Now at her glistening Ruby age of 80, Elsa Payumo—a truly familiar name, and one of the most recognizable faces, I must add, especially to baby boomers—looks back on her well-lived-with-no-regrets-life-with-a-purpose, as she genuinely reflects on where she is now while she reluctantly and hesitatingly shares on what she has given back.
Born and raised by a loving close-knit family in Bataan, where she spent happy carefree days of her youth, Elsa earned her Major in Voice and Piano degree from the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music in Diliman, where she was a perennial head-turner—the absolute campus heartthrob.
Prodded by many to join the search for the prestigious Miss Caltex, she easily won the coveted title – a distinction and a dream for every beauty pageant hopeful.
This catapulted her into instant fame—and eventually became a household name all over the islands—sans the presence of the telecommunication technology and ever-active social media. And thus, she was broke into the magic circle of admirable ladies who exuded timeless charm, exemplary grace, and sharp wit—wherever she was.
Constantly and continually under public scrutiny and without a single mean bone in her, she captured everyone’s heart!
She soon enchanted several glossy magazines readers as the print industry’s perennial favorite covergirl. A sought-after ramp model, specially when extravagant and exclusive one-night-only fashion shows were more than instrumental in fundraisers. She would likewise be the top choice of the iconic Filipino couturiers with a global following and whenever there were collaborations with sterling fashion houses from foreign capital cities.
The toast of the town, she gave a brand new meaning to the much-abused phrase “gracing the affair”.
In fact, she was offered to join the leading film studio to be their newest movie star, which she politely declined.
The ever-smiling, popular Elsa basked in the limelight as she traveled all over the country as an invited guest and the epitome of breeding, beauty, and brains.
At a crossroads in her career path, she was so entrenched into the beauty of the Philippines and the world of airplanes and ships, hotels and resorts, tours and pilgrimages, limos and busses, sightseeing and shopping, she opted to be a wholesaler and an operator—a passionate travel agent for travel and tours.
She predictably and passionately carved out a new landscape for tourism alongside the life of the glitz and the glamor—for this was her pioneer advocacy for the era. A no-nonsense lady at the forefront!
“Looking back, I realize there is something more to life than the frivolities of renown. But the title nevertheless helped me join the travel industry where I was given the chance to initiate novel ideas of promoting tourism,” as she reflected on her newfound endeavor.
She eventually served as a four-time president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association, the premier organization of the industry, and successfully launched Baron Travel Girl, regarded with the same esteem as the competition that launched her to stardom.
As proof of her successful big-impact impact, she was the very first recipient for the Tourism Category of the Ten Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service (TOWNS) Award – a body which aims to “have a nation of empowered women who serve as catalysts for national development towards improving quality of life.”
To put it into perspective, TOWNS has likewise recognized women greats such as Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senator Loren Legarda, media personality Mel Tiangco, TV producer, and journalist Cheche Lazaro and international singer Lea Salonga, to name a few.
One not to sit on her laurels, Elsa decided to dabble into public service. Her campaign as a pro-people candidate won her a seat as a councilor of the City of Makati.
With the cycle of time, her mother fell gravely ill and came with it the total loss of her own business, now in ruins. Due to her dedication and devotion to her family, she forfeited her material possessions and languished through her lowest point in life.
Almost simultaneously, she miraculously found much-needed support and therapeutic healing through the Buklod ng Pag-ibig, a Catholic Charismatic Community with the late Fr. Pascual Adorable, S.J., as its founder.
She was given a Bible which she treasured through the years and has been the source of her answers.
Eventually, there was a reversal of fortunes and she surrendered full time to serve the Lord through the selfless act of Bible studies and being the healing ministry head at Buklod ng Pag-ibig. She likewise organizes and conducts activities like prayer meetings and successful fundraisers for the Holy Family Parish in Kamias, Quezon City.
Whenever invited, she gives inspirational talks and recollections to the Balik-Samahan group of artistas, assists to raise funds for worthwhile causes with the all Nations Womens Group, the Beauty Queens, Karilagan Models and Best Friends Forever tourism circles.
She was the key to setting up the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapels in Alabang, Valenzuela, and around Bataan.
Guided and inspired by the Divine, she joined the wildly popular TV game show Deal or No Deal, where she won over one million pesos, which she wholly donated to the Buklod ng Pag-ibig.
To everyone looking in, Elsa has served her fellow Filipinos through the Great Maker in every way.
Her secret for her zest in life and healthy well-being—at 80 at that—lies in her diet of just veggies and fish, with the occasional treat, but with moderation. Even at her age, she keeps up with a faithful exercise regimen—daily brisk walks around the neighborhood and engages in stationary biking. She regularly goes dancing. Ever since her youth, she has only ever used Ivory Soap for her eternally youthful skin—and not much has changed.
Having lived a glamorous yet meaningful life—but not without its own share of extreme ups and downs—Elsa likewise remains as fit and healthy as her Miss Caltex days, physically and spiritually.