Bb Pilipinas 2014: Post-pageant review

Mary Jean Lastimosa gets emotional as she was proclaimed Miss Universe Philippines 2014. ALL PHOTOS FROM RAPPLER
Mary Jean Lastimosa gets emotional as she was proclaimed Miss Universe Philippines 2014. ALL PHOTOS FROM RAPPLER
Mary Jean Lastimosa, center, gets emotional as she was proclaimed Miss Universe Philippines 2014. ALL PHOTOS FROM RAPPLER

THERE was only one crown left to be awarded and Mary Jean Lastimosa was there, standing beside last year’s runner-up, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach.

It felt just like the coronation night of 2012 – only the Bb Pilipinas – Universe crown had not been awarded, and Lastimosa was standing beside her fellow runner-up of the previous year when the host announced, “Binibini 18 Janine Mari Tugonon!” It was a heart-breaking moment for Lastimosa.

Lastimosa must have recalled that moment, on the coronation night on March 30, just after Bea Rose Santiago crowned Mary Anne Guidotti her successor as Bb Pilipinas – International.

This was Lastimosa’s third and last attempt at going for a Bb Pilipinas crown. It was all or nothing for her.

When she was finally crowned Bb Pilipinas – Universe, her dreams came true.

Unexpected, but well-deserved

Lastimosa during the long gown competition

Many pageant observers didn’t see it coming that Lastimosa would be crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2014 on Sunday night. While she was among the most cheered on candidates, many thought the battle would be between last year’s first runner-up Pia Wurtzbach, Cebuana beauty Kris Tiffany Janson, and Bicolana Yvethe Marie Santiago. But the Binibini third-timer proved there’s no limit to what one can achieve.

Compared to her two previous attempts, Lastimosa looked more relaxed this year. It was obvious she was enjoying every moment, but her competitive spirit never waned. She showed off a healthy, toned body during the swimsuit competition. She was sassy and sexy, and look how she played with the fan – it was the best performance that night. Then, she sashayed with elegance in her fuchsia sweetheart evening gown. Her wide smile, good styling and fluid walk truly made her stand out.

Winning the Best in Swimsuit award was a good sign that Lastimosa would go home with a crown. But it was the Q&A portion that must have sealed the deal for her.

The crowd cheered when Miss Universe 2013 Gabriela Isler asked her what the greatest advantage of being a woman is. She replied: “The greatest advantage of being a woman is being able to compose herself. Just like here, we’re standing in front of thousands of people, not knowing if they’re going to cheer for us or boo us. But we try to compose ourselves. We keep the emotions and show the beauty that is in us and tonight, thousands of people are standing here, celebrating the beauty of women.”

It was a heartfelt response. Lastimosa didn’t let pressure take over. She was every inch a queen.

Chances at Miss Universe
Lastimosa has big shoes to fill following the Philippines’ four consecutive runner-up finishes at Miss Universe. But one thing’s for sure: if she was able to beat the odds in Bb Pilipinas, it’s not impossible for her to take home the coveted Miss Universe crown. Lastimosa is already polished, but she still needs to undergo rigid training to maintain that pageant-ready figure, improve her communication skills and personality, among many other things, in order to package her as a Miss Universe candidate.

But her greatest advantage is that she already got training from two of the best pageant camps in the country. She was formerly under Jonas Gaffud’s Aces & Queens who was behind former Miss Universe Philippines titleholders Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup, Janine Tugonon and Ariella Arida. She is now with Kagandahang Flores, the team behind Miss International winners Precious Lara Quigaman and Bea Rose Santiago.

Other queens
Joining Lastimosa as the new torch-bearers of the Philippines in international pageants are Mary Anne Bianca Guidotti (Bb Pilipinas-International), Kris Tiffany Janson (Bb Pilipinas-Intercontinental), Yvethe Marie Santiago (Bb Pilipinas-Supranational) and Parul Shah (Bb Pilipinas-Tourism). Finishing as first and second runners-up are Laura Lehmann and Hannah Ruth Sison, respectively.

Guidotti and Santiago will be facing a big challenge this year: to score back-to-back wins for the country in the Miss International and Miss Supranational pageants.

Bb Pilipinas International 2014: Mary Anne Bianca Guidotti
Meanwhile, Guidotti’s win came as a surprise to me. While she was able to bag the Best in Long Gown award for her stellar performance and elegance, I thought her answer could’ve been meatier. She was asked about using the crown to push for her advocacy should she win, and she said she would “use [the] crown to influence people to adopt their own advocacies.”

Despite this, there’s no denying Guidotti is classy. Also she speaks well which is one of the qualities of Miss International winners. The Philippines seems to have mastered the art of placing in this Japan-based pageant. Winning the title is a long shot for now, but I’m confident Guidotti can give us our 7th consecutive placement.

Bb Pilipinas Supranational 2014: Yvethe Marie Santiago
The Big Dome went wild each time Santiago hit the stage. She had lots of supporters at the venue, and she was also deserving of the accolades. At one point, I really thought she was going to win the top title, especially after giving a good answer when she was asked about the inherent quality that makes Filipinas stand out in beauty pageants: ” I believe that the quality that every Filipina has that makes her stand out in a beauty pageant is confidence. We feel confident in our own skin and that makes us feel very beautiful.”

Santiago was at top of her game and was really among the best performers of the night. With her presentation skills, I’m confident she could keep the streak going for the Philippines in Miss Supranational.

Bb Pilipinas Intercontinental 2014: Kris Tiffany Janson

Janson was touted as the girl to beat prior to the coronation night, but her star lost its luster during the pageant. While she has one of the most beautiful faces, her performance in the first two rounds was underwhelming. However, she made up for it in the Q&A. She makes history as the first recipient of this title, but the biggest challenge for Janson is to bring home the country’s first Miss Intercontinental crown.

Bb Pilipinas Tourism 2014: Parul Shah

Shah’s overall look was perfect – the curly hair parted to one side, plus the shimmering gown. She was glowing and her presence was really commanding. She almost untied her bikini during the swimsuit round, but she still gave a solid performance. Her placement was solidified by her heartfelt response to the question given to her. Shah will surely give her co-candidates a good fight in Miss Tourism Queen International.

Surprises, upsets
The two runners-up, Lehmann and Sison, were the biggest surprises of the night. Laura was breezing through the competition, until the Q&A. She raised many eyebrows when she answered Amsterdam as the city that best describes her personality.

Hannah, meanwhile, made a big comeback after failing to make the cut the previous year. She gave one of the best and most diplomatic answers. “If I were to fall in love outside of my religion, I would. Because for me it’s not about what you are, you should not condemn any person because of their religion. Love is what you need to get into a relationship and that’s why I would marry someone or I would fall in love with someone who is not even part of my religion.”

The Top 15

Rounding up the Top 15 were Julian Aurine Flores, Joanna Angelica Romero, Pia Wurtzbach, Emma Mary Tiglao, Zahara Mae Soriano, Mae Liezel Ramos, Kenneth Santiago, Nichole Marie Manalo.

The inclusion of underdogs Joanna Angelica Romero and Zahara Mae Soriano came as a surprise. The performances of the two were totally forgettable. Add to that that Soriano had to ask the question again during the Q&A. Many pageant fans, myself included, though Kimverlyn Suiza, Angelique Celine De Leon and Diana Arevalo were far more deserving to be in the Top 15.

