The Superbowl of Philippine pageantry is days away. After months of hard work, the 40 official candidates of the Binibining Pilipinas Pageant will finally reap the rewards of their hard work and determination. It isn’t just the Philippines’ that anxiously awaits the coronation of the 6 major titleholders. The world is also closely watching for the final roster of winners.
From the initial screening, Press Presentation, Talent Show, Fashion Show and National Costume Competition to the Parade of Beauties, they all have remarkably improved. Their teams and camps have tried out various looks and now have a better idea on how to style them to perfection on finals night.
More importantly, through the pre-pageant activities, they have developed personally, growing more in tune with who they are and gaining more self-confidence in being around people and performing in front of huge crowds. They are ready to embrace the wonderful challenge of becoming a Bb. Pilipinas titleholder.
A call for social media kindness
During the pre-social media years, pageant fans’ debates over their favorites were limited to private discussions. The women can simply concentrate on being a beauty contestant and fully enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, social media has exposed them to the vile and ruthless commentary of some downright disrespectful fans. (READ: Bb Pilipinas queens defend Mariel de Leon on ‘scripted’ remark)
It is an unfortunate reality the solution to which is merely to ignore and dismiss them. There are many pageant fans that disregard the very essence of the pageant’s message of world peace, mutual understanding and a celebration of our differences.
Social media is free. But so are kindness, decency and respect. In supporting the candidates, it is my hope the focus will be on uplifting and positive tones.
Let us not turn the beautiful world of pageants into a political arena filled with mudslinging tactics, name calling and negativity. Competition brings out the best and sometimes the worst in human nature. Let’s strive for the best.
Best bets list
With much love and careful consideration, I have been observing the candidate’s performances from the beginning.
Each contender has her own unique beauty but the essence of the competition is to narrow them down to a select group of 15 semifinalists and, eventually, two runners-up and 6 titleholders.
During last year’s Bb. Pilipinas Pageant, there was a solid group of about 8 candidates who were a cut above the rest. This year, there is a level playing field among the candidates with the exception of 2 to 3 women who are a bit stronger.
This leaves a lot of room for shockers and surprises. It could go in any direction. We are also not privy to the behind-the-scenes behavior of the candidates that may factor into the decisions. The closed door interviews can greatly influence perception of beauty and thus, scoring in succeeding segments.
I know that many say that height doesn’t matter because of several international winners who were below 5’6”. Although my first choices would be tall candidates, I am very open to petite women who exhibit exception charisma and beauty.
There are plenty of conspiracy theories trying to predict this year’s winners.
Will a former national titleholder be given a chance to represent our country again? Will the daughter of a former Bb. Pilipinas Universe winner follow in her mother’s footsteps? Will a popular athlete probe that she has what it takes to be a winner even in pageants? Will one of the many dark horses take it all away from the frontrunners? Will the Denim Queen, Miss Philippine Airlines and Miss Photogenic special awardees continue to win the top crowns?
Having followed pageants closely for years, I’ve learned to only make educated guesses and never think the obvious frontrunners are guaranteed winners. That’s the nature of competition.
Every year, I know that although results would be besieged with a bit of resistance in the beginning, the Filipino pageant fans will find a way to warm up to those who are victorious eventually.
Last year’s format was Top 25, Top 15 and then the winners. Only the Top 25 candidates participated in the evening gowns competition. I hope this year everyone is given a chance to runway.
- Bb. #4 Ana Patricia Asturias
- Bb. #5 Rose Marie Murphy
- Bb. #8 Marie Sherry Tormes
- Bb. #15 Juliana Kapeundl
- Bb. #22 Sophia Baino
- Bb. #24 Edjelyn Gamboa
- Bb. #27 Nicole Cajandig
- Bb. #29 Samantha Avestruz
- Bb. #37 Patrizia Garcia
- Bb. #39 Trixia Marie Marana
Depending on their performance during the finals, any of these ladies can easily enter the Top 15. I actually think women are very beautiful and can even go as far as the winners circle.
Top 15 (Plus 1 People’s Choice Vote)
- Bb #1 Vickie Rushton
- Bb. #3 Murial Orais
- Bb. #7 Sigrid Grace Flores
- Bb. #10 Kayesha Chua
- Bb. #11 Aya Verdadero Abesamis
- Bb. #14 Samantha Bernardo
- Bb. #17 Ma. Ahtisa Manalo
- Bb. #19 Michele Gumabao
- Bb. #20 Catriona Gray
- Bb. #21 Anjame Magbitang
- Bb. #23 Ena Louis Velasco
- Bb. #26 Wynonah Buot
- Bb. #31 Jehza Mae Huelar
- Bb. #32 Eva Psyche Patalinjug
- Bb. #35 Sandra Lemonon
- Bb. #38 Karen Gallman
The final placements of the winners will really depend on their performances on coronation night. Every choice, step and word they utter will be crucial given that they are equally capable. Styling choices especially evening gown will be critical. Lastly, the one who exudes the most warmth, charm, and confidence that night will greatly impact judges’ impressions.
