PRINCE (1958-2016) — PART 1: PERSONAL GLIMPSES

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Two Thursdays ago, the world was rocked again by the loss of another musical legend–Prince was found dead and unconscious in the elevator of the Paisley Park complex, his home and workplace for almost three decades.  When I learned of the news while I was working from home, I was a bit heartbroken as this artist was an integral part of my memories growing up.

I first learned of Prince during my second year of high school, as I started following the US Billboard charts and religiously followed the Top 10 songs as published on the tabloid Tempo in those days.  When I saw the song “When Doves Cry” and the name “Prince”, I was perplexed as I had no clue about him then.  A couple of weeks later, the music video clip shows on TV got to air the video for “When Doves Cry”, and I was first repulsed by his features then (as, well, I was still conditioned by my mother’s notions of beauty, which are of the milquetoast 1950s kind), but his music was very different and intriguing.  As “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain” started rising up the charts, I decided to purchase the Purple Rain cassette.  I was hooked, but I also blushed when I got to the track “Darling Nikki“–clearly I should never play this tape when my mom was around…

As the rest of my high school years wore on, there was of course more Prince output.  I got the follow-up to Purple Rain, the psychedelic Around the World in a Day, especially because I so adored his launching single, “Raspberry Beret”–it’s one of the songs I think I could confidently sing if I go out on a videoke with friends and colleagues (two other songs I can sing decently:  Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and Oasis’ “Wonderwall”).  There wasn’t an upfront raunchy track like “Darling Nikki” (though “Tambourine” came close) and here I learned about the dichotomy Prince has been exploring about the spiritual and the carnal (like the closing tracks to that album, “The Ladder” and “Temptation“).

The video clip shows at the time got to show two Prince hits prior to his Purple Rain breakthrough, like “1999” and “Little Red Corvette“, and I got to learn more about him while reading issues of Jingle chordbook magazine.  Then he intrigued me further when he came out with the spare funky number “Kiss”.  The falsetto and the sparse arrangement was nothing like I heard anywhere, and I found it odd at first, but I became hooked at the oddness and the quirkiness.  Even to this day, that record remains utterly unique and fresh.

High school graduation featured Prince in a somber and socially conscious mood with “Sign O’ The Times” from his soon-to-be classic album of the same name.  In some ways the turmoil reflected of my times, as my school was hit with a teachers’ strike just weeks prior to our graduation (though all got settled very shortly and we got to graduate without any incident on schedule).  As I begin my college days in Ateneo, I met a classmate who had a major passion for Prince.  Me, being a Billboard chart enthusiast, I shared how well Prince’s next Top 10 single out of “Sign ‘O’ The Times”, the Sheena Easton duet “U Got the Look” was faring, and a friendship was born.  We talked a lot about music and he shared me tapes of other musical acts, like for instance, two of Peter Gabriel’s eponymously titled solo albums (one with the classic “Solsbury Hill”, the other with “Games Without Frontiers” and “Biko”).  We teamed together on group projects (sometimes being a two-man group), and I hung around his dorm room from time to time, which was helpful when storms came and I couldn’t be picked up by my father in school immediately.*1

*1 During those days, it was still viable to commute or drive from my home in Sta. Cruz, Manila to Ateneo de Manila–it was normally an average 45-minute drive in those days; these days the same trip would take about two to three hours each way, though an LRT-2 ride from Recto to Katipunan would help keep that trip within the timeframe of those halcyon days.

Admittedly I did develop a crush on the guy, but as it was then and would ring true now, as far as I know I never acted inappropriately towards him, and I wouldn’t give in to my impulses as I’m aware I won’t have his consent, and I value his friendship and company and wouldn’t want to ruin any relationship.  Still, during the summer interim before 3rd year in college (the course I took had summer classes so it can be a 4-year program instead of a 5-year one), he started becoming distant and giving me a brusque cold shoulder.  He never said why in front of my face, but I wished we had a conversation about it–but in hindsight, I think neither of us would have the maturity then to sort things out and be open and frank about if I was crossing any boundaries, as I’m often unaware of them.  I was devastated and heartbroken when I realized what was going on.  About  a year later, Sinead O’Connor released her famous cover of the song Prince wrote for one of his protege bands, The Family, “Nothing Compares 2 U”.  Though this guy was NOT the love of my life, the emotions and sentiments conveyed in this song just fit my mood, and it was for years my all-time favorite song.

