MISS WORLD PHILIPPINES 2017: SPLASHY RELAUNCH (CONCLUSION)

The general key characteristic of the ladies who made it in the winners’ circle is consistently strong communication skills.  Even the “weakest” communicator in this group  gave strong answers, and that person had certain extraordinary qualities that guaranteed her a crown.  Without further ado, let’s salute them starting with…

2ND RUNNER-UP:  CANDIDATE 24 – Zara Carbonell.  Her making the cut was mainly because of her outgoing personality, superb interview skills, and celebrity pedigree, as otherwise if we base it on the way she looked onstage in swimsuit and evening gown, she’s just a worthwhile contender.  But this format works very well in her favor, as her superb communication skills came shining in the forefront.  When called to the Top 15, she was asked by KC about her life goals.  Her answer: “My life goal is actually to be able to put together a mentoring school regarding awareness of leadership and self-assurance.  This has been my advocacy because I have seen how important it is to have a very intact self-identity in order to go through what you have to go through in life.”  Her lofty and noble answer no doubt propelled her to the Top 10, where she was asked “How do beauty pageants contribute to humanity?”  Her brilliant answer:  “Beauty pageants go far beyond crown and title. It’s the process of being in the pageant that transforms all these young women. And it’s empowering to know that as you transform the yourself, you transform the world as you know it, because you choose to be the best version of yourself.

1ST RUNNER-UP:  CANDIDATE 3 – Glyssa Perez.  She was always regarded as a winners’ circle possibility.  She did deliver onstage in swimsuit and gown as she was faultless in both rounds.  She won the Sports fast-track, which comes with a Miss Fila sponsor’s prize with it.  After being called as the Sports fast-track champion, she was asked by KC about how she maintains the “best you” when tired.  She expounded that the key is staying grounded and how her family helped her know her roots and where she came from, and that’s how she stayed grounded.  For the Top 10 Q&A, her question was “All your life your parents have taught you school work to lessons in life. But what have you taught your parents?”  She gave a great answer thusly:  “Living from a different country from the Philippines, one thing I’ve taught my parents is trust. I’m the only girl in the family with three brothers, you can imagine how protective they are. Trust is what I’ve taught them because they allowed me to move to another country, because I’m so passionate about serving the community.”  Her answer hit all the right notes–the personal touch and also fitting the pageant’s emphasis on charity and public service.  It’s possible she could’ve gotten the fourth crown at stake, if it weren’t for the eloquence of…

Images sourced from raulgatal.blogspot.com

MISS MULTINATIONAL PHILIPPINES:  CANDIDATE 35 – Sophia Señoron. No one has predicted her landing in the winners’ circle, and neither does this 17-year old teenager expect this outcome too.  But her spunk and her San-Beda-Debate-Team-honed eloquence made her a major wildcard, and in the end, upset the order of things.  When called to the Top 15, KC asked her about her biggest worry in life (which he infused with a self-deprecating joke about his baldness).  Her answer:  “I think the biggest worry in my life is not being able to fulfill my dream and that is to be able to spread kindness and to be able to spread happiness on my daily life–so I think that’s what worries me the most because I want to be a sunshine in the world frame.”  For the Top 10 Q&A her question was, “What would you advise a 7-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a beauty queen?”  She gave this sage advice:  “I think at a young age, we start our aspirations of what we want to be in life. That’s something I’ve experienced being 17 years old and making it this far. I would tell the girl not to make the pageant her goal but to make what she wants to do with the pageant her destination.”  It’s wonderful that she has this mature insight even at her young age, as most people her age don’t think in the longer term but would usually think of things in the short-term, like many falling into a trap that entering and winning a pageant is a be-all and end-all–she seems aware that is not really the case, but can use the pageant to help further her true ambitions, whatever that may be.  That brilliant answer was the key why not only she made it to the winner’s circle, but garnered a crown.  I’m glad I didn’t hear Janela Cuaton fans rising up in arms against her (or any of the other eventual titleholders) for taking away what is deemed as Janela’s rightful spot in this circle.  They can’t hold it against her for answering this brilliantly, nor for the other three titleholders for earning their titles fair and square.

