This is not really a full-fledged pageant review, but notes on the just-concluded Miss World Philippines.  I had the privilege of attending it live at the PICC thanks to my good friend Lex Librea, and though the taping took about 4 1/2 hours, the show itself is generally a sleek, well-produced affair.  Dingdong Dantes, as usual, was a dashing, flawless host, and his co-hosts Isabel Daza and Carla Abellana were likewise generally smooth (at a few earlier segments, Isabel stood out clad in a provocatively glittery sheer gown).

The show was structured like a pastiche of Bb. Pilipinas and Miss World–after the opening number (with Marc Bautista soulfully singing the Miss World Philippines theme song), the 25 contestants paraded in evening gowns and swimsuits (during the swimsuit segment there is a pre-taped musical sequence featuring GMA-7 star Aljur Abrenica singing an ode to nature) and then the 12 semifinalists were selected.  Like in Miss World, the 12 semifinalists were then cut to the final five without any further rounds (though they changed from swimsuits into evening gowns and given an introduction as they walked in gowns).  Then the five finalists were interviewed by the host (Dingdong Dantes) before the final results are announced, “as is customary…in reverse order” by the pageant director, Cory Quirino.  The winner is then crowned by the reigning Miss World, Alexandria Mills–her nude-colored long-sleeved gown may not make a great impression in photos, but was actually great in person.

In general, I do find the 25 candidates to be strong, and they do look better than the official photos may suggest.  In general, I found the decisions to be fair, though I did hope that they make room for fresh faces like Candidate No. 5, Rogelie Catacutan, and Candidate No. 11, Mercy Malaluan (Lex has noted that Mercy has the potential to become the next Venus Raj, especially with her hair in an updo) in the final five.

Rogelie Catacutan (Photo by Jory Rivera courtesy of OPMB Worldwide)

As it is, the final five is loaded with Bb. Pilipinas veterans: 4th Princess Jaysel Arrosal was a semifinalist in 2008; 3rd Princess Bianca Paz was a candidate in 2009 and competed again in 2011 but was disqualified due to dubiously controversial circumstances; 2nd Princess Martha Chloe McCulley competed in 2011; 1st Princess Helen Nicolette Henson was 2nd runner-up in 2010; and Miss World Philippines Gwendolyn Ruais was a semifinalist in 2010.

Photo by Bruce Casanova courtesy of OPMBWorldwide.com

All members of the final five strutted their evening gowns with style and aplomb.  All except Bianca Paz are notably clad in red (Bianca was in a nude-colored gown instead), with Gwendolyn Ruais winning best dress design for her heavily beaded gown.  In the final Q&A, I thought Nicolette Henson gave the best and most eloquent (though, yes, a tad long) answer about what advice she would give to a person who is thinking about working abroad–she talks about the possibilities and challenges in going abroad, but the person must never forget to go back so he can help his fellow countrymen.  Gwendolyn likewise gave a strong and straightforward answer regarding what she’ll do to the P1 million cash prize if she wins–she states that part will go to the bank for her future, part will be used to celebrate her victory with her supporters, and part will be used to support the charity espoused by the Miss World Philippines organization.  Though Martha Chloe McCulley was only 2nd Princess, she got two big prizes from the sponsors–she’s both Miss SMDC and Miss Kapuso World, where she’ll act as spokesperson for both SM and is under contract by GMA-7; considering she was a former 26K girl in the rival network’s “Deal or No Deal” game show, it’s another case of rival stations pirating talent…

After some photo ops, I helped Lex pick up four evening gowns (he acted in behalf of his two designer friends who could not be present that night), and after that task was done, we proceeded to the Midas Hotel (formerly Sheraton, then more famously as Hyatt) for the victory party.  Had fun hobnobbing with the queens and other various celebrities, relatives, and dignitaries.

All-in-all, in my reckoning it’s a promising start.  Sure, I know that pageant fans and pundits may find the winner’s facial features too strong and angular to their liking, but I think people should keep a keen eye on her, especially in the Top Model fast track.