Since Sign ‘O’ The Times, Prince never made an album that was universally acclaimed, and though each would feature brilliant moments, it was often inconsistent.  I haven’t followed his career that intensely since he released 1992’s unpronounceable-titled album (often referred to as the “Love Symbol”) but he still generates headlines from time to time especially with his lengthy battle with his then-record label, Warner Brothers.  It was perplexing at the time, for instance, when Prince changed his name to the aforementioned symbol in 1993.  But when he reverted back to his original name seven years later, the rationale and creativity of his move was made clear–under the name “Prince” he was under contract with Warner Brothers, and was bound under this contract until the year 2000.  But since Prince was dissatisfied with his deal with the record company, and knowing how Prince cannot be shackled musically, he used the name change to be able to record music under his own independently established label (NPG Records) while his old label can still release his older music (since he has so much of it) under his then-former name.

The key highlight for most people under his “symbol” years would most probably be “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”.  It’s a sweet, lovely pop ballad that I would forever associate with the hosting of the 1994 Miss Universe pageant in our shores.  In fact, after Sushmita Sen’s win, some TV specials about the pageant would play this song in intermission.

Since he reclaimed his name, he has not made an impact on radio.  And with his very protective stance about copyright, listening to his newer material is hard to come by.  Despite a bit of an album renaissance with Musicology (thanks to his innovative tactic of bundling his album with still-much-in-demand concert tickets–which led Billboard magazine to set a rule change that albums-bundled-with-concert-tickets would only count if there is an opt-out option not to buy the album with the ticket) and 3121 but the singles from them are not as impactful and minor hits at best.  He would sometimes upload videos of new singles on YouTube, but he would then pull them out after a limited period.  I suppose Tidal is the only acceptable streaming alternative for him since it’s the one that is most “artist-friendly” (especially since it’s co-owned by rapper Jay-Z) with royalty payments that he deemed acceptable.  Still, most of the public would tend to prefer the streaming services with free access options like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music, and I’m not really in the position to exactly is a “fair” compensation for artists from streaming services, though there are a lot of people who figured out how to thrive and make a living out of free streaming, right?  But I do respect Prince’s stance in protecting his copyright, even to my detriment in enjoying his music.  Despite not figuring in the hit parades, Prince still generates profile buzz from various post-awards-show-party gigs, concerts, TV specials, and awards show appearances.  But one big post 2000s highlight was his appearance in the 2007 Super Bowl, where he played a set of his greatest hits along with some choice covers like the Foo Fighters’ “Best of You”, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary” and Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower”.  See that epic performance below:

His music of course permeates still and he remains influential.  You can hear his sound in the likes of D’Angelo, Justin Timberlake, Nick Jonas, and so many others.  But one unlikely hit song that I saw a Prince influnce was one of One Direction’s latest songs, “Drag Me Down”. Many might see homages to the Police and Men at Work, but when I listen to the chorus, I always hear the chorus to Prince’s 1990 hit from his flop movie Graffiti Bridge, “Thieves in the Temple”.  Check out the choruses of both songs to compare.

About seven years ago, we lost a legend with Michael Jackson, and now we lost Prince.  I’m wondering about another legend who had her biggest successes in the 1980s and is also born in 1958 in middle America*2 like those two–Madonna.  It makes me wonder if seven years from now, when Madonna’s 64 to 65, if she’ll join them in the afterlife.  I’ll probably keep an eye out seven years from now if Madonna fits in the cycle, as these three legends seemed too uncannily intertwined from what I’m seeing…  Reminds me of a meme that I saw featuring Whoopi Goldberg’s Oda Mae character from the 1990 movie Ghost and her famous warning to Demi Moore’s character, (though it was also addressed to other artists popular in that era like George Michael, Elton John, Cher, Tina Turner, Sheena Easton, and Cyndi Lauper).

*2 Prince was born on 07 June 1958 in Minneapolis, MN; Madonna on 16 August 1958 in Bay City, MI; and Michael Jackson on 29 August 1958 in Gary, IN.  MN (Minnesota), MI (Michigan), and IN (Indiana) are considered part of the Midwestern United States.

An Instagram post from Madonna featuring her, Prince, and Michael Jackosn, circa 1989.