The biggest disappointments of the night were the exclusion of Arevalo in the Top 15 and Wurtzbach failing to get a crown. This was Arevalo’s third try in the pageant. After placing in 2009 and 2011, she was expected to still make as finalist this year. Her face was stunning and her swimsuit performance was solid, but the black evening gown must have cost her the placement. She lost her spark and her performance was dry.

Wurtzbach was breezing through the competition, but choosing to answer in the native tongue was a risk when judge Sen Sonny Angara asked her in Filipino. To be fair, she gave a good answer and the production should have given her time to translate it in English given that there were foreigners in the panel of judges. She has been very vocal about wanting to win the Miss Universe Philippines crown, but should not lose hope. She should take inspiration from Lastimosa.

Russian pop star Emin

The technical side
From the stage to the camera angles and the performances, the production made a huge improvement this year. The size of the stage was just right and was completely utilized. The swimsuit competition was very engaging and those fans, hats and masks gave it all a festive feel.

The decision not to have singers during the long gown competition was also a welcome move. While they could’ve chosen a better background music, the segment was regal and didn’t seem rushed.

The production numbers were good. The opening number was engaging and did a good job at setting the mood for the evening. Emin’s performance of “Amor” also made it seem like we were watching the Miss Universe final look segment.

Anne Curtis sings “Alone”

Anne Curtis was a joy to watch, but the highlight of the night was when she sang Heart’s “Alone” during the break, when the judges were deliberating the results. Xian Lim improved compared to his first Bb Pilipinas hosting stint in 2012. The three former titleholders Raj, Supsup and Tugonon also did well as side hosts. And let me just say they wore stunning gowns that night!

This year’s winners will try to keep the winning streak going for the Philippines in their respective international pageants. The pressure is always there, but with proper training and the drive to win, nothing is impossible.


This article also appeared on Rappler.

Bb Pilipinas 2014: Rehearsals — and a peek at the stage!

THE much-awaited Bb Pilipinas 2014 Grand Coronation Night will finally take place tomorrow, March 30, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. As fans eagerly await for the “most beautiful day in the Philippines” the candidates and the whole team behind the pageant are busy with the rehearsals.

Here are some photos from behind the scenes:

Russian popstar Emin, who is set to perform during the pageant, must’ve been captivated by the Filipina beauty as he took a series of selfies with the girls. “I tried to get all of you guys in the shots, Good luck tomorrow and thank you for spreading #amor,” he said.

One of the hosts, Anne Curtis, posted this on her Instagram account: “Rehearsing for the big night tomorrow!#bbpilipinas2014”
http://instagram.com/p/mICCB8Cola/

The reigning queens seem excited to pass on their crowns.
http://instagram.com/p/mH2K7NxkZi/

Miss Universe runners-up Shamcey Supsup, Janine Tugonon and Venus Raj are also busy rehearsing for the big night. Here’s a photo with their mentor Jonas Gaffud.

Shamcey will be wearing a Cherry S. Veric gown tomorrow. Here she is posing with the designer before fitting the dress.

And…here’s a sneak peek at the Bb Pilipinas 2014 stage. What can you say?
http://instagram.com/p/mHaXroE6iJ/

Here’s a peek at the opening number rehearsals. The girls are wearing mullet dresses, similar to those worn during the Miss Universe 2011 opening.
http://instagram.com/p/mIOCr5tpRz/

The ‘Olympics of beauty’: What you need to know about the Big 4 pageants

Big 4 winners of 2012

This article was first published on Rappler

FOR most people, Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss International and Miss Earth are all just beauty pageants.

But pageant enthusiasts call them the Big 4, or the most coveted titles for beauty queens.

The Philippines has managed to place in all 4 pageants in the last two years. 2012 was made even sweeter by the “bridesmaid (aka runner-up) finishes” of Janine Tugonon and Stephany Stefanowitz in Miss Universe and Miss Earth, respectively.

Bb Pilipinas International Nicole Schmitz and Miss World Philippines Queenierich Rehman, meanwhile, managed to make it to the Top 15 of their respective pageants. The pressure is now on the next set of Big 4 Philippine delegates to match or even surpass their predecessors’ victories.

Here’s a quick overview of the Big 4 and the country’s delegates to each competition:

Miss World: ‘Beauty With A Purpose’

Miss World prides itself in being the oldest surviving beauty contest. Launched by PR expert Eric Morley in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations, Miss World was originally planned as a one-off event.

Morley decided to make it an annual event upon learning about the upcoming Miss Universe contest. The coronation night is managed by the Miss World Organization, which raises millions of pounds for its charity programs under the banner “Beauty With a Purpose.”

If the number of participants would be the sole basis, then Miss World is the biggest beauty pageant in the globe, attracting more than a hundred participants each year. Reigning titleholder Wenxia Yu of China will crown her successor on September 28 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

This 2013, the Miss World App for Apple and Android will be launched for exclusive photos and video of pageant activities. When you download the app, you will get two free votes to use on your favorite contestant. The girl with the most number of votes will be named the People’s Champion.

Miss World Philippines 2013 candidates
Miss World Philippines 2013 candidates © Dencio Natividad

Who’s wearing the Philippine sash? The Philippines has yet to crown its delegate for this year’s pageant, but some of the heavy favorites include Miss World Philippines 2011 3rd Princess Bianca Paz, actress-TV host Megan Young, reigning Miss Bikini Philippines Janicel Lubina and Bb Pilipinas alumna Patricia Ejercitado.

The Miss World Philippines coronation night is set for August 18, giving the winner less than a month to prepare. The MWP organization must crown someone who is already prepared to battle it out in Miss World’s various activities. These include the Sports Challenge, Top Model Competition and Talent Portion.

Hall of Fame. The Philippines has not won the Miss World crown. The closest the country has ever gotten was in 1973 when Evangeline Pascual placed first runner-up. This was repeated in 2011 when Gwendoline Ruais broke a 5-year drought and placed First Princess.

Follow the updates here: http://www.missworld.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MissWorld
Twitter: @MissWorldLtd

Miss International: ‘Love, Peace and Excitement to the World’

Long Beach, California served as host to Miss International’s first 8 years until the pageant moved to Japan in 1968 to 1970 to commemorate the Osaka World Expo. Since then, the pageant has been held annually in Japan.

Japan-based International Cultural Association organizes this annual event to promote “friendship and goodwill” among participating nations through international exchange. More than just a festival of beauty, the Miss International pageant expects its contestants to be “Goodwill Ambassadors of Beauty.”

There is no word yet on the date and venue of the 2013 pageant, but traditionally the pageant is held in October or November. The reigning queen is Ikumi Yoshimatsu of Japan.

Bea Rose Santiago, Bb Pilipinas - International
Bea Rose Santiago, Bb Pilipinas – International

Who’s wearing the Philippine sash? The Philippines seems to have mastered the art of placing in Miss International, with 4 crowns and numerous semifinals finish. It’s no surprise, given that the franchise holder for the country is no less than the first Miss International, Stella Marquez-Araneta.

This 2013, the country will be sending the eloquent and statuesque Bea Rose Santiago to the competition. At 5’9″, it was easy for her to standout during the national finals. Bea was glowing and well-received by the crowd. It was Hirofumi Hashimoto, chairperson of the Miss International Beauty Pageant, who asked her the question during the final round.

