I was just like other Filipino children. I come from a family with a father who is an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and a dedicated mother/housewife. Countless Filipino parents, like my own, have made this difficult decision to leave their family for their financial security. Although it was our reality, I knew that it didn’t have to be a sad one but a positive one instead.
Growing up, it was always exciting to open up “balikbayan boxes” (returning resident boxes) brought by my OFW father because it contained toys, clothes and goodies for all of us. But what was most valuable weren’t the contents but the love and sacrifice of my Dad that came with it. Appreciating it for that made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Although I am only 24 years old, I know that I have lived a life beyond my comfort zone. I have always reached for goals that pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of. At 14 years old, I began modelling and joining beauty pageants which allowed me to help my family. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism which opened my eyes to appreciate the diversity in our world. My very sociable nature helps me connect with people very easily because I am genuinely interested in others.
Three years ago, I took a leap of faith and worked in Cambodia. Suddenly, that young girl who was excited to open up “balikbayan boxes” had become the OFW balikbayan herself. But that wasn’t the only thing I learned from this experience.
Seeing impoverished children and families living along the freeways without food and shelter in Cambodia touched my heart significantly. Since then, helping the less fortunate and abandoned children has become my life mission. It isn’t just because I am blessed and I need to share my blessings. It’s as simple as no child should be abandoned and left to fend for themselves.
With all these experiences, the challenges I’ve faced as a young woman and the long, arduous road to a national title, I can say that I am very proud of the person I have become. This is my authentic self, grounded in kindness, humility, love and compassion. I am proudly representing my beautiful country, the Philippines; a country of very passionate and family oriented people. I am proud to be a Filipina. I am Emma Mary Tiglao from the Province of Pampanga in the Philippines.