MISTER WORLD 2019: AT THE HOMESTRETCH — PROLOGUE

Image courtesy of Norman Tinio for normannorman.com

Mister World is typically a bit frustrating from a reliability standpoint as it is never held on an annual basis, and although it is typically assumed to be biennial, there are some irregular intervals like a three-year gap from 2000-2003, then stretched to four years from 2003-2007 and another three years from 2007-2010, and now, from the previous edition from 2016 to this year in 2019.  And even that, the date moved a couple of times, from January, then to June, until finally locking a date in August.  But once that date was locked in, the choice of having my country host this pageant proved to be providential, as the contestants were given a lavish reception and extensive coverage filled with a whole flurry of activities everyday.  There are even a few out-of-town trips to the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, and Zambales thrown in, to boot.  I’ll discuss a bit more about them below.  Despite murmurs from a thinly-veiled blind item by a pageant gossip site of disorganization, my take is that previous editions were more chaotic, and this organization has almost always been run more like a cottage industry than what most people’s notion of a professional organization would be..

 

The activities were kicked off with a press presentation.  Besides the contestants looking dapper in smart casual (or formal) outfits of their own choosing, what struck me most was Julia Morley‘s address, as she touches on openness and diversity, especially as she quipped that a quality of a “desirable” man is a man who “stands by his man or woman”, making an inclusive statement for the LGBTQ+community.  Also, they also touched on that a desirable man is also a man with a great generous heart, unafraid of expressing emotions.  As it turns out, this year’s batch of contestants prove to fit that directive pretty well.

Since Miss World 2017, Julia has been promoting Father Rocky’s Tuloy Foundation and raising funds for his cause.  It proved to be an early emotional highlight for the contestants and observers alike.

LEBANON (Jean-Paul Bitar) hugs a kid during a visit to Father Rocky’s Tuloy Foundation

Meanwhile, the Sports and Extreme Sports challenges had some interesting twists based on who made the shortlist.  It turns out buffed physiques is not always a good indicator of who would shine in this event.  LUXEMBOURG (Owen Hawel), not necessarily renowned for his physique, figured in the Top Eight of the Sports challenge, and slender NETHERLANDS (Ashley Peternella) proved his mettle making the shortlist in both Sports and Extreme Sports, upending other stereotypes in the process (more on that when I discuss about him).

Who would’ve thought that LUXEMBOURG (R, with MALTA and KOREA) would be Top Eight in sports?
…Or NETHERLANDS figuring in the shortlist in both Sports and Extreme Sports?

Besides the Extreme Sports challenge in Laguna, there are a couple of trips to an eco-agricultural farm in Batangas and fun at the beach in Zambales.

PUERTO RICO (Jose Cotto) with a bounty in the Manohan Agri Farm in Batangas
At Isla de Potipot in Zambales

This time there is a full-fledged Top Model event staged, and the final surprise is that despite Julia Morley’s recent directive to avoid staging swimwear competitions, the Top Model event had the 25 shortlisted contestants model Bench underwear.  I suppose Bench is such a major sponsor for this pageant that Julia allowed them to have their way and relax the no-swimwear directive.

The five Top Model finalists: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (Alejandro Martinez), ENGLAND (Jack Heslewood), VENEZUELA (Jorge Nunez), PHILIPPINES (JB Saliba), and MEXICO (Brian Faugier)

The contestants also got media exposure appearing on national TV in a couple of variety shows.  First was at the Sunday variety show, Sunday Pinasaya and then some gameshow fun at the daily noontime variety institution, Eat Bulaga.

At Sunday Pinasaya
ST. MAARTEN, PHILIPPINES, AUSTRIA, IRELAND, UNITED STATES, and RUSSIA at Eat Bulaga

Speaking of style, normally you would observe most contestants sticking to a single, consistent look.  But in various events, it’s fun to observe ARGENTINA (Leonardo Diaz) and SPAIN (Daniel Torres) playing a bit with their looks, with their facial hair in particular.  They both arrived with scruff intact, and in the middle of the proceedings, chose to then shave all their facial hair off, then grew them back again.