Evening gown photo courtesy of Rappler

MISS ECO PHILIPPINES:  CANDIDATE 32 – Anne Hathaway-Curtis Cynthia Thomalla.  First, a pronunciation lesson:  her father is German, so “Thomalla” is not pronounced with the “ll” like a “ly”*3 sound but just a straightforward “l” sound (it rhymes with Eurovision 2016 winner from Ukraine, Jamala).  Also take note that you don’t encounter Spanish words or names with a “Th” spelling–to make the soft “th” sound, Spaniards typically would use the letter “C” or “Z” (though Latin Americans would pronounce these like an “S”, and make fun of Spaniards for seemingly having a lisp).

*3 Though in Latin America, the “ll” now starts to sound either like a “y” or a “sh” or “zh”.

Her beauty and charisma were too undeniable for the judges to overlook, and thusly not only did she garner special awards as Miss Photogenic, Best in Long Gown, and Miss Blue Water Spa, she also won the Top Model fast-track.  Though Nick Verreos didn’t have a high regard for her winning gown, I found her white lacy number elegant and she was impeccably styled in it, and that is why she’s deserving of the honor.  After winning the fast-track, she was asked by KC if she would rather be different or would she rather fit in.  She kept her answer straight and simple, even if she momentarily gathered her thoughts to process the term “fit in”:  “I believe that everyone is different, everyone is unique, everyone has their own pasts and stories in life, so I believe I am different and I believe everyone else here is different.”  For the Top Ten round, Megan asked her, “What do you think is the most important social issue facing our generation?”  Her answer was:  “The one social issue that our generation is facing today is the use of social media. A lot of people have been using social media irresponsibly that is causing a lot of conflict and misunderstanding. So I encourage everyone to use social media responsibly to show the world, to spread love and understanding and respect, not just posting for fun. Be mindful of what you post and thank you for that question.”  It’s a good answer, though there is a side of me that thinks that social media is not really the biggest issue, and the answer reminded me a bit of Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach‘s classic Bb. Pilipinas 2015 answer.  For me, this is probably the 7th or 8th best answer in the Top 10 Q&A, but the thing is, Cynthia is the most gorgeous candidate in this year’s batch so she is guaranteed a crown as long as she doesn’t have a Janina San Miguel moment.  Yes, Cynthia is not always the most confident communicator, but she does give out thoughtful answers, and that is good enough to earn a title.  It is likely all she needs to do now is to brush up on what is happening to our environment and she will shine when she competes in her pageant in Alexandria, Egypt early next year.

REINA HISPANOAMERICANA FILIPINAS:  CANDIDATE 9 – Teresita Ssen “Wynwin” Marquez.  She won two fast-track awards, Beach Beauty (which comes with a Miss Bench sponsor’s prize) and Talent.  Her talent was a dance performance with backup dancers that evoked those grand production numbers staged by her mother, Alma Moreno, in her 1980s weekly variety show Loveli-Ness.  KC asked her about the sacrifices that she made for this pageant.  Wynwin spoke about not having enough time for her family as their busy schedules straddle the two different worlds of showbiz and politics, but she learned so much from this pageant that she will always cherish forever.  For her Top 10 Q&A, her question was, “How can you convince the judges that you are worthy of becoming miss world Philippines 2017?”  She gave this persuasive answer:  “I live a life of substance and meaning and that is through service. I uphold social awareness and treasure empathy. I am here ready to give my whole self and to give a win win situation to the organization. I will continue to make beautiful life with determine and passion for my advocacy as well.”  Her answer was memorable because there was a subtle playful pun on her well-known nickname, and that helped her clinch this title.  Some might worry if her relatively short 5’6″ height might be a hindrance in Reina Hispanoamericana–I don’t really think so because I see her figure has those “Precious Lara Quigaman” proportions and that could serve her well in Bolivia and overcome any height objections.  Learning some Spanish and positive aspects about our history with Spain (yeah, I know most of us view those years very negatively, but we all know there are several cultural influences still ingrained in our collective psyche) along with staying focused and on-point will serve her well in this milieu.

