we give up before the miracles happen.”

But a strong support system allowed her to conquer the odds.

“For so long, I attempted to get a national title twice and both times, I left the stage feeling like my heart broke because both journeys, I was very proud of,” Gigante said.

Maria Gigante

Maria Gigante | Photo from KTX

Gigante competed in Binibining Pilipinas in 2016, and Miss World Philippines in 2022.

“I just felt like maybe it wasn’t my night. And I think that’s the bigger lesson there. What’s for you is really for you,” Gigante said.

What’s next?

Gigante said that she intends to “fully” continue her career as a host.

Blessed with a blooming career even before winning the title, Gigante feels like her career as a host “is not on pause.”

“I’m taking it all in stride. I have a crown, I have a career but why can’t I do them together? I think that what it means to be a modern woman and a universal woman,” she said.

TAGS: FACES OF CEBU, Maria Gigante
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