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Despite the circumstances surrounding his death becoming evident as bieng related to an addiction to prescription painkillers (just like Michael Jackson), it’s clear that Prince is an undeniable good influence in this world.  I may disagree with some of his views and his temperament, but he has laid an undeniable imprint in my psyche.  With the “afterlife” and “elevator” imagery of “Let’s Go Crazy”, and the beauty of the latter-day prescient ballad, “Sometimes It Snows in April” (check D’Angelo and Maya Rudolph’s Prince cover act Princess at the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) I’ll never be able to listen to those songs the same way again.  Rest in Peace, sweet Prince.

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

P.S.  I’ll do another part where I’ll count down my favorite Prince songs, then complete my long-in-the-works sections on my tribute to David Bowie, along with other major legends we had lost this year thus far.  But I’ll have to hold them back until the end of Eurovision season, as it’s currently underway…

BINIBINING PILIPINAS 2016: ACES & QUEENS DOMINATION (CONCLUSION)

I got four of the six titleholders right.  It’s interesting to note that the two survivors of the Aces & Queens onslaught made quite an impression that they earned titles too.

BB. PILIPINAS – GLOBE:  BINIBINING 28 – Nichole Marie Manalo.  I have to hand it to Nichole that she was competing at the top of her game, as she’s way buffer than she was two years ago, and her red gown was sexy.  She also earned the Miss Cream Silk special award, making her the successor to the reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach as spokesperson for the hair conditioning brand.   It was a looming possibility that she might win the plum prize of following in Pia’s footsteps, but then came the question and answer round.  She was asked by diplomat Joseph Lani Bernardo,  “What is the toughest challenge a Filipina of your age faces nowadays?”  This is Nichole’s answer:  “For me, the toughest challenge a Filipina of today faces is to be courageous, determined, and resilient. But what I would advice to her is to continue to have that quality because when you have that quality you can always stand of what you believe in, to make things happen; and you can transform not just yourself, but the society into the best version of it.”  It seemed well-composed, but the thing is, she didn’t really answer the question–the question called for obstacles, not desirable qualities which she gave.  If I rank the quality of her answer compared to the others, I would actually yank her out of a title and put either of the two runners-up or perhaps Vina, Apriel, or Dindi in her place.  But still, of course you need to take her swimsuit and evening gown performance, and her pedigree into consideration, so being given this title is a justified result.  Interesting note:  I’ve noticed there is a seven-year cycle of titles for the Manalo sisters–Katherine for Miss World in 2002, then Bianca (who is shown on TV standing up while cheering and hollering for her sister) for Miss Universe in 2009, and now this sister seven years later.

Now that she got this title, can she bring forth a back-to-back win for Miss Globe after Ann Colis’s victory?  I don’t really expect she’ll achieve that, but we will celebrate when she achieves a semifinalist finish.

BB 28 finals

BB. PILIPINAS – GRAND INTERNATIONAL:  BINIBINING 11 – Nicole Cordoves.  Just like Yvethe Santiago two years ago, she won me over on finals night.  In fact there is a bit of parallelism as she sported flowy wavy locks parted in the middle like the way Yvethe was styled then.  Though she wasn’t a stage sensation like Yvethe, she was one of the strongest out there in both swimsuit and evening gown.  If you ask me, based on her response in the question-and-answer round, she deserves a plummier title than what she got.  She was asked by DILG Secretary Adrian Cristobal, “(I)f you could switch bodies with somebody for one day, who would it be and why?”  Nicole’s answer: “If I could switch bodies with somebody for one day, it would probably be our kind president because I’d like to know how he handled every decision he ever made. It must have been so hard, even though sometimes it is sometimes unpopular. I would like to know how he brought the Philippines from being the ‘Sick Man of Asia’ to the ‘Bright Spot of Asia’. I would like to think, how we get advice from our president.”  There might be some viewers who would disagree with the achievements of our incumbent president, but her answer is arguably the best composed and best delivered answer that evening.  But it’s clear that the judges had their big favorites and even if one of those favorites faltered, they couldn’t find room to elevate this lady to the higher echelons.

So how are our prospects for Miss Grand International, which is expected to be held in Las Vegas this October?  Can she top our best-ever 2nd runner-up finish* delivered by Parul Shah?  It is highly possible–just maintain her form and stage polish, and as long as she keeps her sharp presence of mind, she could be a title contender.