MISS WORLD PHILIPPINES:  CANDIDATE 15 – Laura Victoria Lehmann.  Prior to the pageant proceedings, she was deemed the “chosen one”.  There were many pundits who felt that during pageant activities she held a bit back (which was why she wasn’t shortlisted in Beach Beauty even with an enviable figure) and felt that winning the plum title is far from guaranteed and Cynthia, Janela, and Wynwin have a strong shot at it.  But it turns out Laura strategized well and know to best focus her energies on coronation night.  And on coronation night she indeed brought the sparkle, and her solid red satin evening gown made maximum impact as it bucked the trend towards sequins and embroidery.  It’s a given that the Q&A rounds are in her wheelhouse, especially with her experience as a courtside reporter for the UAAP for her (and my) alma mater, Ateneo.  So after her multimedia fast-track win, KC asked her how important the internet is to her.  She brightly and confidently replied, “Well, I think the internet has its pros and cons–I know that especially today it’s been spreading a lot of negativity, but I think at the end of the day it’s a positive tool  and we can use the internet and social media for social good.”  Clinching the deal was being asked a challenging pageant question thusly: “There are people who believe pageants don’t provide the opportunity to empower women. What would you say to them?”  Here’s her brilliant reply: “To anyone who doesn’t believe in pageants, I would ask them to take a look at the girls tonight because we have lawyers, architects, women of substance who are here not only because of what they look like but because of what’s in their hearts, what’s in their mind, and because what they’ve brought forth beauty with a purpose. they’re helping represent the Philippines and become the best version of the Filipina and for me that’s something only to celebrate.

Observing her features more closely, I’ve noticed she resembles a previous Miss World finalist from our country, our 2002 representative Katherine Manalo.  I’ve noticed that both Kate and Laura have elements in their names that imply winning–“Victoria” contains the root word “victor” which is synonymous to “winner”, and Kate’s surname literally means “to win” in Filipino/Tagalog.  I am optimistic at Laura’s prospects for the upcoming Miss World pageant–she has the wits and spunk to charm the judges, and I think that even with the ongoing disillusionment over Catriona Gray‘s non-win last year, there are enough Filipino supporters who would help Laura garner a third consecutive Multimedia win for our country.

Kate Manalo at Miss World 2002

Another twist of kismet is also observed when you put her side-by-side with her Miss Universe Philippines counterpart, Rachel Peters.  First, obviously they are products of a European father and a Filipina mother.  Second, three years ago, Rachel competed in Miss World Philippines and Laura at Binibining Pilipinas–both of them ended up as runners-up in their respective contests (Rachel 4th, Laura 1st).  Three years later, they switched pageant franchises and ended up as the top winners.  And it’s nice to see that they don’t let the rivalry between franchises to get between their friendship, since as it turns out they have been circulating in the same social circles since they were kids–as shown on one of Laura’s posts on Instagram of the two of them attending the same birthday party.

Miss Universe Philippines 2017 Rachel Peters and Miss World Philippines 2017 Laura Lehmann at a Bench event.

I have to say a great kudos to the Miss World Philippines Organization for delivering a wonderfully competitive and well produced pageant this year.  Hope they can continue with this momentum and sustain the prestige that this title entails.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

All images courtesy of Miss World Philippines Organization unless otherwise indicated.

MISS WORLD PHILIPPINES 2017: SPLASHY RELAUNCH (PART 2)

After the Fast-Track winners were called out (all four of whom ended up in the winners’ circle so I’ll discuss them later), the rest of the 11 ladies who made up the 15 semifinalists were announced.  Just like in the 65th edition of Miss Universe and last year’s Miss World, as they were called out there immediately was a chat with the host–KC generally would ask a casual question, though it doesn’t always sound that casual and still was a bit structured.  Still, this turns out to be a factor that determines who would advance further into the finals.

