For the second time in history, the Miss Universe pageant was held two times in the same calendar year.
- MU 2014: January 25, 2015 Florida, USA – Paulina Vega (Colombia)
- MU 2015: December 20, 2015 Las Vegas, USA – Pia Wurtzbach (Philippines)
- MU 2016: January 30, 2017 Manila, Philippines – Iris Mittenaere (France)
- MU2017: November 26, 2017 Las Vegas, USA – Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters (South Africa)
The Filipinos love affair with the Miss Universe pageant just got an extra boost (like it needed any) once more Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2015, had the privilege of crowning her successor in her home country. This is reminiscent of Margarita Moran’s farewell walk in 1974 when Manila played host country for the first time. It was befitting to have an equally memorable farewell when you undoutedbly have the most memorable crowning moment in the pageant’s history.
Pia dazzled the universe again during the Miss Universe 2017 pageant where she served as telecast judge for the pageant.
The 2017 Miss Universe pageant added another name in the short illustrious list of Filipinos who served as a judge in the pageant. Cecilio Asuncion, owner and Director of Slay Model Management and star of the reality show Strut, was a preliminary judge for the 2017 edition. He joins the likes of Carlos P. Romulo (1974), Josie Natori (1989), Kuh Ledesma (1991), Emilio T. Yap (1994), Lea Salonga (2011), Manny Pacquiao (2014) and Pia Wurtzbach (2017).
Dubai-based Filipino designer, Michael Cinco, showed what a world class Filipino designer can create. Cinco wowed the universe not just once but twice in the same year. When Pia Wurtzbach (MU 2015) came out looking radiant and beaming with pride in the cobalt blue ballgown, there was a collective gasp and awe at the arena during her farewell walk. Social media was flooded with her image in this now iconic Cinco creation. The year saw many designers and pageants from around the world try to duplicate this silhouette but none could match up to the genius that is the impalpable Michael Cinco.
Iris Mittenaere, Miss Universe 2016, also wore a red ombre, fully beaded, bustier gown with a matching, dramatic detachable train. In one of her social media post, Iris was like a giddy little girl playing dress up. The gown fit her like second skin.
If you are the outgoing titleholder and do not want the spotlight to shine less on you that night, then wear a Michael Cinco gown. You might say goodbye but you certainly will not be forgotten.
The beauty pageant business has also helped boost the visibility of local Filipino designers. We have always know they are world-class but when our candidates proudly wear them in their international competition, the world takes notice.
Former Dubai-based designer Val Taguba made two gowns worn during the international pageants. Elizabeth Clenci, 2nd Runner-up Miss Grand International 2017, wore an art deco inspired, beaded, emerald green gown by the designer.
Taguba created Rachel Peters’, Miss Universe Philippines 2017, important looks for the pageant. The gold sarimanok-inspired national costume, the fully embroidered, gold preliminary evening gown and the pale blue, fully embroidered finals evening gown that featured a high slit and low back.
Teresita “Winwyn “Marquez, Reina Hispanoamericana 2017, certainly made a buena impression in her emerald, deep V, halter with high center slit gown designed by Dubai-based Filipino designer Ezra Santos.
It seems that Filipino designers and Dubai are a match made in couture heaven.
Two of the most memorable gowns for the 2017 were created by Mark Bumgarner. Laura Lehmann was Mark’s muse for both the Miss World Philippines 2017 and Miss World 2017 pageant. Mark transformed Laura into a living Barbie doll with his choice of bright, primary colors, exquisite construction, draping and folding techniques. Both gowns were devoid of the nude, crystal studded, embroidered pageant standard.
Although the year started with the shocking news that Cory Quirino left Miss World Philippines Organization, the new MWP took off where she left off and then some. New MWP National Director, Arnold Vegafria and General Manager, Bessie Bessana, have reenergized this franchise. They breathed new life in the form of new titles (Reina Hispanoamericana Filipinas, Miss Eco Philippines and Miss Multinational Philippines). Filipino pageant fans were able to witness the event at the SM Mall of Asia Arena unlike in previous years where it was held in smaller venues. Laura Lehmann landed in the Top 40 and was one of the 5 Beauty with a Purpose winners.
Teresita “Winwyn” Marquez managed to win our first ever Reina Hispanoamericana title during our first attempt. Winwyn has truly lived up to her namesake.
The Binibining Pilipinas queens has also proven to be a strong force in continuing the powerhouse status of our country.
Elizabeth Clenci, Miss Grand Philippines 2017, was the last Asian standing in Miss Grand International 2017 where she emerged as 2nd Runner-up. She started off the pageant season with a bang when she competed in Phu Quoc, Vietnam on October 25, 2017. Maria Jose Lara of Peru won Miss Grand International 2017.
Nelda Ibe, Miss Globe Philippines 2017, almost captured our 2nd Miss Globe title emerging as 1st Runner-up during the pageant held in Tirana, Albania. The eventual winner was Miss Do Tran Khanh Ngan of Vietnam.
Maria Angelica de Leon, Bb. Pilipinas International 2017, went to Tokyo with the odds stacked up against her. Since 2012, no reigning country has managed to enter the semifinals of the Miss International pageant. Some refer to it as a curse or a trend that prevails because the organization does not want to have a back to back victory. Unfortunately for the competing queen, the reigning titleholder was from her own country, Kylie Versoza of the Philippines. Regardless of the circumstance, Mariel gave it her best and represented our country beautifully.