So far, this 23-year-old lady has been very consistent. She nails every photo, whether posed or candid. She exudes so much confidence in her interviews. Aside from these, Bea is very articulate and talks with so much intellect and sincerity, one thing the Miss International Organization needs for an effective ambassador.

Hall of Fame. Four Filipinas have managed to win the Miss International crown: Gemma Cruz (1964), Aurora Pijuan (1970), Mimilanie Marquez (1979), and Precious Lara Quigaman (2005).

Follow the updates here: http://www.miss-international.org/en/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Miss.International.bp
Twitter: @MissInterOrg

Miss Earth: ‘Beauty and Responsibility’

Launched in 2001 by Carousel Productions, Miss Earth is an annual beauty pageant that focuses on environmental awareness, building its reputation as “the most relevant and worthwhile beauty event in the world.”

Candidates and winners of this pageant engage in activities focused on the preservation of the environment and the protection of the Earth: school tours, tree-planting activities, costal clean-ups and environmental seminars, among others.

The Miss Earth Foundation and its winners work with various environmental agencies around the globe, including Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund. No word yet on when and where the pageant will be held this 2013.

Angelee delos Reyes, Miss Philippines Earth
Angelee delos Reyes, Miss Philippines Earth

Who’s wearing the Philippine sash? Gunning for a 3rd consecutive top 4 placement is Olongapo City’s Angelee Claudette delos Reyes. This 25-year-old wowed when she said she would add “a good heart or a genuine heart to take care of the environment…not just for ourselves but for future generations.” (She was asked the question, “If you could add another criteria to pick a beauty queen, what would it be?”)

Angelee is no stranger to beauty pageants, having joined Mutya ng Pilipinas and Miss Philippines Earth before but went home empty-handed. In the 2012 Bb Pilipinas pageant, she made it to the top 12 and was awarded Best in Evening Gown. She, however, failed to make it as one of the winners.

Angelee won Miss Internet Popularity and made it to the semifinals of the 2011 Miss Bikini International. She was named Continental Queen of Asia in the 2012 Supermodel International held in Thailand. Her experience in minor international pageants will surely work to her advantage when she competes in Miss Earth.

Hall of Fame. Karla Henry won the Philippines’ first Miss Earth crown in 2008.

Follow the updates here: http://www.missearth.tv/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MissEarthPageant
Twitter: @theMissEarth

Miss Universe: ‘Confidently Beautiful’

From a local “bathing suit” competition in 1952, Miss Universe has now become the most popular beauty pageant in the globe. A joint venture by tycoon Donald J. Trump and NBC Universal, this pageant “has evolved into a powerful, year-round, international organization that advances and supports opportunities for these young women,” as written in the Miss Universe website.

The pageant night might seem focused on beauty, figure and glamour, but during her reign, the winner champions the causes of the Miss Universe Organization: HIV/AIDS and breast and ovarian cancer awareness.

The reigning queen is USA’s Olivia Culpo who won in December 2012 in her home turf. The 2013 competition is set for November 9 in Moscow, Russia.

Ariella Arida, Miss Universe Philippines 2013
Ariella Arida, Miss Universe Philippines 2013

Who’s wearing the Philippine sash? Ariella Arida has big shoes to fill, following Janine Tugonon’s first runner-up finish in 2012. Much is expected of this 24-year-old Alaminos, Laguna native to finally bring home the country’s 3rd Miss Universe crown. The momentum is already there after the country’s 3 consecutive top 5 finishes. The journey, however, won’t be a piece of cake.

Rigid training and preparation as well as the drive to succeed will help Ara ace the competition. She has been hitting the gym regularly to achieve the body and has been doing rounds of photo shoots, make-up and styling sessions and pasarela (runway walk) exercises.

Ara might be wearing the Philippine sash in Moscow, but she will not be the lone Filipina in the competition.

Canada will be sending Riza Santos to the competition. Santos was a runner-up in “Pinoy Big Brother Celebrity Edition 2” and had acting stints in the Philippines. She is no stranger to pageants as she already represented Canada in Miss World and Miss Earth.

Santos initially placed as runner-up to Denise Garrido in the pageant held last May 25, but the results were declared invalid after 24 hours when a typo was discovered while validating the computerized scoring result. Santos, 26, was then crowned the rightful winner, while Garrido was relegated to 3rd runner-up.

Hall of Fame. The Philippines has won the Miss Universe crown twice: first by Gloria Diaz in 1969 and second by Margarita Moran in 1973.

Follow the updates here: http://www.missuniverse.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialMissUniverse
Twitter: @MissUniverse

 

Bb Pilipinas Gold: A postmortem

The fairest of them all. Miss Universe 2012 first runner-up and Miss Universe Philippines 2012 Janine Tugonon crowns her successor, Ariella Arida Photo from Missosology

Writer’s note: This article also appeared on Rappler.com. Read here.

The golden road to the crown has finally come to an end, with Ariella Arida of Alaminos, Laguna winning the Miss Universe Philippines 2013 title. The 24-year-old Chemistry graduate from UP Los Baños was never considered a front-runner but her victory was not questionable.

Going over my fearless forecast for Rappler, I got it right that Ariella might be the night’s most pleasant surprise. “Her fierce and feisty look make her stand out. With very expressive eyes and delectable lips, she’s too good for a runner-up finish so it won’t be a surprise if Ariella snatches the top plum.”

The silent killer
She is the perfect example of a “silent killer”. As the crowd went wild for heavy favorites Charmaine Elima, Mutya Datul, Mariel de Leon and Bea Santiago each time they appeared on stage, one might think the crown is just between these ladies. Ariella also had her fair share of applause, but she knows who to impress the most: the board of judges who will collectively seal the candidates’ fate.

Ariella exuded both sexiness and elegance as well as the right amount of confidence throughout the night. She showed off a healthy body in swimsuit, en route to winning the Best in Swimsuit award. Meanwhile, she sashayed grace and class in her asymmetrical venus cut white number.

When asked by judge Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima to name a lesson about life that women can teach men, Arida replied: “One lesson in life that women can teach men is being sensitive because we all know that men are more logical when it comes to decision[-making]. They’re usually more rational, straightforward. Unlike we women, we use our hearts and tend to get emotional in some of our decisions. So, that’s it for me. Sensitivity is something that we, women, can teach to men. Thank you.” Among all the finalists, it was her who made the most sense in the all-important question-and-answer portion. With most of the Binibinis allowing pressure to take over in this round, Ariella’s answer must have sealed the deal for her.

Miss Universe chances
It is still to early to predict Ariella’s chances in the Miss Universe 2013 pageant. One thing’s for sure, though, she’s got big shoes to fill following the Philippines’ three consecutive placements in the top five and Janine Tugonon’s first runner-up finish last December. However, her victory has been warmly received by pageant fans online. Many of them see her making waves in the international pageant.

To be honest, Ariella looked more polished than Shamcey Supsup and Janine Tugonon when the two won the crown in 2011 and 2012. This, however, doesn’t mean Ariella should relax. She needs to work on a lot (improving her form, creating a distinct walk and improving her communication skills and personality among others) in order to package herself as a Miss Universe candidate worthy of the crown. There’s a lot of pressure, involved but I’m confident this girl is transformable. If she was able to get rid of unwanted fats she had prior to joining Bb Pilipinas, there’s no doubt this girl will be more than prepared for the Olympics of beauty. Also, she’s under the tutelage of Aces & Queens’ Jonas Gaffud, the man behind Venus Raj, Shamcey and Janine. Ariella is in good hands.

