A Hard Reflection

March 12, 2013

March 11, 2013

This is a hard post to write.

I’m not someone who lives life scared of being exactly who they are. I’ve traveled to Europe and Asia independently. I’ve admitted to past eating disorders, depression and anxiety. I’ve photographed insecure areas of my body after kids.   What I haven’t talked about is what happened two years before I started sharing my life’s journey online in 2005.

After winning the national Filipina title to represent the U.S. in an international competition in Manila, Philippines, I made a swift decision to receive a breast augmentation. At the time, I felt incredible pressure from my pageant coaches, family members and the overall industry to alter my physique. I was very lean and lost much of my breast tissue in the weight loss process. I knew the moment I got off the plane pageant officials would take my measurements and know that at 30-24-33 I was not bringing to stage, a very competitive physique.

Up to that point, I had won or placed every pageant I competed in. I enjoyed the preparation and focus required to perform talent, speak with conviction, walk with grace and present the best overall package.  I was a competitor, after all, and I would do nearly anything to win.

I regret not thinking about the long-term impact of my decision more fully before the operation. Unlike most women who receive 300-500cc of saline to enhance their breasts up to a C or D cup, I opted for a more humble 225cc, which gave me a proportionate B cup. The day after my surgery, I felt incredible pressure on my heart and was rushed into emergency surgery for a hematoma in my left chest area. Just a few days later, I vividly remember having to attend a compulsory event as a title holder for Miss San Francisco Chinatown and wearing a hidden drain to my chest.  I still have faint scars. I still have lack of sensation and I do believe it limited my ability to nurse efficiently.

I learned a lot of things that year.

I learned that there is a karmic effect in every decision you make.

I learned that you can lose yourself when playing by human rules.

I learned that you can look beautiful externally but feel ugly internally.

Most of all…

I learned that when you objectify your body you simultaneously create a painful disconnection between your body, mind and spirit.

I lost myself that year.

After graduating college, moving to San Francisco, competing in six competitions and breaking up with a long-term boyfriend, I became Bulimic. I stopped competing. I quit my job. And I spent hours reading books, looking at the ocean and praying for answers.

I never spoke about this experience because I was never asked the question. However, since I’ve been receiving questions, it’s in my nature to provide an honest answer. The truth is, I don’t want young girls to look up to me and want to change their body. I don’t want mothers to be inspired by a part of my physique and think they would be happier with surgery.

Because the truth is – if you don’t love yourself now, you won’t love yourself later.

True Happiness comes from love.

Love comes from gratitude…

…And Gratitude comes from appreciating what you have versus what you don’t.

God Bless you.

I won the national U.S. Filipina title to compete in Manila Philippines! I was sooo happy. Ever since I won my first title at 16, it has been a dream of my family to go back to my grandfather’s home country and compete.

The press loves pageant competitors in the Philippines. The pressure was on (I didn’t win) – but I was definitely a favorite. This is me post-surgery.

This was taken pre-surgery. I was 115lbs, very, very lean.




  • Reply Karima March 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Maria, thank you for being so honest, you really hit the nail on the head; “…gratitude comes from appreciating what you have versus what you don’t.” It’s a reminder I really needed, Thank you!

  • Reply Joanne March 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Thank you…..for being you and being open.

  • Reply eileen March 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Maria, I really like what you say about losing yourself when playing by human rules. I am 50 years old and now that I look back, I realize how many times I have done that, rather than following my own better judgement. I went thru a lot of my life assuming that others knew better than I did. I know it probably sounds vain, but now I pretty much try to assume I know more about “things” than others rather than less. Not that I am a know it all, just more confidence in who I am I guess. It’s been a long time coming.

  • Reply Ellie October 16, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Hi Maria, you look wonderful & you have definitely worked very hard. However you don’t have massive stretch marks from two 11 lb. 23″ long babies either. I’m only 4’11” and had both kids within a 16 month period. I can workout & eat a perfect, clean diet & will never look like you. Pregnancy ruined that forever, ONLY surgery can fix it. Underneath all the stretched out & deformed skin is a muscular physique that’s comparable to yours & I’m 50 yrs. old. No matter how old a woman gets, she will always desire a fit & beautiful figure. Try as I might I cannot love what I see, no matter how shallow others may think I am. So you can ask “what’s your excuse?” But some of us have greater struggles in life , and that question doesn’t inspire me, it only makes me feel bad about myself, even if that wasn’t your intent. You’ve never had a weight problem either, having to lose 20 lbs. or less is nothing compared to what some must go thru . Some people can barely walk due to health issues & unfortunately turn to food, you may know what that’s like since you suffered bulimia, I’ve dealt with anorexia, depression, anxiety & 10 yrs. of sexual abuse from the ages of 2-12. It’s not always a matter of laziness, but more about not killing yourself today.Those may be some of the unspoken things behind the backlash, and yes, I realize that everyone has issues in life to deal with, but some have a harder time than others. Keep up the good work, but maybe keep your personal triumphs for close friends & family , the rest of the women in the world have enough pressure on them, without one more pageant princess trying to inspire them & gather more attention to themselves.

    • Reply Jon October 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      You are wrong, You are sharing your problems and hate, on to a woman that is strong, and happy. Then you tell her to stop being strong and happy because you have issues.


  • Reply Jon October 17, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Maria thank you for your positive attitude. We (me, my wife, and triplet boys) love what you have done.
    However, you should have NEVER APOLOGIES. You are right. there is no reason to be unhealthy. “NO EXCUSES!”

    • Reply lettie October 17, 2013 at 11:50 pm

      Shut up…your comments are super annoying

    Leave a Reply