Friends and family did not believe that she would ever join a beauty contest. Not this rock chick, they said.
Lyssa Gehenna Ramos, 27, proved them all wrong and bagged the Bb. Kalayaan 2011 title at the Independence Day celebrations held at Norway’s capital of Oslo.
“When they called my name as the winner, I was very happy because I joined this contest expecting nothing. Never in my wildest dreams that I thought I will win a beauty pageant,” Ramos said.
Ramos came to Europe chasing her dream of landing a job as a nurse in a hospital. She has a nursing degree from West Negros University and passed the State Board Exam for Nursing in 2006.
Lyssa Gehenna Ramos, Norway’s Bb. Kalayaan 2011, with other contestants. Photo from Macel Ingles, ABS-CBN Europe.
Four years ago, she traveled to the Netherlands to work as an au pair. After learning that she needed a residence permit to seek other jobs, she decided to join her friend in Norway who told her that a lot of nurses in the country started out as an au pair.
Au pairs help in looking after the children of a host family and are given free lodging and an allowance.
While working as an au pair, she became active in the religious community, Singles for Family and Life, and decided to join its choir.
It was during one of their choir practices that a coordinator of the Independence Day celebrations from the New Filipino Working Group handed out fliers about the pageant. Her friends decided to sign her up.
“I didn’t want to do it because I’m very active and bubbly only when I’m with my friends. When it comes to facing hundreds of people, I didn’t think I could do it,” Ramos said.
But in the end, she gave in to peer pressure and did it “for the sake of the people who believed in (her.)”
The rest, as they say, is history. Ramos bested all other contestants, most of whom also worked as au pairs.
Ramos said that she considers the pageant as more than just entertainment.
“Most of us contestants are au pairs. We are away from our family and homeland all because of the same reason – to help our families,” she said. “Bb. Kalayaan is one way of showing people that we are proud of where we came from and that we didn’t forget our roots.”
“Bb. Kalayaan for me is one way of honoring our beloved Philippines,” she added.
Ramos said that despite the government not being “at its best,” all Filipinos abroad love the country and its culture.
“I think it’s very important for a Filipino like me to engage in activities such as the celebration of our Independence Day,” she said.
Ramos added that being with her fellow Filipinos on Independence Day is akin to being home away from home. She said that celebrating with her kababayans eases the homesickness that overseas Filipino workers feel.
Ramos’s mother was also an OFW who has worked for years as a domestic helper in Hong Kong. She is hoping to retire to the Philippines next year.
Ramos may not have found her dream job yet but she did win a crown and found love. She is moving in with her Dutch boyfriend later this month and hopes to start a family in the future.