Winners, too
Joining her in the winning circle were Bea Rose Santiago (BBP-International), Joanna Cindy Miranda (BBP-Tourism, Mutya Johanna Datul (BBP-Supranational) and Pia Wurtzbach (1st runner-up). Most people would agree that this is one of the strongest set of Bb Pilipinas winners in years.

BBP-International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago

Bea was among the most applauded not only because she had lots of supporters in the venue, but she truly deserves the accolade. She was glowing the whole night, especially in her evening gown. During the Q&A she was asked what the ideal Filipino is. ” The ideal Filipino is both proud and happy people,” she replied. She gave the most practical answer to an easy question. She got the crown from that moment. What a coincidence, though, because it was Miss International Beauty Pageant chairman Hirofumi Hashimoto who asked her the question. I can smell our sixth consecutive placement in the pageant.

BBP-Supranational Mutya Johanna Datul

Mutya was destined to win the top plum, until she opened her mouth. The momentum was already there after she bagged the Miss Photogenic award. She was the most applauded in the evening gown segment; no wonder she won Best in Evening Gown. The crowd really loved her, but she broke their heart with her answer to the final question.

It was expected that she would falter in this round. Prior to the finale, she has been vilified online for her English-speaking skills. Had she preferred to answer in the native tongue, she could have placed  higher. But it was the right decision to send her to Miss Supranational since there’s no Q&A segment there. Her inimitable charm and beauty will surely take Belarus, this year’s host country, by storm.

BBP-Tourism Joanna Cindy Miranda

Meanwhile, Cindy’s beauty was “unstoppable” all throughout despite ending her answer weakly. It is still known if Miss Tourism Queen International will be staged this year, but I’m confident that Miranda can easily make it to the semifinals.

BBP runner-up Pia Wurtzbach

Pia could have easily snatched a crown had she given a meatier answer to the question “What do you think is the greatest achievement of Binibining Pilipinas in its 50 years of existence?” She may be the only crownless girl in the top 5, but she’ll be receiving the same amount of training as the other ladies. This could give her an advantage if ever she decides to join again. I’m pretty sure she can do a Tugonon (first runner-up in 2011, Miss Universe Philippines in 2012). Should have listened to my first instinct when I said Miranda will bag a crown and Wurtzbach is a sure top 5 placer.

Suprises, upsets
Aside from the eventual top 5, Parul Shah, Grace Yann Apuad, Merry Joyce Respicio, Charmaine Elima and Mariel de Leon all made it to the top 15 as predicted. The inclusion of underdogs Rhea Nakpil, Amanda Noelle Navasero, Camille Nazar, Ellore Punzalan and Imelda Schweighart came as a surprise. Nakpil was just okay in both the swimsuit and evening gown segments, while Navasero’s pasarela was just awkward. Winning special awards from major sponsors must’ve given Punzalan (Manila Bulletin’s Readers’ Choice) and Schweighart (Miss Pagcor) free passes to the semis. Of the five candidates, Nazar gave the most acceptable performance. Meanwhile, what could be the reason behind the exclusion of favorites Ria Rabajante, Cassandra Naidas and Hannah Sison? Their performance was solid enough to make the cut, in my opinion.

Mariel, the most talked about candidate, failed to get a crown. It was surprising, given that she was among the most cheered and she was rumored to be another favorite of the organization. However, the judges might have not appreciated her timid beauty. Also, as I have said in my fearless forecast, Mariel is too raw for pageants at 19 years old.

Charmaine Elima struggles during the Q&A portion. Photo from Bb Pilipinas website

But the coronation night’s biggest letdown was the exclusion of heavy favorite Charmaine in the top 5. She was breezing through both rounds. But her answer to the final question costed her the crown. She probably has answer in mind but the pressure must have taken over. She should not lose hope; she is just 20 years old and could still come back in a year or two.

The production
The opening was magical, needless to say, nostalgic. Seeing some 70 past title-holders in one stage is a dream come true especially for die-hard pageant fans like me, what more seeing them walk on the red carpet one by one all glammed up and their top form. The musical attractions were good, especially during the first part of the evening gown segment. The production team, however, should’ve dropped the idea of having four matinee idols serenading the second batch of ladies in their evening gowns. Yes, there was “kilig” factor, but it just didn’t suit the pageant’s overall feel. Also, the song number was already finished but Binibini 48 was still on stage; the team had to put the background song on loop until Binibini 50 was done.

Martin Nievera and Dawn Zulueta

Martin Nievera and Dawn Zulueta did a good job. They had chemistry, but the former should have refrained from giving some nasty side comments especially during the Q&A portion. Meanwhile, Shamcey and Venus could have done a better job giving color commentaries than just promote the hair conditioner sponsor. The program can stand on its own even without them. The stage was better this year, it was small but completely utilized. The lighting effects helped in setting the mood for each of the program’s segments. The swimsuit portion seemed rushed; seeing all 50 girls strutting in bikinis was tiresome. Overall, the production was a marked improvement compared to last year.

We’ve only just began
Soon, the winners will be engaging into rigorous training sessions to shape both their minds and bodies for their respective international pageants. The pressure is on for them to keep the momentum going for the Philippines in the international pageant scene. But more than just the preparations, the determination to improve and the hunger to succeed must be there.

Will one of these girls bring home a crown to finally say the Philippines is legitimately back as a pageant powerhouse? The journey has just began.

BEST BETS: My Final Choices for Binibining Pilipinas Gold

 

 

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Writer’s note: This prediction article also appeared on Rappler.com. Click here.

It’s that time of the year again when the most beautiful women in the country battle it out in the annual Binibining Pilipinas.

The tilt gets even more interesting this year as the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc marks its 50th year. The race to the crown has become tougher and tighter with the election of 50 official candidates. Aside from this, the pressure is more intense this year following Janine Tugonon’s bridesmaid finish in Miss Universe last December.

With three consecutive runner-up finishes in Miss Universe (Venus Raj, 2010; Shamcey Supsup, 2011; and Tugonon, 2012) and five straight semi-finals placements in Miss International (Patricia Fernandez, 2008; the late Melody Gersbach, 2009; Krista Kleiner, 2010; Dianne Necio, 2011; and Nicole Schmitz, 2012), the eventual winners of the Binibining Pilipinas’ golden edition faces a huge challenge: keep the momentum going for the Philippines in the international pageant scene.

Who among this year’s candidates deserve to wear the Philippine sash in Miss Universe, Miss International, Miss Supranational and Miss Tourism Queen International? Here’s a list of who will likely emerge victorious on April 14.

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15 Pujanes
15th: Mary Rose Pujanes (Binibini 15)
She may not be a favorite, but 20-year-old Rose has the pageant experience to prove her worth. Who would have though she used to be a shy girl prior to joining pageants? At 5’7.5″, Rose walks with so much confidence on stage. Her swag just sets the stage ablaze.

