It is our pleasure today to introduce you to our very inspiring #friendsofxnihilo, Christine Balaguer. Christine is a model and ex-pageant queen from the Philippines who was born deaf. Enduring a series of hardships growing up, Christine now works hard to raise awareness for those living with disabilities, advocating for their inclusion across all industries.
We sat down with Christine to discuss her life and so, here it is. We hope you are as inspired as we are!
How did your upbringing in the Philippines make you the person you are today?
Growing up in the Philippines made me mentally strong and resilient. I had some very tough times financially as my Mother wasn't well off. I really learned to appreciate what I have but I also learned I had to push to get what I wanted. You can see that resilience in me now and I always want to give back to people that are in a similar situation to me as a child.
My greatest role model was my uncle. He was someone I really looked up to, in the way he treated people. He was easily the kindest person to me and really showed he wanted to understand the small Deaf girl that I was. When he passed away I was devastated and I still think about him and wish he was here to see who I have become.
Could you briefly describe your experience with pageants?
I started modeling when I was around 15 after being scouted while walking around in Manila and soon after, got into pageants. The modeling and pageantry scene are intertwined in the Philippines as many ex-pageant girls end up either as Actresses on TV or commercial models. I really enjoyed pageants as it was a platform to really show off what a Deaf girl has to offer. I came really close to winning, making it to the finals and even placing first runner-up at Miss Manila with a lot of commentators saying I should have won. Some suspect I didn't win because my inability to speak did not offer much to them in terms of engagement and advertising opportunities.“I love pageants but the organizers and sponsors still have a long way to go in terms of inclusiveness.”
Passion for Fashion
Christine’s love for fashion started with her modeling career. She states that before being scouted, she was never exposed to ‘nice’ clothes and predominantly wore hand-me-downs when growing up. She explains how modeling has opened her eyes to all of the different styles available and has given her the confidence to express herself through the way she dresses.
What is the most valuable life lesson you have learned thus far?
You need to take the chances that you get. I feel if I never accepted the challenges put before me I would still be struggling. I owe a lot of my success to just jumping into the unknown and giving everything a shot.
How have you remained motivated and resilient when faced with challenges?
I always look back at where I came from. I think about the people who are much worse off than me and I realise if I don't push through the challenges I may as well go back to that bad place in life where I wasn't sure if I'd have enough food or money to survive.
What is one thing you wish the world would understand about the deaf community?
I wish the world would understand that we are a community of people that want nothing more than to be fully contributing people in society as a whole. We are very able people despite our disability and we don't want to be treated differently.
What do you hope to achieve through your advocacy for disabled people?
I hope to achieve inclusion and understanding between able-bodied people and the disabled. I want them to be part of the mainstream and not feel like they are outsiders that need to look up to able people or dream that they didn't have a disability. Personally, I love who I am and I embrace my Deafness. Deaf culture is MY culture and I love it!
Has your experience in Australia been different from any other places that you have lived?
YES!! Australia is so different from Asia where I've spent my whole life until now. I've lived in Bangkok and Manila which are two very similar cities in countries with pretty similar attitudes to life. Both are very densely populated, polluted, loud, and vibrant and the majority of people live in poverty. I feel really privileged to live here now. Australia has a service called the National Relay Service which helps the Deaf to communicate with hearing services. When my partner told me about it I was amazed. It's little things, it's the quality of life that I love about Australia.
Since COVID-19 I haven't been able to return to Manila for two years. I miss my mum and all my friends, I will go back to visit ASAP!