Maria Venus Bayonito Raj (born July 7, 1988) is our country’s representative to the Miss Universe pageant. She was crowned Binibining Pilipinas Universe on March 06, 2010 during the pageant’s Grand Coronation Night at the Araneta Coliseum.
Maria Venus Raj was previously dethroned by the pageant’s organizers (BPCI) citing alleged “inconsistencies” between her birth certificate and the personal account of her birth. During which, Maria Venus Raj was briefly replaced by second runner-up Helen Nicolette Henson. A first runner-up candidate Diane Elaine S. Necio was only 17 years old and did not yet meet the age requirement policies of Miss Universe. Raj’s sudden dethronement and also the questionable ineligibility of the first runner up candidate caused a heavy uproar among her supporters. Some fans conducted online petitions, signature campaigns, Facebook fan pages, blogs, forums and petition letters to BPCI Miss Universe Organization to report the irregularities.
In April 10, 2010, the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI) reversed their decision. Citing “humanitarian reasons” the BPCI allowed Maria Venus Raj to reclaim her title pending correction of her birth certificate. It was also an additional requirement that Maria Venus Raj legally obtain of a valid Philippine passport as proof of her true citizenship. In May 19, 2010, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued a Philippine passport to Maria Venus Raj thereby attesting to her Filipino citizenship. According to the Department of Foreign Ministry stated that Maria Venus Raj is a Philippine citizen by virtue of the jus sanguinis principle (“right of blood”), a basic right provided by the Philippine Constitution which bestows upon a person the citizenship of his father or mother regardless of where the person was born.
Maria Venus Raj was illegitimately born out of wedlock in Doha, Qatar. Upon separation of her parents, Maria Venus Raj was taken to Bato, Camarines Sur in Bicol, Philippines as an infant and was registered by an aunt as Philippine-born to Roman Catholic parents—a Filipino mother and an Indian father . It was her mother, a former tenant farmer and dressmaker who brought Maria Venus Raj up as a child.
Maria Venus Raj lived in a nipa hut made of wood, bamboo and anahaw leaves with no electricity in the middle of a sprawling rice field in the rural Bato town for more than twenty years. She allegedly used rice paddy dikes for her early training where she eventually developed her distinct catwalk.
The youngest among five children, Maria Venus Raj started joining local beauty pageants at 17 years old. She also joined oratorical contests at San Vicente High School where her english teacher served as her coach. With her victories in major contests, Venus Raj had started to buy land on installment basis for her mother as a means of improving their livelihood.
Maria Venus Raj obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications Arts, major in Journalism, at Bicol University in Albay, with Latin honors (Cum Laude). She graduated through the scholarship that she received from Francis Papica Foundation. Back in the Philippines, she works as an Information Assistant for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Region V. In addition to this, she also works as a part-time fashion model.
Ma. Venus Raj is believed by pageant experts around the world as one of the front-runners for the Miss Universe 2010 crown based on the preliminaries last week. She is set to shatter the decade-long drought of the Philippines for not placing in the prestigious beauty pageant.
Good luck Venus and thanks for making us proud!