From scruffy… (image courtesy of Adam Genato for Sash Factor)
…to clean saven…
…and back to scruff again. (images courtesy of Andy Cayna for Sash Factor)

This year’s pageant attracted 72 contestants–surprisingly this is not a record, as it fell two behind the record set in 2010 when it was held in Korea.  There were two confirmed contestants who actually submitted introduction videos, but somehow failed to make it in the end, and it seems for both cases, the franchise holder is to blame as they failed to secure travel arrangements to Manila.  So sad to miss BOLIVIA (Christian Daniel Turan) and ETHIOPIA (Tewolde Bekele) as alongside six other countries that also supposedly confirmed participation, they could’ve brought forth the roster record that befits the grandness of this year’s edition.

 

Needless to say, this is shaping to be a Mister World pageant for the ages, and most likely to be its grandest edition yet.  Do the caliber of contestants befit the grandiosity?  Read on…

Image courtesy of Joy Arguil for Fab Philippines

RESULTS REACTION: BINIBINING PILIPINAS 2019

Image courtesy of Bong Tan for Missosology

The Binibining Pilipinas 2019 pageant has concluded and let’s see how I fared with my “Fearful” Forecast.  I got 20 out of the Top 25 correct and 10 of the Top 15 correct.  I have to say, not really that bad, but I feel I could do better.  In my Top 25 prediction, I had two in my “Bubbling Under” list, and they are…

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY (Malka Shaver) and LA UNION (Kimberle Mae Penchon).  Especially with the latter, who previously made the Top 15 three years ago, they each have worthwhile qualities that it wasn’t that surprising that they both made the Top 25.

Admittedly, when I posted my “Fearful” Forecast, I actually intended to include POLANGUI, ALBAY (Sherry Ann Tormes) in my “Bubbling Under” list especially since she made the cut last year, so it’s also not surprising that she made the cut.  My bad.

Now the closest thing to a headscratcher is DAVAO DEL SUR (Jane Darren Genobisa) as I wasn’t that into her brand of native looks, but somehow the judges seem to like her and despite not quite as impressed with her Free Speak response, somehow the selection panel found favor with her to make the cut.

Also out of my radar and “Bubbling Under” list is DUMAGUETE CITY (Joahnna Saad), as I found her features a tad too angular and her figure a tad too slender for comfort.  But I know she did well in the Free Speak round and perhaps enough people in the selection committee gravitate to her slender frame and patrician mestiza looks so that was why she won favor with them and surprisingly ultimately with the final night panel of judges as she went further into the Top 15.

I thought BULACAN (Rubee Maree Faustino) has strong enough qualities worthy of making the Top 25, but perhaps the people in the selection panel didn’t feel the same way and felt she didn’t make enough impact.

I also had bullish prospects for BACOLOD CITY (Cassandra Chan) as she seems a strong interview and has distinctive Chinese features plus she was shortlisted in the Top 10 in national costume, which based on the TV primer is supposedly part of the criteria for selecting the Top 25.  But it seems the BPCI selection panel were simply not into her looks even if she has sterling communication skills that they shut her out.  At least she has the consolation of being the non-finalist who got a moment in the coronation night spotlight as she won a special award.

I was impressed enough with the answers delivered by DARAGA, ALBAY (Julia Saubier) and TARLAC (Mary Faye Murphy) in the Free Speak round and felt they have strong qualities worthy of advancing even as far as the Top 15, but somehow they didn’t garner enough favor with the BPCI selection panel.  Wonder what gives?  Anyway I would put them as runners-up for the Ruth Ocumarez award.

