Ang swimsuit story ni Ericka Evangelista na nag-viral matapos nitong magpa-interview sa Cabinet Files ng PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) ay masasabing trivial kumpara sa mga nangyari sa kanya outside of pageantry.
Una, hindi naging madali para kay Ericka ang pagsali sa Miss Universe Philippines 2020 dahil sa coronavirus pandemic na malaki ang naging epekto sa kanyang negosyo—isang boutique para sa wedding gowns sa Cainta, Rizal.
Matagal na nagsara ang shop ng fashion designer kaya naging problema ang pera na ipapasuweldo niya sa kanyang mga empleyado habang naghahanda siya para sa Miss Universe Philippines.
"It was a very difficult time because I sponsored myself—from National Costume, preliminary gowns, my final gown. There were times I would cry kasi may staff ako.
"I have to take care a lot of people. I always have to ensure na everything is well-balanced when it comes to finances.
"Sometimes, I would think, ano ba ang uunahin ko, glam shot ba o magpapasuweldo ba ako?"
In a way, naging balakid ang struggle niyang ito para ma-focus ang attention at resources niya as Miss Rizal sa katatapos na pageant.
Sa pagpapatuloy ng 25-year-old entrepreneur, "At first, most especially sa first few parts of the pandemic, I couldn’t really give my best at the pageant kasi I couldn’t afford yung glam shot, I couldn’t afford a styling team…
“What’s really nice, the people helped me out. Ginawan nila ako ng portfolio para maipagpatuloy ko rin ang pagsuweldo ko sa staff ko.
"Yung training ko, I was very much blessed with friends. Even though wala akong monetary sponsor at all, ang pinakamagandang part, a lot of people reached out to me to help like CJ Hontoria, may childhood friend.
"May Q & A team din. I actually worked for four years in corporate before I was able to pursue my dream of becoming a fashion designer.
"So my bosses sa office, the assistant vice president of Century Tuna and the regional managers, helped me out."
ERICKA AS FASHION DESIGNER
Wedding gowns and dresses ang forte ni Ericka, pero nagkaroon siya ng chance na gawan ng dress si Miss Universe Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados sa 68th Miss Universe na ginanap sa Atlanta, Georgia noong December 9, 2019.
Si Gazini ang isa sa mga nag-encourage kay Ericka na sumali ito sa Miss Universe Philippines 2020.
Interestingly, sa preliminary Q & A interview, naisuot niya ang white dress na dinisenyo niya for Gazini.
Ang maging fashion designer ang pangarap ni Ericka mula pa noong bata pa siya, pero sinunod niya ang kagustuhan ng kanyang ina at ama, at iba ang kurso na kinuha niya sa kolehiyo.
"I went to medyo high-end school, University of the Asia and Pacific. That’s where I studied Integrated Marketing Communication," ang kuwento niya sa PEP.ph.
Pero wala raw siyang regrets dahil hindi niya mahihindian ang request ng mga magulang niyang sina Salvador Jr. at Lorenza, na iginapang siya sa hirap, pinag-aral sa private schools mula kindergarten hanggang high school, at hindi ipinagkait sa kanya ang pagkakaroon ng de-kalidad na edukasyon.
And in the end, sa fashion rin nalinya ang kanyang career.
"I really love my parents. I respect their decisions and lahat ng mga sinasabi nila, may pinanggagalingan for sure.
"I owe it up to them for me to be able to go to school.
"I feel like I owe it to them to at least have a successful life for me to be able to provide them a successful life, too."
Proud ang dalaga sa kanyang humble beginnings.
"Very simple po ang parents ko. My parents started out at as a janitor and cashier sa Mercury Drug," na siya ring instrumental para magkakilala sila.
"Right now, my mom is a supervisor, sa Mercury pa rin, 'tapos my dad actually retired. Ang last position niya was sales assistant. We really had a very simple background."
ERICKA AS BEAUTY QUEEN
Win or lose, ang pagsali niya sa pageant goes beyond winning the crown.
Ang pahayag ni Ericka, "I wanted to join because I'm blessed to have a life na I love waking up to, like I love what I do everyday.
"I have a community that I love, and I feel like it’s something I wanted to share to people na you can dream big."
And despite the setbacks at detours sa kanyang journey, malaking bagay daw na hindi siya nag-give up.
"Not a lot of teens have that capacity or that opportunity to see behind their limitations, their poverty…
"Even I myself was not a graduate of fashion design back then.
"My parents actually asked me to study marketing because of course nandoon yung pera, yung stable career, stable degree.
"I was actually forced to give up my dream at a very young age, so that’s the main reason why I joined Miss Universe Philippines, because I really want to empower others na even if there’s a lot of obstacles right now, kapag sinunod mo talaga where your heart beats, you’ll definitely thrive there."
And despite the series of unfortunate events na naranasan niya sa kanyang pageant journey, Ericka can only look forward to life's surprises that are yet to come.
"I’m turning 26 in January 2021.
"Definitely, I’m not closing my doors to anything most especially in pageant because parang there are a lot of things that I came to learn,” ang pagtatapos ng beauty queen/fashion designer/entrepreneur.