This article is part of Mochi’s Winter 2021 issue, celebrating Cultural Capital. In this issue, we highlight ways that we, as Asian Americans, have embraced our identities and culture, and ways that our culture has been appropriated by others. Check out the rest of our issue here! And if you like what you are reading, please support us by buying us a boba through Ko-fi.
Maricres Castro is a proud Filipina beauty queen from Tacoma, Washington, but carrying the title of Miss Washington US International 2021 is only one of her many accomplishments. As a child, Castro was encouraged by her Filipino family to pursue a career in dance or medicine. At a young age, she witnessed her brother get into an accident after which he needed medical help. She provided as much aid as she was capable of and found herself wanting to do more. From that moment, Castro wanted to have the medical skills to help her brother as well as her family and community at large, as the traumatic experience inspired her to become more serious about a career in healthcare. Currently, Castro works as a molecular biology lab technician in Seattle.
Castro’s Filipina Background
Castro’s professional endeavors and inspirations are largely impacted by her Filipino heritage, and the amazing diversity of Filipino people and culture. She describes her background as a mix, with influences from different countries like China and Spain. Castro noted how Filipinos enjoy coming together as a community and have a resilient nature and explained the meaning behind words such as “pamayanan,” a sense of belonging or community that encourages being inclusive, and “katatagan,” resilience of a community that withstood tumultuous events and history. As a citizen of both the United States and the Philippines, Castro stays connected with both communities as they have shaped her identity as a Pinoy woman. Through learning more about each country, she has grown an appreciation and pride for their intricacies and multicultural histories.
Beauty Pageant Experiences
Castro has competed in beauty pageants in the United States and the Philippines. She shared that, “Pageants are different in the Philippines compared to the USA as there is a bigger presence of pageantry felt in the Philippines. Pageantry in the Philippines is like the NFL in the US. The fandom in the Philippines for pageantry is also huge.”
Castro detailed how different pageants are treated in the Philippines since it dramatically changes the lives of people. Castro explained that Miss Universe Philippines 2021, Miss Universe Philippines 2020, Miss Universe 2015 and Miss Universe Philippines 2011 all used their pageantry winnings to help support their families and buy their family’s first home. Castro added that, “Without pageantry in the Philippines, they would not have been able to afford to go to school. Once you win, your city or village financially supports you on your competitive journey.” She holds the title of Miss Universe Philippines-Muntinlupa 2020 in addition to her current title of Miss Washington US International 2021.
Her title as Miss Philippines-Muntinlupa City allowed Castro to work towards raising funds through the Philippines Orphanage Foundation to address the abandoned child crisis. Additionally, she helped build awareness of the rights of indigenous people in the Philippines, which hits close to home as Castro is a member of the Agta Tabangnon Tribe. Through her work at the Earth Day Network as a youth ambassador, she continues to support the Agta Tabangnon tribe as she helps equip mothers with the various skills they need to run eco-friendly businesses. While holding her title as Miss Washington US International 2021, Castro has worked vigorously to demand justice for social issues, promote local small businesses, celebrate other beauty queens, and spread awareness of Filipino issues and events.
Staying Connected to the Community
While tending to her different duties and jobs, Castro makes time to stay involved with her Filipino community in Washington State. She has had a positive impact on the Filipino American community there by working with organizations such as NAFCON Washington, which promotes the well-being and rights of Filipinos, and the Kabataan Alliance, made up of student and youth organizations that serve communities in the Philippines and the United States. She makes it a priority to celebrate her Filipino heritage and culture in Washington State with members of the community. Castro works remotely to co-host Kabayan Seattle, where she and her other co-hosts share stories and experiences unique to Seattle with their kabayan (fellow Filipinos). At the Asia Pacific Cultural Center of Tacoma, Castro acts as a community outreach advocate while working as a social media specialist. In her position, she assists small businesses by helping them with grant applications and boosting their professional image through social media marketing tactics. She also helps with building awareness of the Center’s different services, such as work opportunities, after-school programs, and scholarships.
Recently, Castro modeled for Filipina designer Seychelle Wilmouth, who creates sustainable, eco-friendly fashion made from pineapple and banana fabric. The handwoven fabrics were made by indigenous tribes in the Philippines and paired with earrings created by designers from the Cherokee Nation. Castro also wore the dress with her Miss Washington US International sash when she served as a spokesperson for the Asia Pacific Cultural Islander float, along with Samoan community members, in the eighth annual Tacoma Santa parade in December 2021.
Sharing Her Identity on Social Media
Castro continues to inform her followers while celebrating the complexities of her identity on social media. She shares the designs and talent of local Washington fashion designers while raising awareness of health news, like vaccine opportunities. Castro makes it a priority to share news of the Philippines and how people can get involved to help, as she did in a recent post about Typhoon Odette in the Philippines where she shared how followers could donate to help provide shelter, clothes, hygiene kits, and medical clinics. Her captions often include resources on how to donate to different non-profit organizations and connect with local resources.
Her Busy Schedule and Advocacy Work
Castro keeps an organized schedule as she balances her obligations as a beauty queen, model advocate, lab technician, volunteer, ambassador, event host, and activist. Many of her interests and jobs overlap as she finds ways to promote her Filipina culture in the sphere of health and beauty. Her role as youth ambassador with the Earth Day Network in the Philippines allows her an opportunity to cross-pollinate her interests. Castro uses her influence as a beauty queen to support and collaborate with efforts in Southeast Asia that promote sustainability in the fashion industry. To balance her job in healthcare with the obligations of a beauty queen, Castro makes sure that she is honest about time constraints. She commented that, “It’s important to schedule rest. So even when I have back-to-back events, I’m healthy and strong enough to give my all. That is why making time to care for myself and my relationships emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually are so important and should take priority. Even though I do have a difficult time finding that balance, I do my best to take care through self care then serve because as the saying goes ‘you can’t pour out of an empty cup.’”
Castro is a role model. Her ability to balance her interests with her beauty queen obligations and healthcare job is an impressive feat. Her Filipino culture and sense of belonging continue to guide her as she works to promote community values through her voice. Dressed in a designer gown one minute and in a lab coat the next, Castro never ceases to amaze.
Photo credits: Maricres Castro
Last modified: February 20, 2022