14 Respicio
14th: Merry Joyce Respicio (Binibini 25)
She’s got the height (5’11”) and the modeling advantage, gracing the runways of Philippine Fashion Week and Metro Wear. Not the best in the beauty department, but 18-year-old Merry knows how to work her angles. She already has the goods, but she needs to improve on her communication skills; her interview during the BBP Primer wasn’t impressive.

13 Apuad
13th: Grace Yann Apuad (Binibini 34)
This pretty face has already proven her mettle at an early age when she bagged the Most Photogenic award in Ford Supermodel of the World Philippines. Standing at 5’9″, it isn’t hard for Shan to get noticed. However, she seems to be playing it safe with her subdued performance during the press presentation. She needs to work on her stage presence come finals if she wants boost her chances.

12 Sison
12th: Hannah Ruth Sison (Binibini 19)
The Pastor’s daughter has one of the best smiles among the ladies. Ironically, 24-year-old Hannah got really noticed for her official glamour shot where she exuded so must fierceness. Her sophisticated look makes her all the more lovable. This Isabelle Daza dead-ringer’s regal stance, slender legs and curvaceous body, not to mention her excellent communication skills, make her an obvious contender.

11 Raquel
11th: Mercegrace Raquel (Binibini 28)
Merce, 19, is banking on her morena beauty for a shot at a crown. Her impressive academic background and towering height give her better chances. But her biggest weapon would have to be her fluid catwalk skills, which is surprisingly one of the best in the batch. She has a Theresa Licaros (BBP-Universe 2007) vibe in her  beauty with brains. She’s prepared and is definitely within the radar.

10 Rabajante
10th: Ria Rabajante (Binibini 1)
As candidate number 1, Ria sure knows how to set the bar high. She was a revelation during the press presentation: her catwalk commands attention, her smile so winsome and her face just oozes with so much charisma. Pageant fans call her a cross-breed of Miriam Quiambao (BBP-Universe 1999) and Tetchie Agbayani (BBP 1978 semi-finalist). But this dusky lady impressed them with her gift of gab. At 21-year-old, she talks with so much depth. Watch out, this girl is a potential spoiler come Q&A.

09 Naidas
9th: Cassandra Naidas (Binibini 24)
Simple yet head-turning is the best way to describe this 5’10″ half-Korean beauty. She was absolutely stunning in that black terno, but needs to tone her body more because she looks too skinny. This girl is no bimbo – she made sure she earned her Psychology degree before joining the pageant. Overall, this girl is ready to compete internationally. Miss Supranational, perhaps?

08 Miranda
8th: Joanna Cindy Miranda (Binibini 16)
This 22 year-old Tourism cum laude graduate from UST has one of the freshest faces, not to say the healthiest bodies, too. She gave up her hosting stint at TV5’s Wil Time, Big Time to chase her dream of becoming a beauty queen. Despite the TV experience, Cindy seems a bit reserved. If this is a strategy, it’s not effective. Despite this, this girl’s face can easily light up a dark room. For that alone she deserves a spot.

07 Wurtzbach
7th: Pia Wurtzbach (Binibini 15)
With a stunning face to match her voluptuous body and 5’7.5″ stature, Pia definitely has a “front-runner” minted on her status. She doesn’t even need a lot of make up to stand out – her tantalizing eyes do all the talking. She made a solid impact when she worked her shiny gold terno with so much grace and sophistication during the press presentation. She could easily bag the BBP-International, given that the Philippines usually sends half-breed Filipinas there (Gersbach, Kleiner and most recently Schmitz). Her beautiful face sometimes appears too strong, so she needs to work on softening her features.

06 Shah
6th: Parul Shah (Binibini 33)
Not to be forgotten, this Wilma Doesnt dead-ringer literally owned the fashion show with her commanding presence. Parul may not be very photogenic but her stage motion is unparalleled. She may not have the most beautiful face but she has a big smile to warm people’s hearts. This half-Indian beauty’s well-toned body accentuated by her sun-kissed skin and vivacious personality sets her apart from the rest. Parul is X-factor personified.

05 Arida
First runner-up: Ariella Arida (Binibini 41)
She’s gaining strength as the pageant progresses, and who knows, she might become the coronation night’s biggest surprise. This Chemistry graduate from UP Los Baños is an experienced ramp model. She went home empty-handed in last year’s Miss Philippines Earth. It was understandable because she was out of shape back then. But when she appeared during the press presentation, she showed off the result of her patience and determination: a sexy wnd fit body. She also has a stunning faces. Her fierce and feisty look make her stand out. With very expressive eyes and delectable lips, shes too good for a runner-up finish or so it won’t be a surprise if Ariella snatches the top plum.

04 Santiago
Binibining Pilipinas – Supranational: Bea Rose Santiago (Binibini 20)
Her beauty resembles that of Amelia Vega (Miss Universe 2003), but with an Asian flavor. She has the most refined walk. Her sophisticated body movements made her stick out among the rest during the press presentation. She was crowned Mutya ng Pilipinas Overseas Communities last year and went on to place in Miss Tourism Queen International of the Year. This experience could help her ace the competition. But she could do real damage in the all-important Q&A round with her excellent communication skillsg. Her glamorous beauty and model-ish stature at 5’9″ perfectly fits the Supranational prototype.

03 Elima
Binibining Pilipinas – Tourism: Charmaine Elima (Binibini 13)
By merely observing her actions, you’ll know that Charmaine knows what she is doing and has mastered it well. Among all the candidates, this 20-year-old lady is most ready to conquer the international pageant scene. Her fierce looks, wide smile, and well-toned body make her a shoo in for any contest out there. Local pageants have become Charmaine’s playground and winning the Miss Rizal and Miss Mandaluyong crowns seems to be working much to her advantage. She’s among the most talked about delegates because of her Asian-Latina features (South American beauties traditionally dominate pageants). However, she sometimes look too pageant patty to the point that even her answers to interview questions don’t appear natural. She needs to work on that. Despite this, Maine remains a strong contender for a title. You’ll love to see that gorgeous face promoting Philippine tourism.

02 De Leon
Binibining Pilipinas – International: Maria Angelica De Leon (Binibini 31)
She is the most talked about delegate, mainly because she is the daughter of actors Christopher De Leon and Sandy Andolong. At 19 years old, Mariel seems too raw for pageants. Her body isn’t on top form, her styling a hit and miss. She may not be the most facially beautiful, but proper styling could work wonders for her. Pageant followers heard it through the grapevine that this girl is most favored to win a title. And having the most exposure during the fashion show seems a confirmation. She didn’t disappoint, however, because she sashayed grace and class on the runway. She has the breeding and the doll-like features that recent Miss International winners possess. She can do opera singing for the talent competition. Lastly, she exudes sincerity when she talks – something a candidate needs to win the judges’ nod. If she’s indeed the “anointed one”, the International crown fits her well.

01 Datul
Miss Universe Philippines 2013: Mutya Johanna Datul (Binibini 39)
People might mistake her for Aphrodite, because every encounter with Mutya is an encounter with inimitable beauty and charm. Right from the start, this girl has been considered as a front-runner. Compared to her stint in Mutya ng Pilipinas last year, this 20-year-old lady looks fresher and more polished now. Her body is more curvaceous, not to mention her well-toned legs that give her the svelte look. She has the effortless charm that could warm anyone’s hearts. But her best weapon is her winning smile. However many doubt her chances because she’s not that fluent in English. But in a web interview, she said she’s open to using an interpreter if ever she gets the chance to compete internationally. It must be remembered that Venezuela gained its powerhouse status in the world of pageantry not because its delegates are well-versed in English (most of them actually used interpreters), but because they are stunningly beautiful. It’s about time the Philippines reconsider this. After all, not all Miss Universe winners are fluent in English. Aside from this, Mutya perfectly fits the mold of recent Miss Universe winners: the sweet chick aura. It would be a crime to waste this beauty.

