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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.