*  Parul was originally announced 3rd runner-up, equalling Annalie Forbes’s finish two years before, but the winner, Anea Garcia of the Dominican Republic, was dethroned and replaced with the 1st runner-up Claire Elizabeth Parker of Australia.

BB 11 finals

BB. PILIPINAS – SUPRANATIONAL:  BINIBINING 13 – Joanna Eden.  I only placed her in my “Bubbling Under” list, but I should’ve paid more attention to her, as I should’ve noticed that she was raised in Australia, and don’t we all love an Aussie accent?  She shone very well onstage, though I found her Best in Swimsuit win a bit surprising as I thought another lady deserved this title more (and no, my choice was not Dindi Joy Pajares).  To be honest, I thought she was on fire during the evening gown round, with her Jessica Rabbit-styled red satin evening gown, but the judges were more inclined to award a gown with a more dramatic styling and design.  Still I’m definitely fine that she placed this high.  She was asked by Danish Ambassador Jan Top Christensen this “very easy question”: “If you are to choose between having a multi-million business or a crown, what would you choose and why?”  Joanna delivered this simple, but well-delivered answer:  “This might sound cliche, but I really think I would choose to have the crown because with the crown comes, not the responsibility but the ability to inspire other people; and I really think if we start with each people we can hope better world.”

There is barely an opportunity for contestants in Miss Supranational to speak onstage but there is a preliminary interview component prior to the pageant finals, and Joanna can easily charm the judges over (yes, because of that lovely Australian accent).  She has proven she has the stage chops to make major impact in this pageant–just ramp it up a bit and she’s golden–and if all goes as planned, she can outdo the Top 20 showings delivered by Yvethe Santiago and Rogelie Catacutan and go further.

BB 13 finals

BB. PILIPINAS – INTERCONTINENTAL:  BINIBINING 26 – Jennifer Hammond.  Trimming her hair to a shoulder-length bob helped make her stand out in an almost universally long-haired pack.  She delivered the Riyo Mori Gucci Flash with her dramatically lacy fire-engine-red satin evening gown, that even if I didn’t think she delivered the best gown performance, her win in Best in Evening Gown was not that surprising.  She was asked by Belgian Ambassador Roland Van Remoortele:  “Winning one of the crowns tonight will make you your country’s Ambassador of Goodwill. What international problem or issue would you focus on and how would you address the problem?”  Jennifer gave this very timely and relevant answer:  “I would focus on terrorism because I think that is one of the major problems of the world right now; and I would encourage people to fight for their belief by kind words, by communication because I think communication begets understanding, and understanding begets tolerance, and tolerance begets peace.”

Can Jennifer give us our first win in Miss Intercontinental?  I have to say Christi Lynn McGarry is a very tough act to follow, and at this point I don’t think Jennifer has the awe-inspiring qualities that Christi possesses.  For me, it will be a moment of rejoicing if she sustains our Top Five streak in this pageant, and I think she can do that.

BB 26 finals

BB. PILIPINAS – INTERNATIONAL:  BINIBINING 31 – Kylie Versoza.  Little did I know that Kylie can deliver stage magic, especially if last year’s performance was any indication–she was a slightly timid, less polished presence then.  I was shocked at her transformation this year as Kylie was spellbinding.  During the swimsuit round her smizing eyes and her delicate poses created a seductive yet tantalizing mystique that was leagues ahead what everyone else delivered.  The heady spell continued in the evening gown round as she wore this gorgeous low-cut violet A-line gown designed by Francis Libiran that evoked an elegant fashion-forward Asian princess.  If you ask me she should’ve hogged the Best in Swimsuit and Best in Evening Gown awards.  But apparently the powers-that-be decided to spread the wealth a bit, though she still had the most special awards with three:  Miss Photogenic, She’s So Jag, and Manila Bulletin Reader’s Choice.