It is very difficult to place them in the correct order because there are reasons which the public is not privy to. But I do expect these women to do very well. You can mix them up and we will still have a great batch of winners.
Each international pageant has their own preferences and I want to send a candidate that best meets those requirements. My placements are based on who I think will perform well in the international competition.
Here are my top picks for this year.
2nd Runner-up: Bb #38 Karen Gallman, 25 years old
Alternates: Bb. #3 Muriel Orais, Bb. #7 Sigrid Grace Flores
Karen has one of the most beautiful faces. She first competed in Bb. Pilipinas 2011 and won Miss Photogenic. I cannot pinpoint what it is. But she translates in photos and sometimes on stage as lacking energy. This doesn’t bode well when surrounded by larger than life personalities. Her beauty can take her far. If she is style perfectly and finds that inner spark on pageant night, she might emerge with a higher place.
1st Runner-up: Bb. #17 Ma. Ahtisa Manalo, 20 years old
Alternate: Bb. #26 Wynonah Buot
Ahtisa is very striking on stage. She’s made quite an impact considering that she is one of the younger candidates in her national pageant debut. She is also one of those girls who look very approachable. I think the major determining factor for her is the Q&A. She can potentially win a title. The only other concern is her age. I’m not sure if BPCI will place her in a runner-up position with the intention of making join again since she is still very young. But that’s just speculation. She could be a very amazing titleholder bringing a youthful presence. I would place her as Bb. Grand International, Intercontinental or International.
Bb. Pilipinas Globe: Bb. #3 Muriel Orais, 26 years old
Muriel is the epitome of pretty. Her eyes sparkle in photos, on stage and in person. It’s no wonder she is the face of Philippine Airlines and is a Presidential Cabin crew member. She’s a cum laude graduate and hopefully this translates well during the interview. But she comes across as very demure. If she nails her Q&A and exudes a more confident woman, it will be hard to ignore her.
Alternate: Bb. #26 Wynonah Buot, 24 years old
I really like Wynonah and I know that she can ace the Q&A. If she reaches the interview portion, it will increase her chances of capturing a crown. But her styling choices in the competition have left me wanting more. She’s one of the nicest people but her styling makes her look severe and unapproachable. She looks mataray when in fact, she’s very nice, fun and kind. Judges only have seconds to make a judgement about her. I hope she can soften her look for the finals and she’ll be on her way to a crown.
Bb. Pilipinas Grand International: Vickie Marie Rushton, 25 years old
The Miss Grand International is one crown that continues to elude us. That’s why I want one of the most beautiful faces to be sent here. She already has national title under her belt and is now aiming for a bigger stage. But Vickie needs to improve her stage presence because Bb. Pilipinas is a much fiercer competition.The great thing about her is she has a very charming presence that any pageant organizer would love to work with.
Alternate: Bb. #32 Eva Psyche Patalinjug, 23 years old
Her beauty reminds me of some Thai beauty queens. That might bode well with the Thai organizers.
Bb. Pilipinas Intercontinental: Bb. #35 Sandra Lemonon, 23 years old
The Miss Intercontinental pageant made it very clear they want winners with a great body and exude effortless sexy sophistication. Sandra personifies those qualities like no other. She has an allure that is sexy without ever being too much. She is also very natural and confident in her own skin. That’s very sexy.
She will be the perfect follow up after Katarina Rodriguez and possibly win our first ever crown. If she wins, maybe this bartender will make drinks for her fellow queens at the after party. It would also be very interesting to see if she and her fellow Miss World 2016 (Catriona Gray) will have strong finishes.
Alternate: Bb. #14 Samantha Bernardo, 25 years old
Another of the candidates who have an effortless beauty and a great body. Samantha was very elegant during the National Costume Show and has a great aura. But she needs to stand out a bit more. She would be perfect for one of the crowns.
Bb. Pilipinas Supranational: Bb. #11 Aya Verdadero Abesamis, 26 years old
Aya is a member of the Professional Models Association of the Philippines and her body of work shows that. Miss Supranational has a lot of modelling based competitions that Aya can excel in.
Aya has great stage presence and a strong runway walk. She has a very sweet and charming aura reminiscent of Mutya Datul, Miss Supranational 2013. Aya can slay the competition and win our second crown.
Alternate: Bb. #21 Anjame Magbitang, 21 years old
Anjame is one of the underrated beauties. Her statuesque figure and very Filipina morena features makes her stand out among the very fair, bi-racial candidates. If she has an amazing evening gown performance and does well in Q&A, she can tower over the others and possibly be a surprise winner.
