Abraxas Lifestyle sat down with Princess Maria when she was in the capital recently.
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about the Global Officials of Dignity Awards.
The awards will be held from 5th to the 7th of August at the United Nations. Simply called the G.O.D awards, it’s a humanitarian award where we honour royalties, dignitaries and diplomats on their humanitarian contributions and we tag it as a search for the greatest humanitarians of the world. It’s an annual event at the U.N. and it’s also incorporated with my TV show called “The Travelling Princess” which is a travel and humanitarian show. So in conjunction with the event, the aim of “The Travelling Princess”, who is me, is to search for the greatest humanitarians of the world. I come to visit the country, meet possible honourees, and I collaborate with them and their humanitarian works and we feature their lifestyle, their humanitarian works and then we decide later on together with the committee of the G.O.D awards to honour them at the U.N.
When did you start this charity work?
My involvement with philanthropy started when I was in the Philippines. I now live in the United States. So at an early age I was already doing civic community services. But I only put up my own organisation in the Philippines in 2003. It’s called Katawang Pinoy meaning Filipino body. It was more inclined towards health and fitness doing the promotion of the interests of the health enthusiast. Then I moved to the United States where I continued my advocacy in health and fitness.
Why did you shift from the Philippines to the United States?
It’s a long story, but to make it short, it was because of love. I followed my love over there (laughs). He’s an American. The relationship didn’t flourish but I did. I stayed put and continued with my dreams. I always wanted to explore different countries and thrive on what I know and what I believe in. In this case I wanted to make an impact on women, on empowering them. So I started my own fitness company called Exotifit. It’s a dance format for women and men, but it’s mostly for women. I created groups of dancers, and soon after I was producing beauty pageants and I had beauty pageants for women over the age of 40 to empower them. It was very successful; we had our groups performing for free in order to raise funds for the needy. So they were all over Hollywood and in the limelight, so they’re empowered. And then we decided to make the cause a bolder one. Not only focussing on health and wellness, but also on education, human rights, world peace, green environment, eradication of poverty and of course empowerment. So since 2011, our organisation called We Care For Humanity was established in Los Angeles.
You are the founder?
Yes, I am the founder and the President of We Care for Humanity. Since 2011 we have established different chapters all over the world. We have chapters in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Nigeria, The Philippines, Morocco, and of course one in India. I hope to establish in European countries too and more in Africa – that’s one of the reasons why I travel; to meet the right people in each country who have the passion for helping humanity.
Who gave you the title “The Travelling Princess”?
“The Travelling Princess” is given to me by the spirits of Lumad in Quezon Province, Philippines via the Tribal Government of the Philippines. They baptised me as “Bae Insalilay” (The Travelling Princess) in a ritual done by their spiritual leader. I didn’t realise at that time that the name they gave me would be my life and destiny.
Do you think having a royal background is helping you in accomplishing your goal of charity?
Absolutely, having a title or even a dignitary background would help a lot in accomplishing your humanitarian missions. Most of our goodwill ambassadors are the ones who are in the limelight most of the time, or who have the influence and the power to make things easier. So yes of course it does.
Did you face any challenges?
The challenge for me is when people always stereotype all royals as rich and famous. They think at the snap of our fingers we get everything in a flash like what they see in movies. We’re just normal human beings and we also have all sorts of problems. The royal title for me just helps me reach my goals but it doesn’t define me as a human being.
Other than charity work, what are your other interests?
I’m also an entrepreneur. I supply oven liners in the U.S. shops. Oven liners are what you put at the bottom of your oven so that you don’t have to scrub your oven again.
I am also into fashion. I studied Fashion Design and merchandising in Los Angeles and now it’s high time for me to start a fashion line. I plan to start with Kaftans and Jackets. One of the reasons I came to Mumbai recently was to meet a clothing manufacturer to do “The Travelling Princess” fashion line. Of course, there will be jewellery and fashion accessories too.
What is your priority?
My priority is charity. The good thing about charity is that I get to meet a lot of people from different walks of life. Most of them are in the business arena, which is my secondary priority so I can accumulate the funds I need to help more people. I plan for all my private business to generate income to set aside a portion for charity.
Do you have any favourite Indian designers?
In the U.S I am friends with Rohini Bedi and I’ve worn her pieces. Rohini is into Indian designs and I’ve always been fascinated with saris and lehengas. I love those.
Have you ever worn them?
Oh many times! When I was here last December on an official visit I was honoured by the governor of West Bengal and won an award. I wore a sari and many times I have attended functions wearing saris. I would love to meet Indian designers. For our event at the U.N, I’m looking for an Indian designer and would love to showcase their line.
What is royalty according to you?
Royalty is not a status of one’s living. It’s a status of leadership, one’s having humanitarian attributes and the history one creates. Royalty is a combination of humanitarian, dignitary and diplomatic attributes infused with elegance and finesse being passed on to your descendants.
Royalties are history makers whose legacies live on through their off springs who carry their bloodline.
Though anybody can be a history maker, not everybody can
Since you are from a royal family, do you think you are constantly under scrutiny?
Yes. That’s one of the things you have to deal with, for being a royalty. Aside from the responsibilities, it is the scrutiny.
What about privacy?
Well I don’t think I’m as royal as Queen Elizabeth or as famous as Angelina Jolie (laughs), so I still have privacy. Although sometimes I feel like my life is in public anyway since we have many followers and supporters around the world who are always in contact with me. The social media certainly brings this public life more alive.
Do you get criticism as well?
Oh yes. They check my background and if you’re already helping other people, they still scrutinise, and say something about you. Of course I know that not everyone will like you; you cannot please everybody. And that’s fine.
Doesn’t it hurt you at times?
It hurts my ego yes, but that doesn’t break my spirit. Criticisms only make me stronger and give me a mirror to reflect, and to do better the next time. I always treat them positively. They can criticise me all they want but my mission in life is more important than what they think of me, for at the end of the day it is what I do for others that counts.
Do you have any dreams?
Oh yeah, I dream of a better world. Not for me, but for everyone else. If you meant dream for myself, then there’s nothing material that I would dream for myself at this point. I won’t dream of being richer or more beautiful, absolutely not (laughs), I’m happy and grateful for what I have now.
I just dream that my organisation, We Care For Humanity will be even bigger and doing even better humanitarian works, and helping a lot of people. I dream for the G.O.D Awards to be really honouring great people around the world who help other people. I dream for my businesses to take off successfully so that I can continue to help other people. Nothing really for me, I wish to lose weight though (laughs).
Princess Maria Amor Torres Princess Maria Amor Torres