Photo by Angelia Gabrena Ong

Ang Matahum nga Ilongga: 3 Facts about Angelia Gabrena Ong

By joseph batcagan

More than any nation on Earth, it seems that the Philippines has the market cornered when it comes to producing the most memorable beauty queens ever since Gloria Diaz reppin’ us big-time with her Miss Universe win in 1969. So, it should come as no surprise that many Ilonggas tried emulating her achievements… well, in spirit, at least.

One of those erstwhile Ilongga “beauty queens” from this new generation is Angelia Gabrena Ong, and we can argue that she’s been successful in her own way: winning the ‘Face of Binibining Pilipinas’ award at her first stab at entering any kind of national beauty pageant in 2011, she then entered last year’s Miss Metro Manila and eventually placed second runner-up. Sure, she may not have won the top prize, but there’s no doubt that these achievements are impressive, nonetheless.

Of course, it’s not like she just disappeared from the public eye for three years to reappear and take another stab at winning the “Big One”: in between those two stints, she kept hosting both large-scale events like the Manila Color Sunset Run and gaming coverage abroad via And yes, she still does the occasional local guestings too, if she can help it. Really, as far as bonafide “celebrities” go, girl’s as legit as they come!

So, in honor of next week’s season premiere for Ilonggo Popcast—where we had Angelia guest on our show *wink wink*—here are five of the facts we have known about this staunchly, true-blue Ilongga beauty queen!

1. She wanted to sing when she was younger.

Angelia Ong - Project Iloilo
Photo by Rainjam Armada

When you think about it, Angelia growing up dreaming of becoming a singer isn’t an experience unique to her. Heck, if we’re going to base it on how many of us are so eager to hog the mic during videoke nights, then you can say that the Philippines contains the highest population for the most number of frustrated singers ever!

“Before I hosted, gakanta ko ya anay (I was singing),” Angelia told us. “So, ang kanta, nag-start at kinder two pa lang ako. [So, on singing, I started out at kinder two].” While she eventually admitted that singing really was not the right “talent” for her, it at least allowed her to uncover one gift that she was beginning to take note of back then: “Early pa lang, na-build up ko na bala ang ‘confidence’ nga ginahambal. Kumbaga, I’m very comfortable speaking in front of a lot of people—even thousands pa gani, kung kaisa! [Early on, I was able to build up what is called ‘confidence’. It’s like, I’m very comfortable speaking in front of a lot of people—even thousands, at one time!]”

So, singing was a no-go, but she was already developing a unique stage presence, even during her school years. As she says, it’s not that coincidental at all.

2. She credits her “training” to being always there in school.

Here’s the part of the article where I’m supposed to make a disclaimer: Angelia and I went to the same high school back then, but we came up from different “generations”, so to speak (yes, I’m still denying I’m already old). So, to hear her say that she credits her schooling as being the main avenue for exploring her talents was something that I met incredulously at first. However, I began to see where she was coming from when I was listening to the raw recording of our conversation. Excerpt, please!

“To be honest, I’m really a proud alumnus of Hua Siong, kay daw kumbaga, dira gid ko na-mold haw [because it’s like I was molded there]. Even my talent, even my passion in singing before, then when it became hosting na.”

She continued, “The school became my playground. My world revolved around school, to be honest. Like, every time I woke up in the morning, I would always look forward to going to school. Yes, bisan permi pa ako late sang una kay natamad pa ako magbugtaw kung aga! Pero as in gina-look forward ko ang school kay ara gid dira tanan ko nga activities bala haw [Yes, even when I was always late back then because I was just too lazy to get up during mornings! But I really looked forward to going to school because all of my activities were there].

“I think mas nahasa pa gani ko kay, Diyos ko, tanan nga mga event naton sa schoolEnglish Week, Linggo ng Wika, Mister and Miss Intramurals—tanan ina na-host ko na na, except lang sa Chinese Week kay indi gid ko ya fluent sa Chinese [I think I learned my hosting skills there because, my God, all the events at school—English Week, Filipino Language Week, Mister and Miss Intramurals—I hosted all of those, except for Chinese Week, because I really was not fluent in Chinese]!”, she added with a laugh.

Before anyone blasts her for being “less than perfect” because she’s not adept at speaking Mandarin, Cantonese or any of the Chinese dialects spoken in the city, I can attest to learning it as being really FREAKING hard. I also did not graduate from our Chinese language program in high school, probably because I’m lazy to learn a new language, but I digress. Moving on, people!

3. She considers herself “semi-independent”.

For a woman who’s already used to receiving modeling and hosting gigs here and abroad, you’d think she’s already used to being a fully independent person. Well, she is, in a way; as she told Ilonggo Popcast during the taping, she considers herself “semi-independent”, but only because she still maintains close ties to her family back home in Iloilo City.

Amo lang, indi ko lang kaya mag-separate sa family, sa ilistaran. Kay daw siyempre, daw culture na ina ya naton nga mga Ilonggo. Kilanlan nga ara ka gid ya sa family mo bala haw [You know, I really can’t separate myself from my family, from my home. Because of course, it’s already in our culture as being Ilonggos. You really need to be with your family],” she explained.

Tuod, we’re all Filipinos, pero kung diin ka naghalin, lain man ang imo nga batasan. So, sa Manila, medyo mas “open” na sila, pero kita di ya daan sa Iloilo ya, daw ka-“clingy” bala kumbaga kita sa aton nga mga loved ones. So, as much as possible, kung pwede updanay, updanay guid [Really, we’re all Filipinos, but from where you came from, that is how your behavior will be reflected wherever you are. So, in Manila, they are much more “open” there, but for us here in Iloilo, we’re sort of “clingy” because it’s like that with our loved ones. So, as much as possible, if we can stay together as a family, then we have to stay together as a family].”

So, in other words, she’s as “metropolitan” as anyone can be in her current environment, but she still prioritizes family among everyone else. See, who’s to say millennials are a selfish bunch?

And here’s a bonus fact about her: she LOVES talaba!

And not that drivel some people refer to as “oysters” in those pricey restaurants, either! It’s the talaba from her childhood she’s still fond of: all served freshly steamed in a large bowl, and with a knife on her right (well… probably. Gotta ask her next time about her “dominant” hand.) to help with her “attack”. Surely, there’s nothing more Ilonggo than that?

Of course, those are not the only things Angelia has opened up to us during the course of the taping; she went on a great deal about joining the Myx VJ Search and Binibining Pilipinas (Miss Philippines) at roughly around the same time and entering a crash course in modeling (spoiler alert: it’s harder than what it looks on TV), among a whole lot of things we talked about in the show. She also talked about her dreams, aspirations, and maayybeeee about world peace, but I’m probably imagining the last bit because I’ve watched Miss Congeniality about 30 times by now.

So, you think you’ve got an hour to spare to listen to some interesting chatter with Angelia Gabarena Ong? You do? (Oh c’mon, just roll with it) Awesome! Check out Ilonggo Popcast’s first episode for 2015 next Monday, January 12. See ya!

Joseph Batcagan is the editor and a writer for Project Iloilo.