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How To Be A Chemical Engineer and A Beauty Queen

This Filipino chemical engineer shares how she survived chemical engineering in one of the toughest schools in her country and how she eventually became a local beauty queen in her region.


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I met Diane (Chemical engineer beauty queen) when I was still a chemical engineering student in UP Diliman. She was the girl next door in our batch so it took some time before we got close. I was the shy kid. To be honest, I was surprised that we had several things in common – one of them is our admiration for the handsome frat boy we created a secret fan club for. Having seen her around campus, I always thought that beautiful girls like her wouldn’t hang out with awkward kids like me. But on our second year in engineering, I had the opportunity to share my sentiments with her regarding the hard times one must face in chemical engineering. We were petitioning for a class to take together with a major subject during the second semester yet we failed to have those classes approved.

Despite the disappointments, the failures and hardships we encountered as we try to survive our courses, we always found time to catch up on things. We’ve seen each other grow as individuals, as engineering students and like me, she had to endure the pain of failures on her journey to becoming a licensed chemical engineer. Once she finally got the license to practice as a chemical engineer, I didn’t really expect her to join beauty pageants. How rare is it to see engineers joining in beauty contests (aside from the ones we have in school)?

Chemical engineer beauty queen (supplied photo)

So to see her win in a local beauty pageant (Miss Macrohon 2015) and then level up to winning the title of Miss Southern Leyte 2016, I can’t help but feel proud that she represented the engineering community in beauty pageants. Not only did this badass chemical engineer showcased her beauty and the goodness of her heart, she showed everyone who knew about her story that women in engineering are capable of doing more than what is expected of them.

In this feature story, this chemical engineer (who currently works at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau) shares her amazing journey into becoming a chemical engineer and a role model to all the young women who have gotten to know her story.

How was life as a chemical engineering student in a university considered to have one of the toughest ChE degree programs?

Well, it was most definitely not a walk in the park. It was challenging and fun at the same time. I learned a lot during my undergraduate years in UP, not just inside but also beyond the four walls of the classroom. The classes were hard, especially when you didn’t get a certain lesson. Teachers in UP do not spoon feed their students. So we had to find ways to understand the lessons and incorporate them in our case studies, thesis and plant designs projects. Looking back, I realize that all the late nights and early mornings I spent on “trying” to study were very effective in strengthening the discipline I had over myself and the power of believing in myself. I’m a slow learner, I don’t usually understand a lesson in one sitting, so I had to read and reread materials to grasp the content. And as if being a slow learner wasn’t enough, the pressure to keep up escalated when you realize that all your classmates were achievers and top notchers in their respective high schools. The fun part was of course the extra co-curricular activity I had, through the activities of the organizations I joined.

What made you pursue the course?

I’ve always wanted to have an “Engr.” added to my name. It all started in my childhood when I constantly saw my father’s name with an Engr. on it (he was a Civil Engineer). And, as my parents can wholeheartedly attest to, I am a bit (or a lot, haha!) hard headed. So no matter the number of difficult lessons and failed exams, giving up on something I was set on to getting was never an option. Studying in the city is also a very expensive adventure, and every time I was having a hard time, I thought about the hours my mother and father worked just to pay for my tuition, board and lodging, and daily allowance, and I knew I had to do my best to finish what I started. I guess what I’m saying is that I always held on to my family for support and inspiration, and all throughout college I knew that what I was doing was for them and that was enough to keep me going.

Did you really see yourself as a Chemical Engineer or something else?

Hah! Good question. Well a few months before college, I didn’t really see myself as anything. I mean yes I had notions of having an “Engr.” to my name, but I never really internalized what being an engineer meant. I was such a big fan of watching Project Runway, Clean House (remodeling and redecorating houses), Ambush Makeover (and other shows that involved clothes and lots of ‘em!). And then come college, I was suddenly imagining myself as a Broadcasting Communications Major. I don’t know really, I wanted to be an Engineer, a fashion designer, an interior designer, a lot of things!

If given a chance to redo college, what course would you have taken?

