Collectively the last batch of this year’s Bb. Pilipinas 2012 candidates received the least buzz amongst pageant fans and pundits.  Still, there are some worthwhile contenders (including a personal sentimental favorite of mine, and a personal sentimental favorite of a close friend of mine) who may not be perceived to be front-runners for the titles at stake, but are on track of at least landing a semifinal slot.

CANDIDATE NO. 21 – Giselle Muñoz.  I have a few friends who are passionately in her corner.  Sure she has some photos with flattering angles that could make one compare her to Miriam Quiambao or Shamcey Supsup (oh, my, just like Janine Tugonon?), and she has strong communication skills.  But more often than not, she tends to look more like a cross between Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2002 Karen Agustin and Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz.  So does this mean she would be a superb fit for the Miss Universe title?  I have to note that there is a very particular set of circumstances that brought forth Gloria Diaz’s victory that I doubt would be replicated in this day and age; and even though I have a very high regard for Karen Agustin as a person and a 17th place showing amidst a bevy of stunning heavy-hitters that year is something worth commending, most pageant fans and pundits would view the placement more as a “close-but-no-cigar” showing, and I foresee that if Giselle would be granted this title she would share Karen’s fate.  Sending her to Miss International is not a good idea as they wouldn’t appreciate her type of looks (unless she sports the sash of either “China” or “Japan”), and sending her to Miss Tourism Queen International would be a major gamble that I fear may not really pay off.

But watching her strut her stuff at the Ali Mall fashion show, I had visions of her walking down the runways of New York and Paris.  I think her type of features would be best appreciated in the modeling world, sporting the creations of Josie Natori, Monique Lhuillier, Vera Wang, or any Asian-friendly designers.  She has these “Asian doll” features that could be perfect catnip for them.  Though I may respectfully disagree with my friends about her prospects, I would be rooting for her to at least land among the semifinalists.  U – 8; I – 6.5; TQI – 7

Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz (image sourced from
Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2002 Karen Agustin (image courtesy of Miss Universe Organization LP, LLLP)
Asian Doll (strutting with Candidate No. 22, Meiji Cruz)

CANDIDATE NO. 22 – Meiji Cruz.  She’s attractive enough to make inroads in a less competitive year, but for this batch she is likely to be overshadowed.  U – 7.5; I – 7.5; TQI – 7.5

CANDIDATE NO. 23 – Goldy Baroa.  Her close-up headshot made me recall actress Rufa Mae Quinto, but for most angles, I have to be blunt and say she’s one of the homeliest in this year’s batch.  She does have redeeming qualities of being a solid communicator and having a trim-enough figure.  U – 6; I – 6; TQI – 6

Rufa Mae Quinto (sourced from

CANDIDATE NO. 24 – Fer Mae Baliquig.  She is like the late 1980s bold actress Claudia Zobel reincarnated.  She has the appealingly dusky looks that could stir the loins of heterosexual men, and like Bb. Pilipinas World 2010 Czarina Gatbonton before her, her chances may improve exponentially with the presence of that contingent in the board of judges.  U – 8.5; I – 7.5; TQI – 8

Claudia Zobel (image sourced from

CANDIDATE NO. 25 – Chloe Zanardi.  To her credit, she resembles a high school classmate of mine who was regarded as one of the major beauties in our class then.  But unlike my classmate–who was often simply but impeccably stylish–she’s often styled like a hot mess, and in many ways she is like Candidate No. 11, Marie Virgenia Cecilie Peter, the “typical German contestant” (though her heritage is half-Italian, by the way).  U – 6; I – 6.5; TQI – 6.5

CANDIDATE NO. 26 – Angelee de los Reyes.  I have quibbles about her facial features from below her nose, but otherwise, I consider her a worthwhile contender.  She is the reigning Miss Bikini International – Philippines, and was a semifinalist at the 2011 Miss Bikini International contest. U – 7; I – 7; TQI – 7.

CANDIDATE NO. 27 – Golda Soller.  In the brains department this woman is the one to beat–she’s a licensed medical doctor (general practitioner).  At my first glance of her in person at the Ali Mall fashion show, the first thing that came to my mind was, “OMG! They cloned Dianne Necio!”  Well, she’s a dead-ringer to the reigning Bb. Pilipinas International, with the exception that Golda sports a squarish jaw line and a too-toothy grin.  Will she be able to parlay that resemblance and her brains to a semifinal finish?  U – 8; I – 8.5; TQI – 8.5.

