Ever wonder what is it like to follow a Miss Universe on a trip? Given her hectic schedule, it’s tiring.
On Thursday, two days before she sat as one of the judges at Miss Universe Philippines 2022 coronation night held at the Mall of Asia Arena, we joined reigning Miss Universe Harnaaz Kaur Sandhu in her recent trip to Vigan, the capital city of Ilocos Sur.
The junket started early morning when we left the Platinum Skies Hangar Domestic Airport Compound in Pasay aboard a private plane. With us were Harnaaz’s team of videographers, some members of the Miss Universe Organization, some select members of the press, and the President of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) and Narvacan City Mayor, Hon. Chavit Singson along with Architect Richelle Singson-Michael, LCS Group Vice Chairperson and Ako Ilokano Ako Partylist first nominee.
The flight was a 35-minutes smooth experience, laid-back. But the same thing cannot be said of Harnaaz’s itinerary that day.
When we landed at the airport of the famous city in the northern Philippines, Harnaaz immediately started her tour itinerary with a courtesy call with Governor Ryan Singson at the Provincial Farmers Livelihood Development Center. It was immediately followed by a tour at the Baluarte Safari Gallery and Safari Hotel. Then she headed for lunch at a restaurant on the famed Calle Crisologo before doing a quick shoot with the 15th Century Spanish street as backdrop. In between, she graciously accommodated a few people, some government officials included, for quick selfies.
After a merienda cena in Sulvec, Narvacan, Harnaaz, still in her stilettos, appeared as special guest at the inauguration of the Narvacan Digital Palengke, an initiative that aims to empower Filipino vendors with opportunities to make use of cashless transactions and provide training to help them improve their livelihood in these digital times.
At the venue, she was surrounded by locals eager to have a closer look at her, have a selfie of course, or just to see her wave and smile. She went back to Sulvec for a quick outfit change, do some snaps for MUO social media posts, and have dinner before heading back to Narvacan Market for the launch of the town’s dancing fountain.
Throughout the day, she was all smiles and full of energy. There was not a slight hint that she’s getting tired, not to mention that she still looked dewy fresh, and blooming despite the harsh, humid weather.
“Even before coming to the Philippines, I’m just so thankful to all the Filipinos. The Philippines has my whole heart, and I call the Philippines my universe, keep supporting and keep [on] showing love,” Harnaaz declared speaking both in English and in her mother tongue.
“The presence of Harnaaz just makes everything beautiful and inspiring. We as Ilocanos feel more inspired to innovate to better serve the municipality,” Singson-Michael said as she went around the Public Market with Mayor Chavit purchasing goods from the vendors in a quick and cashless manner by using QR codes from their Narvacan Digital Wallet.
Mayor Chavit Singson also expressed optimism that the Narvacan Digital Palengke will help Filipino vendors and small businesses revitalize the local economy through the efficiency of the cashless transactions which will boost livelihood, resulting in more job opportunities and attract larger enterprises to the region.
“First and foremost, I am extremely proud of this project because we in Narvacan, aim to be a municipality that is current with the technology age,” Singson said.
The Digital Palengke launch is one of the modernization projects in the advancing town of Mayor Singson which includes solar parking shed modules that power the market, a dancing fountain for entertainment, and soon e-jeepneys to service the town.
“I am certain these projects will bring a bright future and great opportunities to businesses and consumers not only in Narvacan, but in the entire region.” he continued.
Singson-Michael explained that their company developed an app, an e-wallet initially designed for the issuance of salary loans.
“When the pandemic hit, we pivoted our business model toward serving the local government. We realized that the government had a difficult time distributing ayuda or government allowance during lockdowns. We thought that this has to de done in a contactless manner so that’s where our mobile application came in,” said Singson-Michael
“It took us a year and a half to develop our app and we’re so honored that Harnaaz was here to give her support. We’re rolling it out to 20 towns and we have registered around 100 thousand citizens. And to boost awareness about our initiative we had Harnaaz to help us during the inauguration,” she added.
The Digital Palengke program is an innovation by Casha, Inc., a finance and technology company also headed by Singson-Michael.
“The majority of the population still lacks access to financial products, which is why we are continuously issuing digital wallets for the public market vendors, buyers, and citizens of Narvacan. The digitization of payments, particularly for small businesses allows for a safer, more convenient flow of cashless transactions as their Narvacan Digital Wallet allows for instant bank transfers to any bank, bills payments, pre-paid loading, all from their mobile phones” says Singson-Michael.
In turn, when asked about her experience, Harnaaz said, “I am so excited for my friend Architect Richelle Singson-Michael, who has always been leading Filipinas towards empowerment. I am proud that through her leadership in different industries, women are able to take charge of their future through innovations made available by initiatives like these that allow convenience and security for their livelihood.”
“I’m feeling so special right now. It’s a dream come true moment for me to experience Manila and Vigan. I’m so honored that she made me experience these things. She kind of inspired me with her initiatives,” the Indian beauty queen went on.
Singson-Michael, who acted as the Harnaaz’s host and big sister throughout the trip, shared that she’s more than willing to welcome the latter to her hometown again for future campaigns that they will spearhead.
“I’m so happy bonding together, I’m happy bringing her to our hometown. I sure hope that she’d be part of our future tourism campaigns. Though we cherry-picked what she can best experience in Ilocos Sur. If we had extra days I’d bring her to see our crafts, like pottery, and weaving centers where women do all the work,” Singson-Michael ended.