CANDIDATE 22 – Chelsea Anne Manalo.  Her dark complexion alone would make her a standout, but it is also complimented by her pretty features.  I mentioned she has the potential to become a “Black Megan”, though during this night her charisma wasn’t turned up to that level–she kept it simple, and that’s enough for her to make the Top 15.  She was asked by KC how important is a first impression to her.  Now, unfortunately she was saddled with nerves, and her answer was a slightly tangential, talking about how one talks to another person, if that person approaches the other with positivity, that is how important a first impression is to her.  There might be a bit of work needed before she fulfills her potential as “Black Megan”, but her presence in this hallowed group is very welcome and is a great message about embracing diversity.

CANDIDATE 12 – Henna Kaizelle “KC” Cajandig.  She was at her best during the coronation night, looking appropriately fierce in swimsuit and dreamily sexy in her white evening gown.  KC asked her what she liked most about herself.  She kept it short and simple–“What I liked most about myself is I am true to myself.  What you see is what you get.  Thank you.”  It’s actually a good answer, but with everyone else delivering stronger answers, making it this far is achievement enough.

CANDIDATE 11 – Gabriela Madarieta Ortega.  I think it was the preliminary interview that gave her the edge as if we based it solely on her performance on coronation night, she would likely miss the cut because of her thick swimsuit figure (unless the judges were in a Siera Bearchell mood, which I doubt).  Her red satin gown and her Castillian presence were what helped her overcome any objections about her figure.  KC asked her what her typical day is like.  She gave an honest, spontaneous answer, relaying about doing a 10-minute run in the morning, eating a big breakfast, going off to work, and meeting with friends after work.  It’s very refreshing, but perhaps a tad too matter-of-fact that is why this was as far as she could go (and yes, no longer in contention for the Reina Hispanoamerica title as other pageant pundits would hype).

CANDIDATE 27 – Ella Eiveren Lubag.  She has those lovely Asian features that do make an impression, and with sleek impeccable styling there is no question she deserved making the cut.  She especially looked splendid in her lacy blue evening gown.  KC asked her about the first person she told after she was selected as one of the 35 candidates.  She answered her father, who was there for her from the screening and she expressed how grateful he was for his presence and mentioned how she looked up to him as a role model.  It was a solid answer delivered with poise, but I think what was missing was at least one specific detail on what makes her father a role model, because if she added that detail, she might have advanced further to the Top 10.

CANDIDATE 33 – Noelle Uy-Tuazon.  She was also styled right and looked elegant in her canary yellow sheath gown.  She was asked by KC about what makes her angry.  She actually gave a strong answer about her being normally patient but would be upset if a person is dishonest and disloyal, as “it’s difficult to have a great relationship if people are not honest with each other, you know?” and that it’s important for human beings to be in the same page.  I have a feeling she was docked a bit by the judges for taking millisecond pauses to gather her thoughts together, but I think she gave a well-delivered, spontaneous, and sincere answer.

After a segment paying tribute to Julia Morley, the Top 15 were whittled down to a Top Ten, and they are subject to a final interview conducted by Miss World 2013 Megan Young.  She’s her lovely gracious self, giving compliments to every lady in the Top 10 before having them select a question from the bowl and Megan reading the question to them.

CANDIDATE 28 – Sheila Marie Reyes.  Pulling her hair back and with the right styling and makeup, her beauty was put in the best light and she exceeded most people’s expectations and ended up making it all the way to the Top Ten.  KC asked her about the most recent random act of kindness that she had done.  Sheila talked about their visit at Jose Reyes Medical Center and meeting a child patient named Jenna and how she is praying for her healing from her excruciating pain as she found this child to be beautiful from inside and out.  For the Top 10 question-and-answer round, her question was: “You were given a one way ticket to embark on a great adventure. Where would that be?”  Her answer:  “I want to go to Jerusalem. I’m a believer of the Bible and I wanna go to a place that is in the Bible. I am a woman a faith and if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can achieve everything, conquer everything even our fears.”  I have a feeling she is devoutly religious–not to take it against her for having that conviction, but these days, being devoutly religious tend to be associated with hate, discrimination and closed mindedness (like Miss Universe 1999 1st runner-up Miriam Quiambao‘s statements as of late) and this is why I have to put her in the bottom of the Top Ten.  But I do hope she’s not that sort of Christian.