Miss USA Olivia Jordan asked Kylie a question that was similar to what was asked of her and Pia at Miss Universe: “Why do you deserve to win a Binibining Pilipinas crown tonight?”  Kylie answered:  “The person who deserves to win a Binibining Pilipinas crown tonight is the person who has worked hard for it and is willing to continue the legacy of the Philippines. She is confident with an attitude and a personality, and has a personality; and I believe I am her.”  If you ask me, she should’ve clinched the big Miss Universe Philippines title, but it seems the judges were favoring another lady despite the fact that she faltered in the question-and-answer round–more on her later…

BB 31 finals

Still, perhaps it is destiny that Kylie ended up with the Miss International assignment instead.  With her strong communication skills and the stage presence she delivered during this coronation night, she could bring forth our sixth Miss International crown.  She has ample time to prepare her cultural speech–all she and her trainers need to remember is that her speech must focus on the theme of helping others and not be focused on the self (which was Janicel Lubina’s tactical mistake that cost us a Top Five finish).

But the road will not be easy as we know of two superbly formidable obstacles to that path.  First, we have Jessica Duarte of Venezuela, whose beauty evokes Miss World 1999 1st runner-up Martina Thorogood and Miss World 2013 Megan Young.  We’ve witnessed three epic Philippines-vs-Venezuela showdowns during the past 11 years in this pageant* and so far the record is two-to-one in our favor, and we can stretch our advantage further with Kylie as there never had been a back-to-back victory in this pageant and we know how the Japanese powers-that-be like to stick to tradition.  If that was not enough, we also have to deal with Colombia’s Yudi Daniela Herrera–she evokes the vibe of two Venezuelan winners, her namesake Miss International 2006 Daniela di Giacomo and Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza.  But I’m confident that with a strong will, Kylie can counter those two intimidating contenders with the regal Asian princess spell she cast during the national pageant.  Whatever the case, this year’s Miss International looks to become very exciting with the presence of these three awesome ladies.

* The first showdown was in 2005, and Venezuela fielded a drop-dead gorgeous blonde contender with Andrea Gomez, but she was a bit too casual onstage that our own steady-and-consistent Precious Lara Quigaman clinched the win.  The second showdown was in 2013, where Venezuela fielded the sexily buffed Elian Herrera, who reportedly flubbed the pre-pageant cultural speech activity that she became a shocking non-finalist while our own Bea Rose Santiago became the winner.  The last epic showdown was last year between Best Dresser winner Janicel Lubina in our corner and Miss Perfect Body winner Edymar Martinez for Venezuela–Edymar won, of course.

Jessica Daniela
Kylie’s biggest obstacles: Venezuela’s Jessica Duarte (L) and Colombia’s Yudi Daniela Herrera (R)

MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES:  BINIBINING 29 – Maria Mika Maxine Medina.  With Kim Ross delos Santos disqualified, Maxine took over the mantle as Kylie’s co-front-runner.  This veteran model delivered on the hype onstage, though I quibble that her purple sequined evening gown was a bit too pageant-patty.  Anyway her status as a big favorite was sustained as reflected by her Bb. Philippine Airlines win.  But then came the question-and-answer round.  ABS-CBN COO for broadcast Cory Vidanes asked this: “(E)ven if her parents can afford to send her to school, a 15-yr-old girl wants to stop her studies. What would be your advice to her?”  Maxine’s response went like this:  “I would tell the little girl to study hard no matter what their parents would tell them because having an education is something that cannot have that anybody else. Education can make you even a better person. Thank you.”  It looks like Maxine misunderstood the question as “no matter what their parents would tell them” implies she interpreted the question as the parents preventing the girl from going to school when it’s actually the opposite.  There is nothing in her answer that would help motivate a girl to continue her studies even if that girl doesn’t feel like it, that is why I deemed her answer the second weakest of the Top 15.  I thought she deserved to be demoted if not outside the court, at least be granted a lesser title and Nicole Cordoves takes over, say, the International title and Kylie takes Miss Universe.  But, it’s fortunate that the weight of the question-and-answer round is such that she got away with it and still clinched the primo title.

Anyway, to Maxine’s credit, she was well-aware that her answer was sub-par, and according to Aces & Queens’ interview coach Nad Bronce, she wants to be trained more in interview.  That awareness of her own weakness and willingness to work on it could serve her well, and if she’s able to take it and apply what she would learn, she will go far.  I’m not expecting her to deliver the back-to-back that Venezuela had back in 2008-09, but I’m going to rejoice if she ends up in the Top Five, just like the Aces & Queens representatives before her.

