Ms Bukidnon Centennial’s crown taken back

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/ 31 August) — The provincial government has taken back the crown from Laga ta Bukidnon 2014 (Ms Bukidnon Centennial) winner, Ms Marah Luz Smith of Malaybalay City, allegedly because she is an American citizen.

Honolu Cruzin, Malaybalay City tourism officer said Governor Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. took back the crown from Smith because the 17-year old beauty was born in the United States.

“Yes it’s true. It was verbally stated that they have to take it (title) away due to the fact that she is an American,” Smith’s mother, Neneng Mozar, said in a text message Saturday.  She said the title was taken back noon of August 29 (Friday) in a meeting with the governor at a local hotel.

Flanked by her court, Ms. Marah Luz Smith of Malaybalay City was crowned Laga ta Bukidnon Centennial 2014 on August 17, 2014 at the Folk Arts Theater in Malaybalay City.  Her crown was recently taken from her for allegedly being an American citizen. Ms Smith has lived in  Bukidnon since she was three years old. MIndaNews photo by Walter I. Balane
Flanked by her court, Ms. Marah Luz Smith of Malaybalay City was crowned Laga ta Bukidnon Centennial 2014 on August 17, 2014 at the Folk Arts Theater in Malaybalay City. Her crown was recently taken from her for allegedly being an American citizen. Ms Smith has lived in Bukidnon since she was three years old. MIndaNews photo by Walter I. Balane

But Mozar denied that Smith, a Psychology student at the Central Mindanao University, is an American.

“She is Pinay (Filipina) because I am Pinay (Filipina),” she added.

Mozar said their lawyer is waiting for a copy of the decision, in writing.

She said her daughter is “totally devastated” and she herself is “so distraught” (about the situation).

“But I have to be strong for my daughter,” she added

“My mom, my family and friends will never leave me, even when everyone is against me… I love you,” Smith posted in her Facebook wall Saturday afternoon.

Cruzin cited a complain filed before the governor’s decision but did not provide details. The governor has yet to issue a statement. Joanne Bayona, provincial tourism officer declined to comment but confirmed that the governor spoke with Smith’s family.

Cruzin stressed that before Smith joined the contest, they had sought legal counsel on the citizenship issue. She said Smith has been living with her mother in the Philippines since she was three years old.

“She, being with her mom here makes her a Filipina until she is 18 years old when she can choose her citizenship,” she added. Zubiri and Bayona have yet to respond to the same query about Smith’s citizenship.

Smith will turn 18 on September 17 this year.

Smith won over 20 other bets from Bukidnon’s 19 towns and two cities in the pageant night on August 17. The Municipality of Impasug-ong, in-charge of the 2014 pageant, fielded no candidate. She also won “Best in Gown,” “Best in Swimwear,” and “Ms. Regata Tours.”

Last week, the Malaybalay City council passed a resolution commending Smith for her victory.

Cruzin said the council will take the matter again in their next session.

Mayor Anthony Uy of the Municipality of Impasug-ong, which was behind the committee that held the pageant, told MindaNews via telephone that he has yet to get a definite report on the issue.

He said he was told that during the screening, Smith qualified to be among the candidates.

Bukidnon’s Facebook citizens took up the issue on their walls.

“Is this how lousy the screening committee is, that she reached this far before being disqualified?” “ARL” said in his comment.

He clarified that he is not against or for the (provincial) administration but stressed “ I want is impartiality.”

Another FB post compared Smith’s case to that of Venus Raj, who also faced and prevailed over a citizenship issue against her at the Binibining Pilipinas pageant before landing as runner up in the Miss Universe competition in 2011.

“This is foul. Is this discrimination again?” another FB member opined.

In another thread, an FB citizen posted that there has to be a credible explanation behind the disqualification of Smith. “Why do they have to do this and humiliate a young lady who “did her best” and “deserved” the crown? (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews) 

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