CANDIDATE 6 – Jona Ili Sweett.  She was always considered one of the big favorites and touted a potential member of the winners’ circle.  She delivered on her status as one of the favorites in both swimsuit and gown, looking particularly elegant in her peach organza gown with floral applique.  When called out to the Top 15, she was asked by KC what for her is the best part of being a Miss World Philippines candidate.  She gave a very proper and correct answer, talking about being an influence in other people’s live and giving something back to the community, as “it doesn’t take much to give something back to society.”  For her Top 10 question, she was asked:  “Would you compete in miss world Philippines if there was no prizes at stake?”  Jona gave another “correct” answer:  “I believe I would still compete because that is not why I am here. The reason I gave up everything I had in Australia is because I want to be a woman of change. I want to be different. I want to conquer the world, and spread unity among Filipinos.” This question could probably be considered a “no-win” question because however well you would answer it, there will always be doubt cast upon the one who answers if she really was sincere in her sentiments.  Still, a commendable effort.

CANDIDATE 14 – Cristina Marie Coloma.   I viewed her as an underdog, but it turns out she already has polish and sparkle within her that she was on-track to potentially pulling off an upset.  She was on-point in swimsuit, and created a splash in evening gown with that white scalloped gown adorned with huge bow that could’ve been too over-the-top but instead turned out to be a fashion risk that paid dividends.  Megan declared that the bow “gave (her) life”.  Anyway, for the Top 15 round, KC asked her who/what inspired to join Miss World Philippines?  Cristina answered that besides her parents, it was the people of Northern Samar, where she won a provincial crown, and how making it to this pageant was six years in the making.   For her Top Ten question, she was asked, “What’s your take on dating apps and websites? Do you think these will lead to successful relationships?”  She gave this refreshingly open-minded answer:  “I actually have no problems with dating apps because, as the saying goes: We find love in unexpected places. And if the two people who meet in these dating apps or websites are willing to make the relationship work, then the relationship will be very successful.”  In any other year, an answer of this caliber is a guarantee shoo-in for the winner’s circle but with so many exemplary communicators this year, there are some that had to be unfortunately shut out.  If she decides to pursue other national pageants in the future (like, say, Binibining Pilipinas), I can say her future looks very bright as she already has the goods at this point, and with the right mix of opportunities she could emerge as a major titleholder one of these days.

CANDIDATE 26 – Janela Joy Cuaton.  In all respects she deserved all the crown hype though the competition turned out to be a bit more tighter than one expected during coronation night.  But signs that a crown is not guaranteed for her began with her gown appearance–as intricately designed as her applique laden mint-green gown was, the gown doesn’t seem to make that maximum impact that one expects from a potential winner.  I wouldn’t pan it the way it was viewed negatively in a Rappler review, but I agree it didn’t present her at her best as it should.  She did very strongly when called out last in the Top 15 and asked by KC about the best gift she received in life.  She mentioned her talent, and she savvily promoted her advocacy “Fashion Meets Passion” which she founded at age 15, as she mentioned her talent allowed her to “give love and hope to a lot of people, especially in Masbate.”  For her Top 10 question, it went: “What advice can you give to vicitms of cyberbullying.”  Janela’s answer went thusly:  “I would tell them to know yourself first. Know your worth, because once you know your worth, people who judge you cannot bring you down. And also believe in the people around you, especially your family because they are the ones who are true to you. People on social media, they don’t know you. They saw your photo and they judge you. But the people around you who tell you, you’re beautiful. They are the people who matter.”  It was a strong answer, but the issue here is that five out of six members of the winners’ circle delivered superb, more memorable answers, and the one whose answer Janela potentially outranked possesses a very important quality that kept her secure in the winner’s circle.  I’m glad Janela’s legion of fans seem to be gracious in defeat though of course they are now clamoring for her to take the Binibining Pilipinas plunge.  Let’s see how that will unfold…

