SARAH MEIERManila, June 24, 2003 (Star) For someone who collects passport stamps, Sarah Meier remains true to only one mark - that of being 100% Pinoy. The thought came as a surprise one lazy morning inside the famed GSIS Museum, as Sarah arrived late for a photo shoot that caused Juan Luna's Parisian Life to add another hour to its one-century wonder. Instead of blaming the clogged EDSA arteries, Sarah apologized as though she was in grade one reciting the Panatang Makabayan. "I'm so sorry, it's the Pinay in me. I guess I've never been late in any shoot, but today, I don't know, Filipino time just hit me," she said with clamped palms. That's when I decided to raise the flag and demand for Sarah's pledge of allegiance.

To say that Sarah is imported just like the Swiss watches and cheeses out country could hardly afford is both true and false. "My dad is Swiss and my mom is Chinese-Filipina. I grew up everywhere, in Hong Kong and all these places. But when people ask me what my nationality is, I usually forget that I'm generally from Switzerland. My dad may have a harder time adapting to it, but I can't live without the thought of being Pinoy!" she starts, as a barrage of true-blue, red and yellow trademarks followed soon after - from sinigang to sing-along. That therefore defies the popular notion of mix-bred Pinays seeking solace in their motherland for fame and fortune on ramp and cam.

Sarah has technically lived here all her life. Or, at least, since she first fit into a swimsuit. Having Boracay as the Meiers' first Philippine zip code, her model-worthy tan may be explained. And perhaps partly genetic as well, being the daughter of '70s swinging supermodel, Elektrika. "When I started modeling, my mother was naming me Elektra. I was like, 'Mom, isn't that the girl who killed her parents?' So, the case was closed," she said. And, as we know it, be it Sarah or Elektra, her modeling career skyrocketed to billboards, TV ads, and a seat in the highly-coveted MTV VJ-dom. Yet, enough of what we see on screen, as we all have become faithful watchers. Sarah's 24/7 routine may have escaped our prying eyes, but you would be surprised at how strikingly familiar it seems.

She spends time loading shopping bags in Baguio's ukay-ukay, or pulling tunes off a Parokya Ni Edgar CD. "Spend 15 minutes with them, and you'll see the world in a different way!" she confesses in all groupie stance. She sips her favorite sinigang soup with her leg up. "I have this theory that Filipino food is based on drinking; either it's eaten while drinking or makes great cures for hangovers. For me, sinigang is the perfect hangover food." So goes the only Filipino love affair she spends time with aside from her two-year beau, Borgy Manotoc.

And, just as well as she loves, she could be a mouthful when it comes to loathing. Like a rising activist, corruption, pollution, and perpetual tardiness tick her off like a time bomb. "We all contribute to the destruction of our country. Corruption has been a way of life, and garbage has been an everyday sight, and it's all because we tolerate it. We can't disconnect ourselves from it and complain about it when matters become worse. If we watch it closely, then I guess these thing wouldn't be much of an issue," she says, not an eyelash batting, like a politician weeks before election day. Only this time, lacking selfish personal interest. "I just want to see the Pasig river clean!" was the only private motive she could give.

"Don't get me wrong, the Filipinos are the most beautiful people I know. They're more deserving than they're portrayed to be. They're generally talented, but sadly suffering from an internal inferiority comlex. It's just that everywhere you go, there's always that stigma of the Filipino being a maid or commonly lazy. But in all the years I've lived here, I've noticed that the Filipinos are really hardworking, and some even risk their lives for other people, and that is something to be proud of. But I guess it's good that everybody underestimates us. That when people look down on us, they don't know what's coming." Sarah's speech couldn't have taken a much better inspiration than her own plight. Like a phoenix, or rather, keeping the Filipino spirit, a sarimanok, she rises above discrimination, underestimation, and degradation, and keeps the Filipino flag waving.

The still Parisian Life backdrop then moved, with its lady running for all her P45 million worth, all because of her tanned counterpart. While the three Filipino heroes in the painting - Rizal, Luna and Bautista - couldn't have beamed more with pride on how the modern Filipina hero came to be. And, as she moves on to get another stamp on her passport, via a one-way ticket to New York, Sarah takes one last glance. "I've become so comfortable in the Philippines that it has become my world now, but I have to step out of it to see things more clearly. But the first thing I'd do when I get to New York is track down the addresses of all the Pinoy restos in the area because Pinoy food is definitely the first thing I'll miss!"

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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