BB 29 finals

It’s a bit inevitable that we’ll probably end up a few notches below the achievements of Batch 2015, but there are potential bright spots that we would celebrate as we follow the six titleholders in their respective international assignments.  Best of luck to all the winners!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

BINIBINING PILIPINAS 2016: ACES & QUEENS DOMINATION (PART 2)

Before I proceed to review the Top 15, I’ll have to salute one candidate who didn’t make the cut but garnered a special award.  And she is…

BEST IN NATIONAL COSTUME:  BINIBINING 3 – Angela Lauren Fernando.  This medical doctor has the consolation of winning Best in National Costume for her intricately embroidered terno.  I think part of the appeal was that it was in a different color–instead of white it’s a pale purple.  I also noticed that she evokes Miss Universe 2013 3rd runner-up Ara Arida during finals night, albeit with a less buffed figure.  At least she put up a good fight.

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In previous editions, the two camps would have almost equal share of the Top 15, with one or two ladies from lesser-known camps sneaking through.  This year, 13 came from one camp, Aces & Queens, with the remaining two from the main rival Kagandahang Flores.  Was Aces & Queens’ dominance warranted?

BINIBINING 12 – Edjelyn Joy Gamboa.  She was in my list and during the looks rounds she delivered the goods exerting an exotic spell in swimsuit and looking smashing in her burgundy satin gown.  But I had to put her first as she was by far the weakest in the question-and-answer round.  She was asked by youth representative Paolo Roxas this question: “One of Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach’s advocacy is to stop cyber bullying, how will you help her with this advocacy?”.  Edjelyn’s response:  If I win Binibining Pilipinas tonight, of course I will have the crown and having a crown is influential and I will use my convincing aura of beauty to influence, especially the youth, that they shouldn’t let anyone makes inferior. That will be all. Thank you.”  We have to also note she was the first called out so there might be an excuse that being called first contributed to a lot of nerves but still,it’s just glaringly weak.  If she gets another go-round, hope she can master how to have presence of mind whether she’s called first, middle, or last.’

BB 12 finals

BINIBINING 5 – Riana Agatha Pangindian.  I didn’t have a high regard for her as I found her features a bit plain, and the way she performed on finals night didn’t convince me she earned her spot in the Top 15.  Okay, she has a trim enough figure, but what I found so unworthy was her gown, as it was basically a striped cocktail dress with fringes and sheer overlay to qualify as a gown.  For me it was the worst gown of the night.  Perhaps the only justification why she made the final cut was that she aced the closed-door pre-judging interview.  I heard hints of her good communication skills when asked by Miss USA Olivia Jordan, “If you had the chance to ask our own Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach one question, what would that queation be?”  RIana replied, “How does it to feel to compete in Miss Universe? I would like to get some advice from her; and more than that, I would like to ask about her advocacy and how she is confidently beautiful with a heart and bringing pride to our country.”  Though she gave a good answer, I have to note it was delivered with nerves obviously apparent so it didn’t leave as strong an impression.

BB 5 finals

BINIBINING 9 – Roshiela Tobias.  She was admittedly outside my radar, but she showed why she justifiably belonged in the Top 15 as she delivered a faultless, polished performance in both swimsuit and evening gown.  One of the officers of Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI), Betsy Westendorp-Bria, asked her this: “Would you compromise your integrity and personal values just to win a crown? Why or why not?”  Roshiela gave a decent response thusly:  I won’t compromise my integrity just to win the crown because I believe in what I stand for. I will just do my best to do what is right for I believe God always sees everything that we do.”  

BB 9 finals

BINIBINING 4 – Kimberle Mae Penchon.  She delivered on buzz as one of the semifinalists most likely, and this placement was 100% wholly justified.  ABS-CBN’s COO for broadcast Cory Vidanes asked this timely question: “What kind of leaders do Filipinos need today?”  Kimberle’s answered this way: “ For me the kind of leader that Filipinos need today is a parental leader — someone who is parent enough, someone who sympathize with the people, someone who encourage them to go forward and approach their goals.” 