Photos from Binibining Pilipinas Facebook page. Graphics by Drew.

Miss U is a ‘personality pageant’, says Janine

Pageant Monday

8410_frontpage_full

Janine Tugonon’s homecoming was on the frontpage of UST The Varsitarian‘s latest issue.

On the article, talked about her Miss Universe experience and how excited she was to return to her alma mater.

“’Pag nandoon ka na (Ms. Universe pageant), lahat kayo magaganda, sexy, matatangkad. Pero what will make you stand out is what you really are—your personality. At ‘yung personality, mabubuo ‘yun kung saan ka nanggaling. Sa akin, napakalaking tulong ang binigay ng UST dahil na-enhance ko ‘yung values ko, ‘yung principles ko, and I thank UST.”

She added that joining the pageant requires a “pure heart and a strong mind.”

“Being a beauty queen is having a total package; that you are beautiful in and out, and intellectually able to [get along] with different people and personalities. Hindi lang siya beauty pageant, it’s a personality pageant.”

Why UST has ‘most number of beauty queens’

What do Miriam Quiambao, Charlene Gonzales, Jennifer Barrientos and Janine Tugonon have in common?

Aside from representing the Philippines in Miss Universe, they all earned their respective undergraduate degrees in UST.

Miss Univivese first runners-up are Thomasians: Janine Tugonon and Miriam Quiambao
The Philippines’ first runners-up in Miss Universe are Thomasians: Janine Tugonon and Miriam Quiambao

The University of Santo Tomas has “produced more beauty queens than any other school in the Philippines”, the now controversial entertainment columnist Ricky Lo once wrote in his Philippine Star  column, quoting beauty expert and UST alumnus Felix Manuel.

The dean’s list
To prove this claim, Manuel and his fellow experts came up with a list of Thomasian titleholders.  (Click this to see full list: UST has most number of beauty queens)

Charlene Gonzales is a Psychology graduate, while Miriam Quiambao earned her Physical Therapy degree in UST.
Charlene Gonzales is a Psychology graduate, while Miriam Quiambao earned her Physical Therapy degree in UST.

Some of the notable Thomasian representatives to Miss Universe are Charlene Gonzalez (1994), Miriam Quiambao (1999) and Janine Tugonon (2012). Evangeline Pascual, Miss World 1973 first runner-up, is also a Thomasian. Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman was studying in UST when she first joined Binibining Pilipinas.

Pageant culture in UST
Why UST has produced so many pageant kings and queens is unquestionable, mainly because pageants have been ingrained in the Thomasian culture since time immemorial. In fact, pageants are among the major projects of most academic societies and student councils in UST.

Usual scenario at the UST Medicine Auditorium during a college-based pageant.

Each degree programs under the colleges hold their mini pageants (comparable to Regional pageants like Miss Tachira in Venezuela) to choose their representatives to the college-wide pageant (which is like the national pageants such as BBP, Miss USA, Miss Venezuela). The winners of the local pageants then head on to represent their colleges in the “international” level (a la Miss Universe) ¬– the Mr and Miss UST.

Started more than three decades ago, the Search for the Ideal Thomasian Personalities (formerly known as Mr and Ms UST) has been an annual event in the campus.

Rowena Castro, former advider of UST’s Student Organizations Coordinating Council said in a Varsitarian report that “the criteria for the contest are continuously refined so that the contest would hew more closely to the identity and mission of UST” — the reason the contest was rechristened the ‘Search for the Ideal Thomasian Personality.’”

Just like any other pageants, UST beauty contests also include photo shoots. Larger-than-life tarpaulin panels showing the candidates dominate the hallways of buildings a week before the big night. To show that the candidates are indeed the “ideal” Thomasian students, the contests have pre-pageant activities like essay writing, uniform modeling, eco wear fashion show and talent showcase, among others.

Most beauty queen handlers even storm the UST local pageants to look for their girls to send in national pageants such as Binibining Pilipinas and Miss Philippines Earth.

Critics
But not all Thomasians like this “culture”.

Winners are supposed to reflect the ideal Thomasian student, promoting the USTs “3 Cs,” referring to the Thomasian values of competence, commitment and compassion.

Titleholders for 2011.

Critics claim the contest “goes against the very spirit of Thomasian values because it is nothing but a vanity trip and pure crass commercialism. It’s just a contest of show-biz wanna-be’s.”

Despite the criticisms, there is no doubt that pageant culture in UST has contributed to the Philippines’ beauty “powerhouse” status.

Photos were grabbed from the Internet

2012’s Fifteen Beauties of Ageless Splendor

Ageless.

This is the word that would best describe the ladies that truly made an impact in pageant world in 2012. They are timeless, “not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion”. Years will pass and but their names – and faces – will surely be remembered.

My understanding of a “timeless beauty” is that first, the lady should be facially beautiful. She need not be what others call as a “goddess”, but she should be generally accepted as beautiful. Second, she is phenomenal. She should have made an impact in the pageant arena with her beauty, wit, charm and skills or even her shares of controversies. For instance, would you call a boring beauty timeless just because she is facially sublime but she failed in other aspects of beauty pageantry?

This is a personal list of the girls who I consider as the most memorable in 2012 pageantry. I only followed two criteria. First, the girl should have been included in my final choices for the Big4 pageant where she competed. Second, she must have made a nice impression for me to remember her always.

So after weeks of working on this (I was too busy with work and other stuff), I finally present to you the fifteen beauties of ageless splendor for the year 2012.


15 sSophie Moulds, Wales World
I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan of Sophie before the pageant kicked off. I really thought she was just eyes (which I consider her lucky charm), but I was immediately swayed when I saw her in bikini. Wales definitely had the best body in the competition, and placing in the Beach Fashion top 10 confirmed that. Aside from that, she was very enthralling and her facial features were so striking. I said she could also pull a big surprise come finals night, and indeed she was named first princess.


14 Blanca Aljibes, Venezuela International
If MI pageant night started on the first day of arrival, Venezuela’s Blanca Aljibes definitely would have won the race. She was the most prepared delegate, and was definitely ready to defend her country’s successful streak in MI. She had improved and matured in terms of beauty and personality. She was a charming and alluring beauty. Her eyes were very expressive and her smile was just electrifying. Her body was jaw-dropping and when coupled with a polished catwalk, she surely was a head-turner. A lot of criticisms had been thrown at her, but she remained unfazed. Blanca indeed gave them girls a run for their money.


13 Jessica Kahawaty, Australia World
Name it, she can do it! Making it into four challenge events is already a feat in itself, what more making it into the top 10 of Beach Fashion and Top Model. Her experience in Miss International (where she represented Lebanon), might have played a big role in honing Jessica into a good pageant girl. She was good on the ramp, always styled well, and she knew exactly what she was doing. Her face may not be flawless, but she had the allure and intellect to make her a well-rounded beauty. She seemed determined to win, and so she was named second princess.