Miss International 2011 semifinalist Dianne Necio (image courtesy of Bruce Casanova for OPMB Worldwide)

CANDIDATE NO. 28 – Marie Irisha Arcenas.  I’m not that crazy about her looks, but she’s an excellent communicator with Renaissance woman type of background (she’s VP in her family export handicrafts firm and a magazine editor).  U – 7; I – 6.5; TQI – 6.5

CANDIDATE NO. 29 – Annalie Forbes.  She is my sentimental favorite.  I adored her when I saw her at the Ali Mall fashion show as I found her really pretty and has a lively, sympathetically vibrant presence.  She has the second prettiest face behind Candidate No. 1 Karen Gallman.  So I was surprised why several pageant fans and pundits were not as enthusiastic in their regard for her–some say it’s because of her height (but onstage, I found her proportions pleasing enough that like Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman, I could overlook that factor), but then others would say her communication skills are not up to snuff, especially judging from her interview on the televised pageant primer (but in my opinion, sure she is not comfortable speaking in English, but she still exuded sympathetic, heartwarming charm, a la Candidate No. 10 Jillean Orbina).  She had the misfortune of wearing the absolute worst dress in the national competition–an utterly unflattering avant-garde disaster that could not be redeemed by this girl’s charm.  U – 8.5; I – 8.5; TQI – 8.5.

CANDIDATE NO. 30 – Sherlyn Gonzales.  In my opinion, she has the third prettiest face in this year’s batch of candidates.  Her prospects would depend on how willing the panel of judges would overlook the height factor.  If she’s to be granted a title in this year’s pageant, she would be best suited for Miss International with her semi-Caucasian features.  U – 7.5; I – 8.5; TQI – 8.

All images courtesy of Raymond Saldana for BPCI unless otherwise indicated.

Now with all 30 candidates accounted for, let me put out my “fearful” forecast for April 15:

TOP FIVE:  7, 8, 9, 13, 18

SEMIFINALISTS (IF TOP 12):  1, 4, 10, 14, 16, 24, 29

BUBBLING UNDER:  3, 5, 6, 12, 15, 20, 21, 26, 27, 30

All I could wish for on April 15 is that the judges be granted the wisdom to select the right ladies for their respective titles.  Best of luck to all the candidates!




Most pageant fans and pundits perceived that heavy-hitting favorites are found on the first 10 candidates, but there are also some heavy-hitters with serious inroads into the finals in this group of delegates.  Without further ado, let’s proceed with…

CANDIDATE NO. 11 – Marie Virgenia Cecilie Peter.  She’s part-Norwegian who grew up in Germany.  She actually evokes a vibe of a typical German*1 contestant in an international pageant in recent years–someone with a rather casual attitude about competing in a pageant to the point that some may read it as blasé and with a less-than-polished presence.  But her fair complexion and Eurasian features are like catnip to the typical Filipino.  And like a typical German contestant, it will be an uphill battle for her to make the final cut in this pageant.  U – 6; I – 7; TQI – 6.5.

*1 Rare exceptions include the hardest-working successful international beauty queen, Natascha Börger.

CANDIDATE NO. 12 – Ayelee Dasalla.  Her main hook is that she came a long way as she used to be obese and now is pageant-trim.  It is indeed an inspiring story.  She actually has good looks, too (though she also has some unflattering native angles) that making the semifinals is highly conceivable.   I have to note that the white Filipiniana dress she sported during the national costume is unflattering and, yes, makes her look fat.  U – 8; I – 8; TQI – 8.

CANDIDATE NO. 13 – Katrina Dimaranan.  I am not into her features at all, and at first I could not get it why she has a lot of fans cheering for her.  Then I watched the pageant primer and discovered she has a confident vibe about her bolstered by her great English speaking skills (since she grew up in America).  She has the potential to usurp the presumed crown elite of Nicole-MJ-and-Janine.  But I’m still bothered by the way she’s currently styled, as she comes off like a 1980s beauty queen sexpot like our Bb. Pilipinas Universe representatives from 1982 and 1983, Maria Isabel Lopez and Cita Capuyon*2.  Like those two ladies, at her current state she is unlikely to sustain the precedent set by Venus and Shamcey at Miss Universe (if she’s granted the Miss Universe crown), and would likely get a “close-but-no-cigar” outcome.*3

*2  Cita Capuyon is more sexpot-by-association, as she married 1980s bold actor Greggy Liwag.