The pressure on Rachel Peters’ to continue the Miss Universe placement streak that began in 2010 was unimaginable. But she convincingly managed to secure a Top 10 finish for our country. On the competition aspect, it is exciting to want to continue placing and winning every year for the country. However, for the woman competing, it may feel overly burdensome to carry such a load on top of the pressure of the competition by itself. Then again, this is what makes our Binibinis stronger and indomitable beautiful women.
Chanel Olive Thomas, Bb. Pilipinas Supranational 2017, was able to bring her own brand of sunshine in Poland landing her a Top 10 finish. She was the last of the Binibinis to compete in 2017.
Upon their coronation last April 30, 2017, it was not a far fetched idea to imagine that each one of the Binibinis could all potentially win their international competitions. They were the perfect Binibinis that we all dream of having. In fact, they all somehow personified the ideal beauty queen to many Filipinos. Beautiful, tall, amazing bodies, educated, well-bred, charming, and best of all, articulate.
There were very high hopes but surprisingly were unable to bring home a crown. In the world of pageantry and in any competition, there can only be one winner. The spirit of beauty pageant competition lies in the graceful acceptance of placement and to be proud of our candidate regardless of outcome. Because that is when they need the love and support most.
A valuable lesson to Filipino pageant fans is to remember to always be humble despite our previous successes. To support our beauty queens is to not only be there during victory but also in defeat.
The only Binibini left to compete is Katarina Rodriguez, Bb. Pilipinas Intercontinental 2017. She is the last hope of BPCI to bring home an international crown from her batch.
In 2017, it was a November to remember. Pageant fans and media could barely keep up with the staggering amount of pageant related news during November. For reasons unknown, the major pageants decided to hold their international competitions during this month.
- November 3, 2017 Miss Globe
- November 4, 2017 Miss Earth
- November 16, 2017 Miss International
- November 18, 2017 Miss World
- November 26, 2017 Miss Universe
This caused a frenzy among the national directors who normally had only 1 representative for 2 or more pageants. So, they had to scramble for substitutes and training for all candidates being sent abroad.
The local beauty camps of Aces and Queens and Kagandahang Flores who each had 3 queens in Binibini and other winners were inundated with prepations for their girls. Even the pulling out of gowns and outfits from the limited pool of designers became quite tricky. Thankfully, the years of experience and resiliency of the candidates proved to be paramount to their successes.
Only 3 Countries managed to enter 3 out of 4 pageants Top 15/16 (Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss International and Miss Earth)
- South Africa (Universe, World, International)
- Thailand (Earth, Universe, International)
- Venezuela (Earth, Universe, International)
Asia is by far the continent with the most wins
- Miss World 2017: India, Manushi Chhillar
- Miss International 2017: Indonesia, Kevin Liliana
- Miss Earth 2017: Philippines, Karen Ibasco
An inclusive world and a broader perception of beauty
Thirty years ago in the world of pageantry, it was dominated by South America, North America and Europe. There used to be a term tossed around of having a “token” semifinalist spot. Typically, the “token” candidate was usually from Asia or Africa.
After studying the Top 16/15 from Miss Universe (16) , Miss World (Top 15), Miss International (Top 15), and Miss Earth (Top 16), the regions where they came from shows that it is a more inclusive, diverse world (at least in pageantry). That beauty is no longer just confined to the blue eyed blondes of Europe or the fierce beauties of South America. A closer look at the 62 placements revealed that those who entered the Top 16/15 (62 total placements) were:
- 31% from Asia (19 placements)
- 21% from Europe (21 placements)
- 18% from South America (11 placements)
- 16% from Africa (10 placements)
- 11% from North America (7 placements)
- 3% from Oceania (2 placements)
Karen Ibasco of Manila won the country’s 4th Miss Earth title. She wowed the world with her enigmatic personality and Q& A prowess. Although her hometown win was considered to be controversial by pageant fans, I believe that Karen’s performance was nevertheless a proud moment for the country. In pageant history, she will be remembered as Miss Earth 2017.
Adding to the achievements of our representatives from Bb Pilipinas and Miss World Philippines are the placements from Jannie Alipo-on (Miss Tourism International 2017) and Ilene de Vera (Miss Asia Pacific Internationl 2017 4th runner-up). Another former Binibini candidate, Sarah Bona, won Miss Nature Intercontinental 2017.
For the coming year, I hope that the inclusive trend continues to inspire people from around the world to look at beauty from different perspectives and to appreciate our differences in the same way we celebrate similarities.
Going into 2018, the Philippines needs to find fresh, and exciting beauty queens that break the mold and bring new energy into the Philippine sash. We are entering a period much like the Venezuelans did in the past. Being a front runner and a pageant powerhouse means that we cannot be complacent in training or preparations. The world expects us to wow them even more. Fortunately for us, we have a very deep pool of outstanding, educated and confident young women eagerly awaiting to show the universe the beauty of the moden Filipina.
This article originally appeared in Rappler.
All photos courtesy of Rappler unless otherwise indicated.