Hawaiis Miss AmericaHawaii's Miss America, Angela Perez Baraquio, was all over national TV today, teaching talk show hosts Regis Philbin and Whoopi Goldberg how to dance the hula -- "Keep your shoulders straight" -- and telling ABC's Good Morning America audience she believes the swimsuit competition, which she won, should be eliminated.
Angela Perez Baraquio
teaches Regis, Whoopi
how to hula
By Leila Fujimori
She also told reporters at the Hotel Inter-Continental in New York City that she almost didn't enter the pageant after her mother suffered a heart attack in February.
"She almost didn't make it," a red-eyed Baraquio said. "She's the matriarch of our family ... and seeing her so weak lying in that bed, it was hard for me to cope."
But Baraquio, eighth of Claudio and Rigolette "Letty" Baraquio's 10 children, said the Miss Hawaii pageant director told her, "Angie, she would be so proud of you." "I ended up running, obviously, and she got better because she has a will of steel."
Baraquio's proud parents were in the audience Saturday when she was crowned Miss America 2001 in Atlantic City, N.J.
The Baraquios, other relatives, friends, a Miss Hawaii entourage and a contingent from the school where she teaches returned to Honolulu yesterday, still on an emotional high.
Music, journalism and basketball all contributed to Baraquio becoming Miss America, her emotion-spent mother believes.
"Letty" Baraquio recalled she urged her daughter to get into journalism; Angela joined the high school newspaper. That, Letty said, helped her to think clearly.
Angela was encouraged to take up music to sing praises to God. That experience probably helped her feel at ease in front of an audience, Letty said.
Angela also played point guard on Moanalua High's basketball team, which won an OIA championship. Father Claudio said Moanalua made it to the state championships but always came in second. With that experience, the Baraquios were prepared for whatever the pageant's outcome.
In this case, Baraquio did not have to settle for runner-up. Just two days after winning the pageant, Baraquio, 24, a physical education teacher and athletic director at Holy Family Catholic Academy in Honolulu, was at work.
In addition to her TV appearances, she was at the Inter-Continental to publicize her involvement in Make a Difference Day. She reiterated that she is not a fan of the swimsuit competition. On Good Morning America, she told hosts Diane Sawyer and Jack Ford: "I don't agree with it (the swimsuit competition). I would like to take it out," but the public continues to want it, she said.
Baraquio will tour 13 cities before coming home the week before Thanksgiving. She wants to devote her yearlong reign to teaching little kids to grow into decent, balanced people through "character education."
She said she entered the Miss Hawaii pageant (winning on her third try) in hopes of financing her college education. She graduated from the University of Hawaii and said she will use the $50,000 scholarship she won Saturday to pursue a master's degree.
Baraquio, the daughter of Filipino immigrants, said she didn't feel like a pioneer after becoming the first woman of Asian-American heritage to win the crown.
"It doesn't matter what (ancestry) you are. It matters what you are on the inside," she said.
When Baraquio was crowned Miss America, "I cried nonstop," said Roxanne Castilliano, a bookkeeper at Holy Family Catholic Academy, who was sitting in the audience in Atlantic City.
Pattie Kuamoo, her makeup artist, said on the night supporters visited contestants, Baraquio's group would form a circle and sing. By night's end the circle was quite large, with everyone joining the Hawaii group. "The spirit of aloha was just contagious."
"She was so well-liked no matter where she went," said her hair stylist, Dennis Guillermo. "Most of the contestants fell in love with her." Certain elements used by Miss Hawaii in the pageant broke tradition, said Ray Abrigano, Miss Hawaii producer.
Although hula has always been discouraged for the talent competition, Baraquio danced a hula, choreographed by Kala Gongob, to the theme of the movie "Hawaii," sung by Cathy Foy, Miss Hawaii 1975. And while many others wore black, Baraquio's red gown received oohs and aahs from the audience, Abrigano said.
Most everyone who knows her, from siblings to her priest, say she is a genuinely nice person. "She's really down to earth; she's not a showoff," said Cindy Silva, cafeteria manager at the school. "I knew she'd win the judges. She's so natural." And her brother, John, said the win is not going to change her. "I guarantee, she's still going to be the same person. It's not an act."
Friends who attended Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church yesterday and who watched the televised competition at the school say Baraquio's win attests to the upbringing of her parents, active church members with a strong faith. Baraquio, her brother, Albert, and sister, Louise, continue to live with their parents, owners of Able Termite Control, in Salt Lake.
Baraquio, who plays keyboard and sings, and three of her sisters are in a band called High Tide, performing Saturdays at St. Augustine's By-The-Sea in Waikiki. She also serves as youth choir coordinator there.
"The first Asian and Filipina Miss America -- that's a big accomplishment," said Justo Querido, a fellow church member. He and Claudio Baraquio immigrated from the same Philippine province and belong to the United Pangasinan of Hawaii club.
Baraquio's win also has moved young people. Joyce Aguas, 14, a student at Moanalua High School, said: "She's a good example for the kids. It takes a lot of courage to do what she did and she won. She worked so hard and dedicated a lot of time into it." Of her P.E. teacher, Chae Castilliano, 10, said: "I want to be like her when I grow up. I wanna feel what it feels like to be in the pageant." Baraquio's fellow teacher, Carolyn Kuahula, who attended the pageant, said Baraquio has "such a way with the children. She disciplines in such a positive way."
Baraquio won't be back at school for at least the next year, her life now in the public domain. Just a year ago, she was poised to follow a different path. "A year ago, she was ready to settle down with her boyfriend and get married," said Todd Oshiro, who prepared Angela for Miss Hawaii for the third time. But he said she didn't want "to look back and say could have or should have."
Associated Press contributed to this report.