Considering her previous strong stint at Mutya ng Pilipinas and ultimately a fourth runner-up finish at Miss Asia Pacific International, I would award the Ruth Ocumarez award to MANDAUE, CITY (Ilene De Vera).  I thought her previous experience would mean something, but the BPCI selection panel were simply not feeling her for some odd reason.  I thought she deserved to make the Top 25, at the very least.

My weak Top 15 prediction batting average could be attributed to the three members of the Ruth Ocumarez court this year, along with underestimating some ladies who I just pegged as part of the Top 25 and not further, and overestimating the strength of a couple of ladies.  But I feel proud that I got seven of the eight-person winners’ circle correct including four of the six titleholders.  I blame the downfall of one big favorite for this…

Based on the slew of special awards and sponsors’ prizes she garnered, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL (Vickie Marie Rushton) seemed on track to garnering one of the titles.  Unfortunately everything fell apart at the Top 15 Q&A as she lost her train of thought and gave one of the weakest answers of the night and lost a bit of poise in the process.  It’s such a huge fall that she was shut out of the winners’ circle in the process.

Vicky’s debacle provided an opportunity for PASIG CITY (Aya Abesamis) to finally clinch a slot in the winners’ circle as first runner-up.  And she earned it as she gave a stronger-than-expected answer in the Top 15 Q&A, to the point that she even outranked a lady who was hoping to parlay her previous year’s second runner-up finish to a title, but ended up repeating her showing, PALAWAN (Samantha Bernardo).

I have to also pat myself on the back for believing in the strong prospects of MAGUINDANAO (Resham Saeed) even if other fans and pundits only pegged her as a possible usurper.  I knew she deserves to belong in the winners’ circle, so I’ extra pleased that she earned the Supranational title.  Her Muslim background can make for an interesting human interest story but then again Europe has already seen its slew of Muslim beauty queens, as they are next door to Turkey.  Still, I’m happy with her showing and optimistic of her prospects in the international arena.

Admittedly I was expecting BATAAN (Patch Magtanong) to win it all, but it seems the coronation night panel of judges decided to gamble on a strategy of gunning for our seventh Miss International win to catch up with Venezuela’s eight wins.  The choice of winner for the plum prize, TALISAY, CEBU (Gazini Ganados), yes she has the looks and stage presence that made maximum impact, but I was less than impressed with her answer in the Q&A round–it felt like a Maxine Medina scenario was at play here, to scale down our expectations after Catriona Gray‘s momentous win last December.  I know some pageant fans are gunning for her to go for a back-to-back, but for me, I’ll be more than satisfied if she can at least equal the placements of MJ Lastimosa and Rachel Peters and a showing higher than that is gravy.  I’m also pleased with the rest of the titleholders and I’ll discuss their prospects in my full-fledged review expected next week.  Congratulations and best of luck to the winners!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH

BINIBINING PILIPINAS 2019: AT THE HOMESTRETCH (CONCLUSION)

BINIBINING 31:  SAN PABLO, LAGUNA – Danielle Dolk.  Her features are what I would classify as unconventionally beautiful.  It’s interesting to see her fair complexion in contrast to her very native features.  But I don’t know if that’s the sort of exoticism that would appeal to international tastes.  U – 7; I – 6; S – 7; IC – 7; GI – 7; G – 7.

BINIBINING 32:  TARLAC – Mary Faye Murphy.  She’s a polished mestiza type who proves to be a strong communicator as exhibited in her free speak on “cursing” where she covered contexts on when this could be allowed (generally based on intention and the company you keep).  Looks like a possible inside track to the Top 15 and beyond.  U – 8.5; I – 8.5; S – 8;  IC – 8.5; GI – 8.5; G – 8.5.

BINIBINING 33:  PUERTO PRINCESA – Jessarie Dumaguing.  She reminds me of PASIG (Aya Abesamis), but with rising buzz as besides striking a charismatic vibe with her Asian features, she proves to be well-spoken and nearly eloquent that many are buzzing she can make a play for the winners’ circle.  U – 9; I – 8; S – 9; IC – 9; GI – 8.5; G – 9.

