LAST Saturday, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International 2019 Samantha Ashley Lo, 26, posted her arrival in Caracas, Venezuela, in time for the crucial preliminary judgings and finals of the 7th Miss Grand International on October 25. Her post surprised everyone because a week before, she was on her way to Caracas via Paris where she was detained after French authorities found out she was carrying a fake Philippine passport and sent back to Manila.
Nothing was heard of from Lo until her post last Saturday that included a lengthy message which reads in part: “I chose to break my silence until I arrived in Venezuela because I wanted to make sure I got here safely. Despite what happened last week and the trauma that came with it, I have moved forward and pursued this journey knowing that I did not intentionally commit any of the acts that have been unfairly attributed to me. But yes, my local organizer, who handled my travel preparations, failed to equip me with the proper transit visa that may have enabled me to complete my earlier trip to this host country.
“More so, it wasn’t them who got me out of detention and put me safely on that plane to come back home. It was my family and other well meaning Filipinos who did – and they are still not resting until this is over.
“And when this is all over, I hope to bring home the crown and glory to the Philippines and our people. It is not easy for me to do this – I still struggle with the fear and the trauma of recent days – but I know there is a bigger picture here and I will not let such fear silence me or deter me from the grand task ahead.
“I have come here not only as the candidate from the Philippines but as the voice of those who have faced similar situations like mine, the voice of those who have been abandoned of opportunity and pressured to remain silent.”
Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. issued this official statement on Monday:
“Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. is aware of the unfortunate incidents involving Binibining Pilipinas Grand International 2019 Samantha Ashley Lo.
“Ms. Lo was detained by immigration officials in Paris and was eventually sent back to Manila due to issues with her Philippine passport. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) officially stated that Ms. Lo’s Philippine passport has been ‘tampered with and altered.’ During a meeting with Samantha, her parents and officials of DFA and BPCI, it was admitted by Ms. Lo’s parents that she secured her passport through a ‘fixer.’ Ms. Lo also holds a US passport, and therefore, a transit visa is not needed. Past Binibining Queens have done this and have encountered no problems in their travels without transit visas.
“It is also not true that BPCI did nothing to assist her. Upon hearing of her situation in Paris, we immediately called upon DFA to assist her, and they did. We are grateful to the intervention of Undersecretary Dulay which otherwise would have resulted in very serious consequences to Samantha. We wanted to support Samantha and resolve this. However, in the last few days, we we no longer able to contact her or her family.
“Last Saturday night, Samantha surfaced in Caracas, Venezuela based on her social media post. We are very glad to know that she is not only safe but was welcomed by the MGI organization.
“We had chosen not to make any statement in deference to an ongoing investigation on the matter to protect Samantha’s privacy, after revelations of a fake passport had put her in this situation. However, due to her social media post, BPCI is forced to make a statement to ensure that only facts are presented, nothing else.
“For over five decades, BPCI has been sending Filipina delegates to international beauty pageants and we have always adhered to travel requirements set by the countries where our Binibinis compete. Through all this, BPCI stands by integrity, honesty and the best of Filipino values in its dealing with people and other organizations.”
Lo was born in Lake Mary, Florida 26 years ago to a Cuban-Nicaraguan mother and Chinese father who is part-Filipino. She came to the Philippines four years ago to study Nursing in Cebu and worked part-time as an ESL teacher. She won the Binibining Cebu in 2017 and was crowned as Bb. Pilipinas Grand International 2019 at the Araneta Coliseum last June 9.