12 Rochelle Maria Rao, India International
Underestimated, but determined to leave a lasting impact – that was India’s Rochelle Maria Rao. Not a lot believed that Rochelle can be a threat in this year’s pageant. Many thought she was just hyped by her countrymen. Plain Jane, naysayers claim. But Rochelle did not take matters sitting down. She underwent intensive training and look how she had transformed. She was just stunning in every photo, even nailing the official portraits. Her face, though not as stunning as the others, was just beautiful. However, history has it that MI does not always appreciate Indian beauties, so it was still be a bumpy road ahead for Rochelle. But with her determination, she made it and opened hope for her country.


11 Wenxia Yu, China World
She was not at par with Zhang Zilin in the beauty department, but Wen Xia had the sophistication fit for a queen. Her placement in four challenge events may be partly attributed for being the host country’s delegate. However, it can be safely said she made it on her own merits. Competitive as they really are, China won’t settle for anything less. Indeed, Wenxia bagged the crown on her home turf.


10 Queneerich Rehman, Philippines World
Queneerich was the perfect choice for her country because she was well-rounded. Despite having only three weeks to prepare, she came to Ordos well-prepared and refined. This was very evident with her set of clothes and styling. She also brought her greatest weapon: beat boxing! Her video performance had gone viral over the net, even reaching the pages of The Huffington Post and TIME. If not for the row between China and the PHL over the Scarborough Shoal, it was easy to conclude that Queenie has a strong chance of becoming the Philippines’ first Miss World.


09 Natalia Pereverzeva, Russia Earth
If there was a medal for the most controversial delegate, Natalia Pereverzeva will win the gold for sure. She hit the headlines twice: first, because of her nude photos and second, for her statement regarding her country which appears on her profile page at the Miss Earth website. Despite the controversies, she made it to the Top 8. In terms of facial beauty, she was the best among the European delegates. Her styling and wardrobe was good, and she seemed well-versed in ME causes, too. It was hard to pay no heed to a candidate like her.


08 Atong Demach, South Sudan World
Since her stint in Miss Earth 2010, Atong had already captured my attention. She failed to place then. When she joined Miss World, where black delegates are given better chances of placing, my thoughts stayed the same. Armed with her inimitable complexion and height, she managed to make waves in Ordos. She did not disappoint, and placed in the top 10 in Top Model! Without a doubt, Atong was the best from Africa.


07 Tamerin Michelle Jardine, South Africa Earth
At a young age, Tamerin Michelle Jardine was told by her doctor she might not be able to finish schooling because she has dyslexia. But with her determination and hard work, she was able to finish two law degrees. This back story could be a good indicator that South Africa’s delegate is a woman of substance and firmness of purpose. True enough, she nailed every part of the competition from the start, bagging medals left and right. Facially, she was not the best, but she possessed an endearing charm that made her face a sight to behold. Her willingness to take part in making the Earth a better place to live in make a real woman of the Earth. In her own words: “I want to be the voice and the leader who acts what she says not just for my country but globally for the Miss Earth organization. I want to win Miss Earth and commit to it wholeheartedly as it is embedded in my DNA to be the aid that people need…”


06 Janine Tugonon, Philippines Universe
Bashed ’til kingdom come, Janine Tugonon could be considered as the most distrusted delegate during pre-arrival. Pressure was on her to continue the two-year placement of the Philippines in the top five, but many believe this won’t come true. Her official shots were a little underwhelming, but the preliminaries served as the real deal breaker. Despite having an unflattering gown, Janine was able to pull that number off. She glided with so much class and finesse fit for a queen. I’m no fan of ponytails, but I have to say it emphasizes her strong exotic facial beauty. Her body has indeed improved a lot, with those shoulder blades helloing and toned legs. But what really set her apart among the rest was her determination to succeed. For that, she must be commended.


05 Melody Mir, Dominican Republic International
Many thought she was in the wrong pageant, as her ferosh look and sex appeal fits perfectly for MU. She was a vixen but in the long run, has proven that she deserved to be in MI. She was very classy, wore appropriate clothing, and always came out prepared. What really convinced me that she had “it” was when she went out to mingle with the locals. I saw the sincerity in her, her eyes showed that she loved what she was doing. Also, she possessed a good face for a worthy cause.


04 Mariana Notarangelo, Brazil World
Many did not consider her as someone to beat, but being a total performer throughout the competition justified the top 7 placement of Mariana. She definitely turned critics into believers when she placed in three challenge events, most especially when she was called in the top 10 of both Beach Fashion and Top Model. This also meant height didn’t play a disadvantage to her because she got noticed, most probably because of her adorable face and magnetic aura. In the end of the pageant, she has proven that she is the best of Americas. Indeed, no one can put a good candidate down.


03 Tereza Fajksova, Czech Republic Earth
One might mistake her for Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, because every photo and video and even a personal encounter with Tereza Fajksova for those who met her in person were indeed encounters with inimitable beauty and charm. Right from the start, she has been touted to be a real contender for the crown, and true enough, Tereza made Czech Republic really proud of her.

02 Irene Esser, Venezuela Universe
Irene emanated a jovial and energetic vibe, which seemed to have worked very well to her advantage. It can’t be denied she had a commanding presence that made her standout from the rest.


01 Melinda Bam, South Africa Universe
Melinda had been a clear standout since day once. Upon setting foot in Las Vegas, Melinda sashayed her undeniable charisma and beauty. She nailed every official photo with her natural charm and class. Melinda showed off her well-sculpted body during the swimsuit round. She looked healthy with her body that is proof of years of discipline and hard work. She was literally shining on stage as she walked in that shinning gold ensemble during the finals. She may have failed to make it to the top five, but she sure will forever be etched in our hearts.

The Philippines’ glorious moments in 2012 pageants

Year 2012 will surely go down in history as one of the best years for the Philippines in the international pageant arena. The country placed in all of the four major female pageants for the second consecutive year, even bagging two bridesmaid finishes. Surprisingly,  it also managed to dominate the male pageant scene, with a major title and a runner-up finish. Not only that. Pinay representatives also shone in other pageants across the globe.

As 2013 unfolds, let us look back at the defining moments of the Philippines in last year’s pageants.

1-2_zpsa0a02b50Upon her crowning as Miss World Philippines, Queneerich Rehman had been touted as a “girl to beat” in Miss World. Despite having only three-weeks to prepare, hopes were high that she could take home the country’s first Miss World crown. Many thought she was the perfect choice because she is a well-rounded beauty. True enough, she came to Ordos, Inner Mongolia well-prepared. She placed in the Beach Fashion Top 40, Performing Talent Top 5, and Top Model Top 46. Her Michael Cinco gown also made it to the Top 10 of World Fashion Designer Dress.

However, it was clear from the beginning that she had slim chances of getting the elusive crown given the row between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal. Despite this, she managed to standout. Her greatest weapon: beat boxing. Her video performance has gone viral over the net, even reaching the pages of The Huffington Post and TIME. She was expected to win the Talent round but lost to China’s Wenxia Yu (who eventually took home the crown).

Still, Queenee’s Top 15 finish, against all odds, is a feat for the Filipinos.

2-1_zps3faab033Who would have thought Filipinos will finally get noticed in the male pageant arena?

