After almost five years, Miss Universe 2013 Gabriela Isler returned to Coron, Palawan for a charity project in partnership with the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid (Cordaid).
Gabriela first visited the province in March 2014, just days after Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Typhoon Yolonda, hit the area.
As part of her charity advocacy during her Miss Universe reign, Gabriela established the Miss Universe Relief Foundation which raised a total of $250,000 to support Cordaid's relief operations in the region.
In an interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) and other members of the press last Friday, January 25, the 30-year-old former Miss Universe titleholder said it was one of the major reasons why she wanted to return to the Philippines.
Gabriela said, "I started a program with them, for flourishing communities in Tagbanua.
"It was always in my heart to come back to the Philippines to oversee and to actually see the evolution of those [rehabilitation] programs in these communities.
"So I made the decision after a couple of days of traveling in Asia, to go back to Manila, and Coron."
She added, "I contacted Cordaid, the Catholic organization, to arrange this visit and this trip to Coron."
Her press conference was held at Novotel Hotel, Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City.
The Venezuelan beauty queen added that her experience during her first visit to Coron was definitely a life-changing moment for her.
"One of the main reasons why the Philippines is so close to my heart and my entire humanitarian career forever, is because the first one that came…
"They usually think that you're coming to give them something, that you're coming to give them hope, that we're coming to give them support, that I was coming to give them help during the disaster time.
"And I realized that the Filipino communities, especially the indigenous communities in this place, gave me one of the biggest lessons in my life.
"They taught me how to be grateful, how to be joyful, and how to be happy no matter what you don't have at the moment."
Gabriela spent a few days in Coron last week, and said the community welcomed her back with open arms.
She also expressed how proud she is that the community they helped rebuild is now thriving and serving as one of the model communities in the region.
"I went back and I realized that the same happiness, the same joy, the same passion for giving, to share the culture is still there with this indigenous community that may not speak Tagalog, they may not speak English, they have their own dialect, but they communicate with me with their eyes, with their emotions.
"They were receiving training, they were receiving education in fishing, and how to improve their livelihoods, the weaving so they can sell their handcrafts to other communities of Coron.
"And they take those handcrafted bags to the international trade fairs. So this community became a model community that is very conscious about the natural resources that they have, and they're very conscious about the ecosystem.
"It's the only way that they have to survive but there's a lot of things communities actually have to improve."
She added, "I saw an amazing stronger community ready to confront anything that may happen. They have farms there. They're growing the pandan leaves which they use for their handicrafts.
"They're working with forest and water [conservationists], people who take care of all of that to take care of their natural resources."