COMING UP:  THE WINNERS’ CIRCLE

 

 

MISS WORLD PHILIPPINES 2017: SPLASHY RELAUNCH (PART 1)

The new Miss World Philippines Organization pulled out all the stops to  ensure this year’s national pageant (the first year under their primary management*1) would be a smashing success.  Besides continuing with its broadcast partnership with GMA 7, it was staged at a grand fashion in the SM Mall of Asia arena with three LED screens as backdrops and two catwalks on the stage.  They also have a huge judging panel of 19 people, with some big-name local celebrities like Miss World 1993 2nd runner-up Ruffa Gutierrez, actor Diether Ocampo, news broadcaster Vicki Morales, TV host Willie Revillame, fashion designer Randy Ortiz, and international male model Paolo Roldan.  On top of that, they also have the Miss World owner Julia Morley and her team, along with the reigning Miss World Stephanie del Valle from Puerto Rico and her runners-up and Continental Queens.    There was time allotted to pay tribute to these guests on the program–more on that later.

*1 Though this is Arnold Vegafria‘s first year as national director, he arguably was the chief operator of the franchise under Cory Quirino‘s leadership.  General Manager Mark Bessie Besana, meanwhile, had a significant hand in preparing the previous six Miss World Philippines winners when he was a member of Aces & Queens.

The opening number was modern, bright, and peppy, with the 35 candidates dressed in gold lamé minidresses dancing and striking pierce poses to Meghan Trainor‘s song “Woman Up!“.  There is of course the peppy individual contestant introductions, and then not only were the hosts introduced but also the six previous Miss World Philippines (MWP) winner under Cory Quirino’s regime.  There is a nice scripted spiel distributed amongst the hosts and the previous winners that gave a welcome touch of ceremonial formality to an otherwise peppy sequence.

The main hosts for the evening were GMA 7 mainstays Carla Abellana, Iya Villania, and KC Montero.  All are honed professionals who have extensive hosting experience so no one can really fault with their hosting.  The press and the public though, raved about Carla’s styling and elegant presence, that she almost could be mistaken for a contestant for this pageant and even become a crown contender.  However, take note she’s no longer eligible as she’s 31 years old.

Hosts Iya Villania, KC Montero, and Carla Abellana

It’s a welcome treat not only to see the former MWP winners given significant spotlight, they were also given roles in the telecast.  Besides the outgoing winner Catriona Gray handing over her crown, four of the former winners were paired off to deliver spiels prior to the presentation of candidates in the swimsuit and evening gown segments.  MWP 2012 Quenerich Rehman and MWP 2015 Hillarie Parungao were tasked to open the swimsuit segment, while MWP 2011 Gwendoline Ruais and MWP 2014 Valerie Weigmann opened the evening gown segment.  And of course Miss World 2013 Megan Young was the one who handled the Top 10 interview round.  All did well, albeit a few hints of imperfection here and there (like Megan stumbling pronouncing the word “social” in one of the questions she asked), but it makes them refreshingly human.

Opening the swimsuit round: MWP 2015 Hillarie Parungao and MWP 2012 Quenerich Rehman
Opening the evening gown round: MWP 2014 Valerie Weigmann and MWP 2011 Gwendoline Ruais
Megan (R) with eventual MWP 2017 Laura Lehmann

There seemed to be only one entertainment segment during the telecast, the singing of the new Miss World Philippines theme by veteran Filipino R&B singers Jay-R and Kris Lawrence.  Both the previous theme (“Beauty of the Philippines”) and this one are your typical sentimental ballads, but for most folks (including myself), the previous theme seems to sound smoother and better–the previous one was already schmaltzy as it was, and this theme just piled on the schmaltz further that as competently sung by these singers, I just can’t quite connect with the song, and piling on lyrics that explicitly states “Beauty with a purpose” just gives the feeling they’re trying to hammer down the point too hard.  I respect the choice, but I have to be honest that I’m not that into it, and this for me is the lowlight of the program.