June Macasaet, 29-year old commercial and ramp model, defeated 52 other contestants at the Manhunt International pageant held in Bangkok, Thailand. He wasn’t a heavy favorite during the competition. But one can’t deny his competitiveness . He behaved well, and seemed very focused on his goal: be the first-ever Pinoy to win the Manhunt title. True enough, with his determination  he shone during the finals. He even bagged the New Urban Male Award.

Meanwhile, model and athlete Andrew Wolff finished second at Mr World 2013 held in Kent, UK. His experience as a member of Philippine Volcanoes since 2007 played an advantage to him as he placed in the Sports fast track. But his main advantage came in the Multimedia fast track where the candidates were tasked to make video. He won the award “with his energetic and engaging creations on his social media pages. He was deemed to have created the most exciting, informative and inventive news stories.” Joining the pageant made us know the other side of who was once a controversial celebrity. Andrew is actually involved with Tuloy Foundation, an advocacy group that supports marginalized children.

3-1_zpsa26351d1After so long, a Filipino finally bagged a title in a pageant for transsexual and transgenders in the person of Kevin Balot. Kevin Balot bested 20 other contestants from 15 countries en route to bagging the Miss International Queen 2012 crown. Two other Philippine representatives in the pageant made it to the top 10: Michelle Montecarlo and Miriam Jimenez.

With her success, Kevin’s only one wish is “acceptance” from her family. “I’m very proud to be the first here, and I hope my dad will accept me. Because in the family I’m the only boy, and my dad has big expectations of me. I made it. I won the International Queen Pageant, and I believe that my dad will accept me not only as his son but also as his daughter,” Kevin said in an interview after she won. And her winning answer: “I believe my dear friends that all the candidates are equally beautiful and talented but the best word that describe me as a Miss International Queen is being simple because being simple makes me simply the best.”

6_zps64cbad21Outside the Big4 pageants, Filipinos continued to excel.

Elaine Kay Moll, BBP 2012 first runner-up became the first Filipina to place in the budding Miss Supranational pageant. Defying beliefs that the pageant is anti-Filipinos, Kay made it to the Top 20 and even finished as third runner-up. Ayelee Dasalla was 2nd runner-up, Miss Humanity International. Angelee Claudette de los Reyes and Bea Rose Santiago made it to the top 10 of Supermodel International and Miss Tourism Queen of the Year International, respectively. Clarise Marie Obvio won Miss Teen Universe 2012 First Runner-up. And the best way to cap the year is to bag a crown! Rizzini Gomez won the Miss Tourism International 2012 title last night.

4-1_zpsebaed236They were both heavily bashed: Janine Tugonon right after her crowning, Stephany Stefanowitz during the Miss Earth pageant. But in the end, they both proved their detractors wrong by almost clinching the crowns.

Janine could be considered as the most bashed Philippine delegate in history. Her body was a disaster when she competed earlier this year. Many thought her win was fixed. Despite the negativities, Janine focused on her goal. That is to continue the Philippines’ two consecutive years of top five placement. Her determination to prove her detractors wrong was very evident when she came out on TV weeks weeks before the MU. She has remarkably lost weight; her shoulder blades helloing. Her styling has improved as well as her catwalk skills. When in Vegas, Janine didn’t take matters sitting down. She was always in her A-game. During the prleiminaries, she showed off her well-improved body. Despite her gown not being aesthetically beautiful, she was able to work it well. Those sealed her Top 16 fate. During the finals, Janine was obviously among the best performers. Her evening gown performance was very classy. And her final answer? It will go down in history as among the best.

For the second-straight year, the host delegate turned out to be the most bashed candidate in ME. Stephany could’ve averted all the bashings had she undergone a very rigid training to tone her body. She was obviously not in her perfect form so placing second in the swimwear competition shocked and disappointed many fans. However, it can’t be denied that Stephany is a catwalk diva. She may not be the thinnest or the sexiest, but she sure knows how to work her curves when walking. She is also facially better than her predecessor. Stones may have been cast on her, but Stephany surely proved naysayers when she came out in a better body during the top 16 swimsuit presentation. She also had a decent evening gown performance. Her answer, albeit lacking in sincerity in my opinion, is acceptable.

5_zpsde45a472The best way to wrap up 2012 is to remember the wise words from our candidates:

“For me, being Miss Universe is not just about knowing how to speak a specific language, it is being able to influence and inspire other people. So whatever language you have, as long as your heart is to serve and you have a strong mind to show to people, then you can be Miss Universe. Thank you!”

– Janine Tugonon, when asked if speaking English should be a prerequisite for Miss Universe.

“Peace, love, unity, these 3 words are the Miss International pageant. Having spent the past 3 weeks in Okinawa, I have witnessed the special connection it has with the world. Globalization and multi cultural diversity can exist. We can be uniquely global and globally unique. This is my mission. I want people to appreciate that we not only belong to local communities but world at large. By this understanding we can contribute to global goals. I am standing here in front of you open to offer my heritage and myself, as a strong compassionate responsible and independent woman in this quest for global harmony. And I can stand here proudly and consider myself an international citizen.”

– Nicole Schmitz’ heartwarming speech in Miss International

UST celebrates Janine Tugonon’s feat

Imbued with undending grace. Janine Tugonon returns to UST.(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)
Imbued with undending grace. Janine Tugonon returns to UST.
(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)

Earlier today, I was going gaga on Twitter and Facebook to check for updates about Miss Universe 2012 first runner-up Janine Tugonon’s grand motorcade, which includes a homecoming in her (our) alma mater, the University of Santo Tomas I would’ve wanted to drop by UST to witness that momentous celebration, but the photos I found line were enough to feed my excitement. I also shared them to fellow pageant fans.

“The celebration started with a motorcade around the campus, where she was warmly welcomed by students, faculty members, and administrators, followed by an awarding of a plaque of recognition and a lunch reception,” reports The Varsitarian, UST’s official student publication.

Janine earned her degree in Pharmacy, cum laude, from UST in 2010. She was crowned as Ideal Female Thomasian Personality (Miss UST) in 2010.

Here are some photos from The Varsitarian’s official Facebook page:

Janine's float enters UST Espana gate, welcomed by students at the Arch of the Centuries.(Photo by Jaime T. Campos)
Janine’s float enters UST Espana gate, welcomed by students at the Arch of the Centuries.
(Photo by Jaime T. Campos)
Students from the College of Commerce take a break from their classes to see Janine.(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)
Students from the College of Commerce take a break from their classes to see Janine.
(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)
All smiles and gladly waves for the Thomasian crowd.(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)
All smiles and gladly waves for the Thomasian crowd.
(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)
Radiant on the red carpet before the start of the program at the Plaza Mayor.(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)
Radiant on the red carpet before the program at the Plaza Mayor.
(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)
Fr Herminio Dagohoy presents a plaque of appreciation to Janine.(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)
Fr Herminio Dagohoy presents a plaque of appreciation to Janine.
(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)
Janine gamely answers questions from the press.(Photo by Sherwin Marion T. Vardeleon)
Janine gamely answers questions from the press.
(Photo by Jaime T. Campos)

“Ms. Janine Tugonon’s impressive performance in an international competition proves that Thomasians truly excel in almost every field, and more importantly, she has become a positive role model to many young people because she exemplifies determination, hard work, beauty, and intelligence.”

– UST Rector Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P.