I think I still would’ve chosen Chemical Engineering or something similar that was not in my comfort zone. I realize now that I’m the type of person who likes a challenge every now and then, and I usually get bored easily especially when I feel there’s nothing more to learn from a certain experience.

Chemical engineer beauty queen: Diane during her oath taking last June 2015

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Where do you work now?

I am presently an Environmental Management Specialist under the Department of Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau of Region VII.

Let’s talk about you joining pageants. Was it always your dream to join beauty contests?

Hmm, not exactly a dream per se. I mean I always, always liked watching pageants on TV. And I admired how the women carried themselves, and I always analyzed the questions thrown to each candidate and kind of formulated my own answer to them. It was surreal to actually be a candidate in a pageant because I always thought I’d just be watching from my own couch at home. So maybe it was less of a dream and more of a hopeful wish that I never expected to be granted to me.

What were your preparations when you entered the beauty contest you’ve been in?

Okay, so I’ve actually joined only 2 pageants. The first was kind of a rush decision, so I just had two weeks for an all-day every day egg diet (which I would not recommend to anyone now that I’ve tried it!). I had much more prep time for the second pageant, which is Ms. Southern Leyte. I went to the gym at least 2 times a week and ate less rice and way less sugar but more protein. I also had a few days worth of training on how to walk with heels (which I probably already forgot by now haha!).

How does it feel to hold the title as Ms. Southern Leyte?

Honestly I feel normal. I mean after the pageant I spent a few days at home then went back to Cebu for work and aside from the teasing comments from my workmates every now and then, nothing’s really changed. Maybe that’s also because I’m in Cebu, and there’s a considerable distance between Cebu and Southern Leyte. So my title didn’t follow me here? Haha kidding! I think that I’d feel different when I go back to Southern Leyte, though.

Chemical engineer beauty queen (supplied photo)

Always believed that beauty queens should be more than pretty faces to everyone. As a beauty queen, what do you think is your role to the public?

Hmm, tough question. Well, based on stereotypes, beauty queens are usually just there as display on gatherings and important events. We’re just expected to sit and stand with poise, nod when necessary and smile for pictures. But now that I hold a title, I realize that there’s a deeper purpose in being a queen. You don’t just carry a title. You carry an image of the place you represent. You are part of the front liners when it comes to presenting your hometown and the people in it.  So I’ve started to be more socially aware of the recent events locally and abroad. I also devote time to reading on environmental issues, so that I’d be fully informed if and when I issue statements regarding hot topics especially in social media. It is my job to show the people, especially the youth that “hey, beauty should not just be about people. It should also be about places – specifically the town and the province we’re from.”

What are your advocacies (as a beauty queen and a law abiding citizen)?

Well I have a lot of those! Haha! First, I’d like to stress how important it is to take care of the youth. The youth today are so much different than our generation and the generations before ours. I’d like to push for their education, but not just inside but also outside the four walls of the classroom. Educate them on how to survive in this crazy crazy world. More often than not, we are taught lessons in class that we have no idea how to use in real life. So I’d like for the education system to be tweaked a little and for the educators to also put importance on the applications of the lesson to real life scenarios.

I’d also like to give importance to the environment and how much we need to do to repair the damage we’ve caused to it. Now that I work under an agency that advocates the protection of the environment, I have learned so much more about the status quo of our water forms and land forms. I would really want to promote tourism in our hometown but at the same time maintain the pristine beauty of the waters. I am trying to research on ways for a more sustainable ecology that means more reuse and recycle than what we’re practicing today. The Philippines actually has good laws regarding the environment. But what we lack is the accuracy and devotion to good implementation of all these laws.

Chemical engineer beauty queen (supplied photo)

I’m all for women empowerment and to see a dear friend making a difference as a chemical engineer and a beauty queen is inspiring. To write about her is such a pleasure, knowing that her message may inspire millions of young women in the engineering field not to close their doors on opportunities outside the field. It is such a big and tough world out there, it will be hard for women to succeed but they can. You can! 

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To all the female engineers out there, be the difference this world needs. Make that difference in whatever way possible.

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Engr. Ninez Hernandez
A sensitive flirt, an awkward tease and a metallurgical engineer, surprisingly.

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