Not shown on the telecast was that there are a host of singers who performed in between the segments.  Teejay Marquez sang (or mimed) his sweet mellow hit song “Di Magbabago [Never Change]“, Gabri Panlilio hashed out a version of that jazz chestnut made most famous by Nina Simone,Feeling Good“, and Gledie Laroco belted out Jennifer Rush ‘s oft-covered ballad*2  “Power of Love” .  Then there’s superstar artist Christian Bautista who sang two songs, “Kapit [Hold On]” and that Jose Mari Chan 1987 mega-smash chestnut “Beautiful Girl“.  Well our nation has been renowned for musical talent so it’s not surprising that they had a moment (even if it’s not televised).

*2 Most prominently Celine Dion who made it a US number one hit in 1995 and whose version is probably the one most Filipinos would remembe.)

Prior to the competition proper, the visiting visiting reigning Continental Queens were presented onstage.  For me it’s great seeing  1st runner-up and Miss World – Caribbean Yaritza Reyes from Dominican Republic, 2nd runner-up and Miss World – Asia Natasha Mannuela from Indonesia, Miss World – Africa (and 5th runner-up) Evelyn Njambi from Kenya, Miss World – Americas Audra Mari from the United States, and Miss World – Oceania Madeline Cowe from Australia being given their due.  However, there is also a side of me that was holding in bated breath due to the foul sentiment of Filipino pageant netizens still stewing over last year’s results, but fortunately the audience at the SM Mall of Asia Arena were cordial and gave them a warm (albeit less hearty) round of applause.  Glad the audience at the arena had common sense to present our country as still hospitable towards visiting guests.

After the evening gown segment and awarding of special awards, there was also a segment where MWPO National Direct Arnold Vegafria presented a plaque of appreciation to Miss World Chairperson Julia Morley for spearheading the Beauty with a Purpose projects worldwide.  Julia was, as expected, very gracious, and I like the fact that the memorable part of her speech was focusing on the current project being handled by this franchise, helping the Tuloy Foundation spearheaded by Fr. Rocky Evangelista, which help streetchildren get educated to have better lives.

The competition format for the coronation night is similar to the competition format made in Binibining Pilipinas for over the past five decades (with the exception of this year as they made an initial cut from 40 to 25)–all candidates parade onstage in swimsuit and evening gown before making any further cuts.  We could not really fault this organization for using the template of another national pageant as this is a format that makes best sense for this market, on top of the fact that multiple titles are on offer this year.

For the swimsuit round, all candidates parade in one-piece black-and-plum swimsuits as the latest dance hits play.   This year’s swimsuit playlist include “Feels” by Calvin Harris featuring Katy Perry, Pharell and Big Sean, “Shooting Stars” by Decco featuring Mapei, “Hey Mama by Jonas Blue featuring William Singe, Get Low” by Zedd featuring Liam Payne, and one other song..

They also employed modern music for the evening gown round, but instead of just hearing the original hit recordings, instrumental versions of that song was played instead.  The segment opened to the international hit “Symphony” by Clean Bandit featuring Zara Larsson, followed by two other dance tracks whose names escape me as of this writing.

After each of these segments sponsors’ prizes and special awards were announced.  Most of them went to the key favorites going into this coronation night, but there was one who neither figured in the fast-track shortlists nor made the final cut who garnered a special award.  She is…

MISS ZALORA PEOPLE’S CHOICE:  CANDIDATE 13 – Kathryn Jade Cudiamat.  This sponsor’s award was driven by online votes–I suppose she has a significant amount of supporters who crowded the Zalora portal and voted repeatedly and hence she garnered this honor.  Just like several of this year’s candidates, she has the looks and polish to be worthy of notice, and if this was a previous edition, would’ve made the final cut.  But with the standards ratcheted to a higher level, even as she delivered a solid performance in swimsuit and gown, and most likely acquitted herself well in preliminary interview, she probably missed the cut by very little.

