Miss Cebu 2016 Raine Baljak begins her reign brimming with love, passion and wisdom
By Deneb Batucan
WE’VE all heard about her, newly crowned Miss Cebu 2016 Gabrielle Raine Abellana-Baljak, a beautiful, passionate 19 year old with a mind so profound and a heart so generous.
To say that Raine loves life is an understatement. The diversity of interests she nurtures — literature, the arts, athletics, volunteerism — is quite impressive. But it’s how she delves into these pursuits that lets her stand out, revealing essential qualities that makes her new role as Miss Cebu even more relevant. Yet all these didn’t develop overnight.
Raine’s interests and traits can be traced years back to a colorful childhood in the hinterlands of Cebu.
Born in Australia to a Croatian father and a Filipina mother, Raine moved to Cebu, in rustic Tabunok, Maslog, Danao City, when she was two and a half, after her parents’ relationship didn’t work out. Her mom raised her with the help of her grandparents and relatives. Raine was close to her family growing up. Her family, an interesting mix of artists, politicians and musicians, were a huge influence on her.
Under sun and sea
A very active and adventurous child, Raine was almost always seen with the local kids climbing trees, going into caves, running around and playing under the sun. “I was always under the sun and beside the sea. I would spend my time with the carabaos and the chickens. I climbed mango and coconut trees. Very kiat ko, growing up. Very adventurous,” she shared. “I would spend most of my time with nature, playing my guitar and singing songs I wrote. I’ve been playing the guitar since I was six and singing has always been something close to my heart.”
Singing has been a vital part of Raine’s life as she went on to study at the Cebu International School where she flourished in the theater arts. For five years in a row, she auditioned for the original musicals produced by their school and she consistently got lead roles.
Aside from performing, Raine was also into athletics. She competed nationally in rock climbing and was also a football, volleyball and basketball player. “Basketball is my favorite. Mulayat gyud ko to shoot the ball and you’re always running and everything’s so fast you have to think on your feet,” she said.
During her CIS days, Raine joined the Make-a-Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening diseases. She met a seven-year-old young man who was diagnosed with leukemia. The little boy’s last wish was to be with three of his favorite cartoon characters, Ben10, Phineas and Ferb.
Raine and her friends raised some money to fund the party, which basically is a celebration of the boy’s life. “He showed me how we all have a meaning in this world. Some lives are quick, some lives are long. But it’s what we do on this Earth that would really go a long way. So what can we do to impact someone else’s life positively?” Raine said.
After Raine graduated from CIS, finishing education in English literature, history and visual arts, she went on to become a TV host, disc jockey and model. But she admits that there are so many other things that she would like to be.
“I’d like to get a degree and license to teach and also be a diving instructor since I love the aquatic life. I want to have a degree in law also. I also love studying languages. I learned Mandarin, Spanish and French in school. If you have the passion for something, it would really drive you to learn things. So always invest your heart in what you do,” she quipped.
Inspiration close to home
Going into the world of pageantry, Raine was a bit hesitant because of her skin condition. But her mom, Merce Abellana, a beauty queen titlist herself, inspired her to try and let go of her inhibitions. After thinking about joining Miss Cebu 2016, she finally decided to take the risk and join the pageant a week before the screening deadline.
“It was really spontaneous that I decided to join and I’m happy that I did. I mean, look at where I am now. It’s an absolute blessing. It just goes to show that sometimes in life, never plan out your future completely because it’s filled with unexpected and unpredictable circumstances. Don’t be afraid sometimes to take that risk,” she said.
“I was hesitant because I have skin asthma and this is something for beauty, so you have to be 100 percent beautiful. But that’s what makes Miss Cebu different because they look at your internal factors,” said Raine, the first beauty queen with tattoos.
For Raine, the whole Miss Cebu journey was a chance for her to evolve. It has shaped her to become a wholesome and intelligent young woman. “I hope that through the evolution of my being it will just continue to grow for the better. I’m just really blessed to be here,” she said.
Excitement was what Raine felt during the whole pageant. She tried to overpower her nervousness with happiness. When the cheers became louder, the room filled with strangers became a warm and comfortable place. It was such a blessing for her to have so many people who supported her.
But in all this madness, there was one person that Raine wanted to share that wonderful moment: her mom. “I wanted to capture that moment with her. It’s important to acknowledge the people who supported you from day one and she was that person,” she said.
With a heart
Right now, Raine seeks to create venues for disadvantaged children. She’s planning to build parks and playgrounds where kids could just enjoy their youth and be happy. “My heart grieves when I see kids playing on the sides of the streets. In other countries, that’s illegal, but here, these kids actually live there,” she said.
Raine plans to pursue bigger pursuits with the help of the government and non-government organizations that would center on building shelters and providing education and guidance to disadvantaged kids. “The children are our future and we should give them the best principles and advices to live by so that goodness will be carried on to the next generations,” she said.
A Jill of all trades, Raine has so much raw talent and knowledge to impart on so many people during her reign as Miss Cebu. But what’s important for her is to always have a positive outlook in life. “Think good thoughts, share good words and do good deeds.”
Photos: Alfred Gregory E. Bartolome
Make-up Artist: Carlo Damolo
Hair Stylist: Jerwin Bastatas
Locale: Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino
Gown: Griffins Malazarte
Casual Dresses: Let’s Stylize by Feline