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”

The reigning queens seem excited to pass on their crowns.

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?

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.

Who will be hosting the Bb Pilipinas 2014 pageant night?

Finally, the names of this year’s Binibining Pilipinas coronation night masters of ceremonies have been revealed in a press release by BPCI.

Matinee idol Xian Lim, and beauty queens Venus Raj, and Shamcey Supsup. returns on the Binibining Pilipinas stage. They will be joined by actress Anne Curtis, the star of ABS-CBN’s newest TV show Dyesebel star.

Xian Lim watches over as then Bb Pilipinas candidate Janine Tugonon, later crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2012, battles the Q&A round during the Bb Pilipinas 2012 pageant night.
Tres Marias. Anne Curtis, Shamcey Supsup and Venus Raj
Tres Marias. Anne Curtis, Shamcey Supsup and Venus Raj

Xian Lim and Venus Raj co-hosted the 2012 edition together with actress Iza Calzado and socialite Georgina Wilson. Raj was back as side host in 2013 together with Shamcey Supsup.

The Grand Coronation Night will be held on March 30 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum and will be aired live on ABS-CBN.

#ThrowbackThursday: Bb Pilipinas Best in National Costume winners (2010-13)

The Binibining Pilipinas National Costume Competition is more than a contest among candidates and their respective designers; it is a celebration of the Philippines heritage and culture.

This special award was removed years back from the pageant’s awards categories. In 2010, the organizers decided to reinstate it (as Philippine Terno competition) “to promote patriotism among the candidates and local designers”. The following year, it was renamed “National Costume Competition”.

Ahead of this year’s National Costume Competition, which will be part of the 2014 Fashion Show tonight, let’s take a look at the winning cultural costumes from 2010 to 2013.

2010-112010 – Maria Venus Raj (Bb Pilipinas – Universe)
Designed by Ariel Alvarez

2011 – Elizabeth Clenci (Unplaced)
Designed by Jearson Demavivas

2012-132012 – Nicole Schmitz (Bb Pilipinas – International)
Designed by Edwin Uy

2013 – Maria Teresita Alaine Baccay (Unplaced)
Designed by Abbog Ocampo

Which one is your favorite? Mine would be the Edwin Uy creation worn by Nicole. The intricate details were a sight to behold. While it looked sexy, it didn’t lack the elegance and beauty fit for a Filipina beauty queen.

Who do you think will win this special award this year? Find out in a few hours.




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 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.

Pageant enthusiasm

The Big Four winners of 2012 (Graphics by Drew)
The Big Four winners of 2012 (Graphics by Drew)

“Mention something about you that would surprise people.”

Without batting an eye, I said, “I’m a beauty pageant enthusiast.” The HR officer almost dropped his cup of coffee. The two other newbies were grinning. “Let’s just say I have an eye for beauty.”

* * *

I can still vividly remember watching the telecast of Miss Universe 1999. The show was very festive, and I almost jumped off my seat when Philippines was called in the top 10. Miriam Quiambao almost made it, but she lost to Botswana’s Mpule Kwelagobe. But the most memorable moment was when Miriam tripped in her sky blue Halston evening gown during the preliminaries. She tripped her way to people’s hearts. Until now, she remains the best Filipina delegate in Miss Universe for me.

* * *

I never missed a telecast of Miss Universe since 2007. It was heartbreaking to see the Philippines missing the cut until 2009. So it was totally expected that Filipinos would go crazy over Venus Raj’s top 5 finish in 2010. Of all the editions I’ve seen, 2010 remains the best in terms production value.

* * *

My fondness for beauty pageants led me to Missosology, a forum dedicated to pageants. There, I interact with people from all over the globe who share the same passion. I regularly write threads about pageants and post them there. My dedication finally paid off last month when I was promoted to Pageant Expert status.

* * *

To be honest, I was never a fan of Venus, Shamcey Suspsup and Janine Tugonon. Venus’ beauty isn’t my cup of tea. Shamcey was a diamond in the rough when she was crowned. Janine’s body was in bad shape when she rejoined Binibini this year. But what sets them apart from the rest is their determination to succeed. Venus fought for her crown against all odds. Shamcey worked hard to improve her styling. Janine hit the gym almost everyday to achieve her pageant ready body. That’s more commendable than having a flawless face.

* * *

The first time I saw Janine was when she was crowned as Miss UST in 2010. Back then, she wasn’t my favorite, but she caught my heart because of her good answer to the final question. When she joined Binibini in 2011, I was among the minority who believed she has the goods to make it. Many thought she was too raw and ordinary, but I was right when she made it to the top 15and even ended up as 1st runner-up. I had second thoughts, though, when she decided to rejoin last year. Her body was obviously a disaster. However, I can’t deny that her styling had improved. Although I was rooting for MJ Lastimosa, I had Janine as my alternate for the crown. She was heavily bashed, but it seemed the bashing served as her inspiration to succeed. Look at her now. She’s just classy.

* * *

I can’t give a concrete reason as to why I fancy beauty pageants. I like the thrill of predicting the outcomes, analyzing each girl’s potential and defending the relevance of pageants at this day and age. But one thing’s for sure, I appreciate a real beauty when I see one.