BINIBINING 34:  BATANGAS – Alanis Binoya.  She has highly appealing native features, but would her looks be enough for her to advance as she was a bit disorganized in the free speak round.  U – 7; I – 7; S – 8; IC – 8; GI – 7.5; G – 8.

BINIBINING 35:  LA UNION – Kimberle Mae Penchon.  Yes, she made the Top 15 three years ago but judging from her free speak and overall impression it’s going to be an uphill battle for her to equal that feat.  U – 7.5; I – 7; S – 7.5; IC – 7.5; GI – 7.5; G – 7.5.

BINIBINING 36:  LIBON, ALBAY – Francia Layderos.  Like BATANGAS she has that strong native appeal.  Now, I’m torn by her off-tangent take on the topic “End Times” as she associated it with a moment where one has to make a stand on something like in a situation of sexual “harashment [sic[“, nothing at all associated with the Apocalypse.  I don’t know if it’s her lack of comprehension of what “end times” actually meant hence we have such a bizarre, off-tangent answer.  There might be some judges who might let her get away with it, but I won’t.  U – 7.5; I – 7.5; S – 8.5; IC – 8; GI – 7.5; G – 8.

BINIBINING 37:  CAVITE – Samantha Poblete.  She’s proven to be a solid contender, so even if she is not highly buzzed, a Top 25 finish remains conceivable.  U – 7.5; I – 7; S – 7; IC – 7.5; GI – 7; G – 7.

BINIBINING 38:  NEGROS OCCIDENTAL – Vickie Marie Rushton.  She was 1st runner-up last year, and now she’s making a play for one of the titles, and based on special awards received, she seems on-track to garner one of them.  Though I was more impressed with CATANDUANES’ take on “Darna”, Vickie also delivered a well-composed take on the topic.  U – 9; I – 9; S – 9; IC – 9; GI – 9; G – 9.

BINIBINING 39:  CARAGA – Dia Nicole Magno.  For me, she’s the winner of this year’s “BB Sweepstakes”.  But besides those very prominent assets, she’s otherwise raw and in the distant likelihood that she gets sent to Miss Grand International, she’ll get a severe tongue lashing from Nawat.  U – 6; I – 6; S – 6.5; IC – 6.5; GI – 5.5; G – 6.5.

BINIBINING 40:  CALOOCAN CITY – Joanna Tolledo.  She has appealing native features and is a great representative for the duskier set. She’s also a solid communicator so it looks like she can make a serious play for the Top 25 and possibly even beyond.  U – 8; I – 7.5; S – 8.5; IC – 8.5; GI – 7.5; G – 8.5.

Now that I have assessed the 40 candidates, here is my “Fearful” Forecast:

TOP THREE:  17 (BATAAN), 26 (PAMPANGA), 38 (NEGROS OCCIDENTAL),

TOP SIX: 12 (TALISAY, CEBU), 14 (LAGUNA), 27 (PALAWAN),

RUNNERS-UP:  25 (CEBU), 30 (MAGUINDANAO)

TOP 15:   7 (RIZAL), 13 (PASIG), 18 (MASBATE), 19 (MANDAUE), 20 (DARAGA, ALBAY), 32 (TARLAC), 33 (PUERTO PRINCESA)

TOP 25:  1 (MALABON), 3 (MUNTINLUPA), 10 (MARIKINA), 15 (SORSOGON), 16 (CATANDUANES), 22 (ZAMBOANGA), 23 (QUEZON CITY), 28 (BULACAN), 29 (BACOLOD), 40 (CALOOCAN)

BUBBLING UNDER:  2 (PANGASINAN), 4 (ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY), 35 (LA UNION), 36 (LIBON, ALBAY), 37 (CAVITE)

It’s actually a tough call on who will clinch the winners’ circle.  It’s going to be a tall order for whoever would clinch the titles so all of them I would say, Best of Luck!

JUST ME!

JOSEPH