BB 4 finals

BINIBINING 16 – Vina Openiano,  I was expecting two other candidates to win the Talent award, but her skillful belly-dancing was worthy enough to win.  An added feather on her cap is that she also won Miss Congeniality.  I always had a high regard for her ever since she competed in Miss World Philippines 2013, and with her bright, polished presence all throughout, I’m pleased she made the cut instead of being an upset shut-out like in that previous stint.  She was asked by actor Ian Veneracion, “If men and women are equal, why do you think men ought to give their seats to women in public transports?”  Vina answered this way: “I think because they’re gentlemen and being a man they should be gentle to each woman. And I believe that we are all connected. What you do can help us and what we do can help everyone.”  It may not be presented as perfectly as I like, but she has a point that men behaving like gentlemen is the right thing to do, and though most straight men might disagree with the last sentence as it implies men’s importance is more limited compared to women’s, it’s still a justifiable stance to take.

BB 16 finals

BINIBINING 27 – Dindi Joy Pajares.  I expected her to be one of the possible titleholders as her figure was buffed to perfection and she made a great impression in her Grecian-styled white evening gown.  But I can concede she was overshadowed during finals night by somebody, that is why she didn’t get the Best in Swimsuit award as most fans and pundits anticipated (but my choice was not the one who won that award).  So what prevented her from making it all the way to the royal court?  She was asked by famous TV director Laurenti Diyogi another topical question: “in a few months we will have a new set of country leaders. what is your message to our next president?”  Dindi’s answer was thus:  “My message to our next president is to be a person of being competent (sic), a person who is transparent, and he or she should be someone with the desire to serve the people. I just want to tell him that, have a heart of a hero that is willing to fight for the sovereign dignity of our country.”  It’s a good answer, but not really delivered with confidence and that was what probably cost her a title.

BB 27 finals

BINIBINING 22 – Apriel Smith.  It is common in Filipino culture to regard darker complexions and any trace of African features as inferior.  It took decades for people to begin appreciating those qualities, but vestiges of that bias still remained.  This is the type of resistance Apriel has to face, but I’m gladdened she broke to the barrier, making her the darkest complexioned candidate and first candidate of African or Afro-American descent to make the final cut in this pageant.  And this is highly justified has she has the polish and charisma to pull off the breakthrough–especially looking radiant in her canary yellow evening gown.  Though I was rooting for her to make the royal court, I think she only missed it by just a tad.  She was asked by actor Ian Veneracion this: “Women use make up to enhance their facial features, do you think it is appropriate for men to do the same?”  Apriel took an honest stance thusly:  “For me, I think it’s not, because if you do believe your physical attribute is beautiful then you wouldn’t do and put on any make up on your face. And if any woman would accept who you are and as you are, this includes the strength of a man and weaknesses to learn and to grow more.”

BB 22 finals

I’ll discuss the titleholders in-depth in the next section of my essay.  The runners-up will be in this section.  I have to note that most pageant fans and pundits didn’t expect the eventual runners-up to make it further than a semifinalist finish, but as you look at the quality of their answers below, their strong finishes were justified.

2ND RUNNER-UP:  BINIBINING 37 – Jehza Mae Huelar.  Xian, it’s pronounced the Spanish way, “Weh-lar”, not “Hue-lerr”.  KC gave the correct pronunciation.  Anyway, I’n glad this Atenean made the cut, and it’s justified as she was polished and sleek, especially in evening gown in her satin pine-green number.  But she exceeded expectations in the question-and-answer round, as she delivered a succinctly witty response to the question asked by Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev, as follows: “How will you encourage a Filipino citizen, who is feeling hopeless, to cast his or her vote?”  Her answer:  “I would encourage the person who is hopeless by changing his mindset. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”  It might sound tautological at first , but if you reflect on it a bit more, it makes deep sense.

BB 37 finals

1ST RUNNER-UP:  BINIBINING 38 – Angelica Alita.  Pageant fans and pundits have been giving rising buzz about her going into the finals.  Though in photos, her makeup seem to register too harshly for my taste, I think she garnered a lot of goodwill that she still made a great impression.  And she nailed the question-and-answer round as Department of the INterior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Adrian Cristobal, Jr. posed this question to her: “What do you think is the most undervalued profession right now and why?”  Angelica’s answer went like this:  “I would say that the most undervalued profession right now is being a teacher because I believe that the teachers have a very big impact in the students right now — like they teach us every single thing we have to know whether it comes to social issues to physical things we have to fix; but they haven’t been appreciated much.”  It’s a predictable answer, yes, but it is relevant and well compposed.  With that, this lady earned a 1st runner-up finish, with a promise that she can eventually earn a title a few years down the line.

BB 38 finals

COMING UP:  THE TITLEHOLDERS