After the aforementioned two rounds and the awarding of special awards, there was the announcement of the Fast-Track winners.  Just like in Miss World, the ladies who made the shortlist gather at the center of the stage and the winner amongst those in the shortlist would then be announced.  The difference is in Miss World, there typically would be a segment recapping the aforementioned fast-track event, so there is context on why the ones who are at the center part of the stage.  Unfortunately, there is no pre-taped segment playing in this pageant, so the announcement ended up rather dry–hopefully they can improve on this in future editions.  Though I would like to pay tribute to all non-finalists, I will focus on those who at least had the honor of making centerstage but missing the cut:

CANDIDATE 1 – Shawntel Cruz.  If we based it solely on her performance onstage on coronation night, I would’ve pegged her as one of two who came closest to making the final cut.  Sure her figure was thick, but so were Zara Carbonell and Gabriela Ortega, but she was sparkling and polished, and I liked her white gown with sexy slit and chiffon drap over her left shoulder.  She of course made inroads in Sports and Talent.

CANDIDATE 2 – Veronica Villones.  Her performance of note was in sports.  I have to note that her pink gown was one of the weakest in the bunch in my opinion, mainly because of the extremely distracting humongous tail/train on her backside–it drew a lot of attention, but not in a flattering way.

CANDIDATE 4 – Rose Flores.  In many photos this Multimedia short-lister may register as a tad angular, but she looked great onstage, and her smoky makeup complimented her wonderfully.  But in an extremely competitive environment such as this, making the shortlist in one of the fast-tracks and compliments for her performance during coronation is enough achievement for her.

CANDIDATE 5 – Kaycie Lyn Fajardo.  If we based it solely on looks during the coronation night, this Talent short-lister was on-point, especially looking resplendent in her elegant pink gown.  But the judges have their eyes on a few others, and there is not enough room for this otherwise strong contender to make the final cut.

CANDIDATE 8 – Nikki Deveza.  She’s another case of a semifinalist-worthy contender competing for extremely limited slots in a crowded field.  It didn’t help matters that her green sequined gown is a bit washed out and made her blend in instead of stand out.  She made the shortlist in one fast-track event, Sports.

CANDIDATE 10 – Leidda Babasanta.  She made the shortlist in the Multimedia fast-track, but obviously as solid as she is and even with a lacy black-and-nude A-line gown that has a bit of drama on it, it’s not enough for her to make it further.

CANDIDATE 16 – Ethel Abellanosa.  If it weren’t for making the shortlist in Sports, she is not considered to be in contention for the finals, though to her credit she’s a solid performer.

CANDIDATE 19 – Joanna Marie Rabe.  She also made the Sports shortlist.  Her angular features are a bit of an acquired taste, but she’s undoubtedly polished, and I like that she broke from the shiny/lacy trend by wearing a marigold one-shouldered number.

CANDIDATE 20 – Trizha Ocampo.  I thought this Multimedia short-lister’s resemblance to Miss Universe Philippines 2014 MJ Lastimosa and that low-cut V-neck white lace gown would giver her a heads up over the competition, but she fell a tad short.  Still there’s nothing to really fault about her performance–it’s simply that there are too few slots to accommodate for standouts like her.

CANDIDATE 31 – Jeanyfer Ozbot.   I thought her figuring in the Beach Beauty and Talent fast-tracks and her human interest story would help her make serious inroads into the finals, but it turns out she lacked the right sparkle when it counted.  It didn’t help that her busy nude-colored gown with those distracting feathers and off-putting appliques and unflattering bustline was arguably the worst gown of the entire batch.

COMING UP:  THE TOP 15