By MARI ZHAR
You’ll find most beauty queens strutting on runways or posing for magazine covers, but Zara Carbonell tells a different story. Instead, you’ll find her on the football field scoring touchdowns for less privileged Filipinos. Just last weekend, the inaugural Miss Tourism Worldwide 2018 title holder, together with her co-founders Justine Cordero – Em, and Steve Near, raised P12 million in healthcare solutions for Filipinos in the far-flung areas of Visayas and Mindanao.
Zara Carbonell has always been known to work with organizations of impact from the education sector, to violence against women, and now diving into healthtech. Last December 3, in the spirit of Christmas, Zara’s newly-launched company – The Manila Flag Football League (MFL) mounted a full-day tournament in partnership with KonsultaMD – a leader in healthtech under the Ayala-led Globe group, to raise funds for underprivileged and underrepresented Filipinos.
Throughout MFL’s Santa Bowl 2022 tournament, KonsultaMD vouched to donate P100,000 in healthcare solutions for every catch made in the end zone to Zara’s beneficiary partner – FPUA, a non-profit organization dedicated to rebuilding communities affected by natural calamities. This drove more athletes to maximize every minute on the game clock to score more!
“It was heartwarming to see over a hundred athletes working together for more than just a win, but for the lives of our fellow Filipinos,” the beauty queen expressed.
MFL’s Santa Bowl was supported by 10 of the top flag football teams in the country hailing from Olongapo, Cebu, and all over the Metro. With about 600 onsite athletes and spectators coming together on a weekend to thousands of online viewers, the said tournament is definitely turning heads in the sports scene. Who would’ve thought that a flag football tournament could have ever been a platform for something greater?
When asked about the inspiration of her recent initiative, Zara shares:
“The older I get, the more I realize how important the little things we take for granted are. I’m lucky to be able to call my doctor when I’m not feeling well. I’m lucky that I can be rushed to the hospital when an emergency strikes or that I can call someone to help me process my emotions when things start feeling murky. But I am realizing that this is a privilege too many Filipinos don’t have, and if I have it in my power to somehow bridge that gap, I’m happy to do so. I’m just thankful that KonsultaMD rallied behind this cause and that I have partners who share the same vision of creating something bigger than ourselves, and even bigger than just a ‘sport.’”
Currently, Metro Manila has 1 doctor available for every 1,000 patients and in rural areas it’s 0.25 doctors (yes, not even one!) for every 1,000 patients. This is a number that should be daunting, but even more that some families are forced to choose between feeding their kids or using that money to take a trip to the closest town with a residing doctor just to get checked. In fact, 6 out of 10 Filipinos die without ever being seen by a doctor, and a lot of first-time moms die throughout their pregnancy because they aren’t ever able to consult with a doctor.
“When we built MFL, our goal was simple – to create a highly competitive tournament for flag football athletes. We wanted to grow the sport and groom more Filipino athletes, because we’ve seen so many that are beyond capable to compete at a higher level. And now, with the Santa Bowl, my partners and I hope to create bigger ripples of change through our tournaments. Sana this 2023, we’ll be able to take bigger strides and help more people. So thank you, to all our partners for supporting this vision.”
The beauty queen also expressed an elaborate letter of gratitude to the whole community, its supporters, partners, and even its critics on her social media page where she said: “Thank you to everyone who shared their sentiments in private so we can fix them & bec they understand that criticism is only constructive when it’s delivered with empathy and sent with points for growth.”
The Manila Flag Football League is just one among Zara’s multiple successes. Before her taking home the Miss Tourism Worldwide crown, you’ll remember her at Miss World Philippines 2017’s 2nd princess alongside Laura Lehmann, Winwyn Marquez, Thia Thomalla Sophia Senoron, and Glyssa Perez, respectively. Since then she’s also founded The Social Startup, a digital marketing firm and has authored Lost You, Found Me, a self-help x memoir about life in your 20s.
We asked her if she thought her pageant experience played a role in her success today and she transparently said that while her pageant journey “wasn’t all beautiful” she did learn a lot from it. She learned how to take defeat gracefully, that sometimes things don’t go as planned – “Same as with sports, you do your best but sometimes it’s just not yet your time. You won’t always get calls that favor you, you won’t always have the perfect terrain or weather, but it’s how you hold yourself accountable for things within your control,” she adds.
She also expressed gratitude to her pageantry career for showing her what she wanted to spend her time doing. And how it taught her that impact can never be done single-handedly, the best things are always done through collective efforts.
“I think it pays to partner with brands who are just as focused on impact as our team is because at MFL we do more than just play flag football, we’re here to make a difference. We really work together to do more for the sport but also for Filipinos who need the help. And to make that happen, it really takes all stakeholders – our team, our brand partners, the athletes, even the MFL spectators. I’m proud to say that everyone is involved in this.
Take Anessa for example, they’ve taken it upon themselves to build a homegrown MFL team from scratch because there are a lot of potential athletes who just need to be supported. We hope to see more homegrown teams in the coming years.”
Zara shares that this coming 2023, MFL is taking flag football to a grander arena through flag football’s first-ever international championships, they’re also brewing a ‘Flip the Script’ flag football tournament in partnership with Women’s Fitness Philippines where MFL’s coed 6s will be taking a turn into flipping the original rules. As for her, she’s also taking a plunge as she prepares for her wedding with MFL co-founder and professional athlete, Steve Near.
From being a published author, to launching several businesses, to being a ‘Pinaypreneur’ to watch out for, who knows what 2023 has lined up for Zara Carbonell? One thing is for certain, Zara is living proof that Filipinas prove to be gamechangers in whatever they pursue. Not only are Filipinas beautiful, but they are smart, strong-willed, and can most definitely achieve whatever they set their eyes on.
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