Bb. Pilipinas International: Bb #19 Michele Gumabao, 25 years old
Michele is definitely one of the most talked about candidates for good reason. She is an athlete by profession and that is evident in her approach to the pageant. She has transformed herself into a major contender for one of the top crowns. Michele has one of the best smiles of the pageant. She lights up when she is on stage and has this x-factor that draws admiration. Her detractors say she doesn’t have the typical pageant beauty. But we are at a time when pageants are redefining what is beautiful. But for Miss International, her tall physique, fair skin and 10,000 watt smile can easily win over the Japanese.
Alternate: Bb. #31 Jehza Huelar, 23 years old
Her beauty, demeanor and charm is the very prototype of a Miss International winner. This is Jehza’s third attempt at Bb. Pilipinas. I really hope that she shines on pageant night so she can walk away a winner.
Miss Universe Philippines: Bb. #20 Catriona Elisa Magnayon Gray, 24 years old
Captivating, Stunning, Determined, Polished. Will she be the first ever Filipina to compete in Miss Universe and Miss World? I have often wondered that athletes spend years of discipline, honing their skills to be at their best. They are celebrated if they have multiple gold medals in different olympic games. You’ll never hear someone tell Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt to stop competing and give chance to others. So why do we impose this limit on beauty contestants who work very hard and sacrifice so much. Instead of admiring their dedication and passion, it is dismissed and not encouraged.
Catriona Gray comes in strong and ready to take it all. She is an undeniably gorgeous woman who has shown passion, determination and a whole lot of guts. If she wins Miss Universe Philippines, she would become the first Filipina to represent our country in both the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants.
Being a former Miss World Philippines title holder, she comes in with the biggest risk, lots of followers, and her share of naysayers. While some women struggle to even find the courage to join one pageant, Catriona has courage in spades. Let’s face it, she’s really in it for the Miss Universe Philippines title. That’s not something to be ashamed of or looked down upon. She has big dreams just like everyone else and this is her chance.
Catriona is a very marketable personality and her numerous commercial endorsements is proof of that. A pageant organization can greatly benefit from a titleholder like Catriona. From a business perspective, she’s a good investment because she comes in with a huge worldwide following. Catriona is also a triple threat because she can sing, act and dance. She is a superstar in the making.
Bb #19 Michele Gumabao
Pretty, Exuberant, Engaging, Strong-willed. It’s very seldom that we have a Binibini who is a professional athlete. She brings that spunk and drive that athletes possess. She can handle stress and knows the value of hard work. She’s a pageant neophyte but brings a fresh approach as these experiences are new to her. In a span of a couple of months, she’s managed to transform herself into a major contender for the crown. So I have no doubt that given months of intense training, Michele will rise to the occasion and triumph.
Bb. #11 Aya Verdadero Abesamis
Lovely, Elegant, Poised, Charming. There has never been a mother-daughter tandem as Bb. Pilipinas Universe winners. If Aya wins, she and her mother, Desiree Verdadero, Miss Universe 1984 3rd Runner-up, will be the first.
The media will celebrate such a historic feat and it bring lots of publicity. I’m sure her mother’s wisdom will be guiding her throughout the competition. Her modeling experience is quite evident when she steps onto the runway. She has a very sweet and charming personality. It’s a welcome change from all the fierceness we are accustomed to seeing on the Miss Universe stage.
Depending on their final performances, I feel that these 3 women have the best chance in winning the Miss Universe Philippines title. Backstory and advocacy seem to play very important roles in Miss Universe. Each of them brings something unique and different. But they should not for one second be complacent and think that it’s a sure thing. Yes, a crown is theirs to lose but that is by no means a guarantee.
Miss Universe 2018 is a potentially landmark year for the Philippines. First, we are looking at continuing the 9 year placement streak in Miss Universe. Second, there is a possibility that we will be hosting the pageant again this year. We have to be prepared for these scenarios and ensure that our country shines.
But it’s not just Miss Universe that the Philippines has been doing extremely well. Having a placement streak or being a pageant powerhouse is both an a boon and a bane. Having the Philippine sash automatically brings lots of attention. But along with that is very high expectations. We are no longer just competing with the other countries, but ourselves. We are scrutinized maybe a little more than others.
I’d like to think that we are in a Golden Age of Philippine Pageantry. In a way, we have the luxury of choosing among the very best. The pageant fans, their banners and blow horns are all set for the finals night on Sunday.
The 2018 Bb. Pilipinas Coronation night on March 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum will be one for the history books.
This article originally appeared in Rappler.
All photos courtesy of Rappler unless otherwise indicated.