Miss Mela Habijan on Travel, Career, and Trans Representation

The actress, beauty queen, and equality activist on all things travel and entertainment — and other matters close to her heart.

Get to know Mela

What were you doing before you became an actress?

I was a writer for Gandang Gabi, Vice! and Your Face Sounds Familiar. I do a lot of things actually, besides acting. I teach on the side, I host events, I mentor students on writing for national competitions and I have a small water business in Marikina.

How did being on a local soap change your life?

I never thought I’d be in front of the camera. I auditioned for a lot of TV shows and singing competitions when I was younger and there was one in particular that hindered me from singing again. I never saw myself as an actress, but I was given the opportunity and I really enjoyed it. I enjoy being recognized on the street, seeing kids come up to me and hug me and providing that visibility for the local trans community. When people say, “You’re such a good villain, we almost can’t stand your character,” I take it as a huge compliment.

What do you hope to achieve next?

I want people to see that trans people are not simply comedians or a punchline. We can be serious, dramatic actors, and we can take on any role. My dream is to be the first transgender Marvel superhero, but I would also really love to be a game show host.

Photo by Regine David.

20 questions on the road

1. Aisle or window? Aisle

2. Read a book or listen to music? Listen to music

3. Check-in style: early bird or last minute? Early bird. I leave my house five hours before my flight

4. Last thing you bought at the airport? A Japanese hair clip for my mom

5. Three travel essentials you never leave without? Passport, travel-sized rubbing alcohol, EarPods

6. First expense when you arrive at your destination? I hail a cab to my hotel regardless of the expense

7. Go shopping or check out local cuisine? Check out local cuisine


Photo by Regine David.


8. Adventure seeker or solid leisure? Adventure seeker

9. Hotel or hostel? Airbnb

10. What do you look for in a travel destination? I like scenic spots, so if I see a lot of nature or plants, I’m happy

11. Destinations on your bucket list? Seoul, Sydney and Batanes

12. Your ideal holiday in four words? I just like eating

13. Coffee or wine? Wine

14. Planned or spontaneous travel? Spontaneous travel

15. Best way to unwind onboard? Talk to my seatmate!

16. Most Instagrammable place you’ve been to? Japan

17. What makes you an ideal person to travel with? You can bring me anywhere and we can do anything. I’m up for everything

18. Mountaintop or beachside? Beachside

19. Favorite city to get lost in? I love Tokyo. I love how easy the city is to navigate

20. Best road trip music? I love pop and especially anything Sarah Geronimo

* * *

Travel bag essentials

Miss Mela keeps everything neat and organized—

1. Medium-sized zip tote: “I never pack light.”

2. Card holder: “These hold all my other tita cards — convenience store discount passes, tech membership and alternate IDs.”

3. Fragrance: “I’ve enjoyed this, but I think I do need a heavier fragrance that lasts longer.”

4. Wallet: “I mostly keep my credit cards in here, together with some discount membership cards.”

5. Sunglasses: “I never wear them but I always have them with me just in case.”

6. Tripod: “This is essential for me when I’m out and when I decide to vlog.”

7. Makeup kit: “I always carry three kinds of lipstick.”

8. Tech pouch: “This is how I keep all my chargers and earphones within reach.”

9. Earrings: “You never know when you’ll need to change up an outfit!”

10. Hygiene kit: “When I’m at TV shoots — and we shoot ’til morning — this holds my essentials for staying fresh and clean.”

11. Travel pouch: “This holds my passport, a small notebook, a few pens and my keys.”

This article first appeared in the May 2019 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Gabbie Tatad

Photographed by

Regine David

We use cookies for a number of reasons, such as keeping Smile website reliable and secure, personalising content and ads, providing social media features and to analyse how our Sites are used.