*3 Maria Isabel Lopez placed 22nd in the preliminary swimsuit round, and Cita placed 13th.  Both showings are actually more than respectable.

But there’s a way to make her over to make her shine in the international arena–with her unconventional type of beauty, her best path is to try to attain some of the fabulous qualities of this lady, particularly her regal bearing.  She would be unstoppable if she’ll be able to channel that.  But as she currently is, here’s how I would rate her prospects:  U – 8; I – 7.5; TQI – 7.5

Bb. Pilipinas Universe 1983 Rosita "Cita" Capuyon (image courtesy of Tony Paat's collection).
Bb. Pilipinas Universe 1982 Maria Isabel Lopez (image courtesy of Tony Paat's collection)

CANDIDATE NO. 14 – Gina Joy Howell.  She facially reminds me of Bb. Pilipinas 2001 1st runner-up Michelle Reyes, but with stronger communication skills and 80% of her charisma.  Not that many pageant fans and pundits list her among their contenders as semifinalist, but I think she has what it takes to make the final cut.  U – 8; I – 8.5; TQI – 8.5.

2001 Bb. Pilipinas 1st Runner-Up and 2002 Miss Tourism World Winner Michelle Reyes (image courtesy of Felix Manuel)

CANDIDATE NO. 15 – Elaine Kay Moll.  Actually, with her height (she’s the tallest girl in this year’s batch) and looks she actually has the potential to become a bonafide titleholder contender.  However, I’ve observed her catwalk and stage presence during the Ali Mall fashion show and she was lackluster.  I found her rather raw and that perhaps now is not that time.  But then, considering the long amount of time between now and the Miss Universe pageant, I suddenly had visions of Janina San Miguel–that the judges may possibly take the risk and grant her the crown for her potential, not because of her merits.  And from what I learned from one of her trainers/handlers, there is the question of her motivation.  In my opinion, perhaps she would be worthy of a title when she has enough seasoning and when she has decided she truly wanted to do this.  In her current state, this is how I would rate her prospects:  U – 8; I – 8.5; TQI – 8.

CANDIDATE NO. 16 – Liezl Alcantara.  She’s another contender who did not receive much buzz but in my reckoning is a more-than-worthy contender.  Could she pull off a sleeper surprise?  Though I have to note her multicolored terno during the national costume competition looked rather gaudy and tacky–I suddenly have a craving for Skittles or M&M’s after viewing that thing.  U – 8; I – 8.5; TQI – 8.5

CANDIDATE NO. 17 – Anna Czarina Buenviaje.  She’s reasonably attractive and appealing enough, and the golden embroidered terno she wore at the national costume competition was one of my favorite dresses.  But she is likely to be overshadowed by other contenders out there.  U – 7.5; I – 7; TQI – 7.5.

CANDIDATE NO. 18 – Janine Tugonon.  Now, as much as fans of a very popular candidate would disagree with me, in my reckoning this lady is the best fit for Miss Universe amongst this year’s contestants.  During the fashion show at Ali Mall, I had visions of Miss Universe 2011 3rd Runner-Up Shamcey Supsup, as if the Bb. Pilipinas might have found a new template to use to clone successive beauty queens.  Then, in subsequent appearances, I get how other pageant fans and pundits notice a Miriam Quiambao (Miss Universe 1999 1st Runner-Up) vibe.  It made me think–if you fuse Shamcey and Miriam, would we finally have a 2nd Runner-Up for this pageant?  (We  skipped that placement for some odd reason.)  She seems driven and looks already ready for the Universe.  It would be a bit of a risk for her if she ended up winning International or Tourism Queen as her features might be a tad too exotic for Chinese tastes, but then again, she does have the fierceness and appeal to win them over to her side.

I need to add an extra note about the black terno she wore during the national costume competition–it is an interesting modernized twist, I thought, especially since the front is covered up to the neckline (most ternos expose the collar up until above the bustline) though it has a slightly provocative exposed back and fringes on the butterfly sleeves.  U – 9.5; I – 9; TQI -9.

Miss Universe 2011 3rd Runner-Up Shamcey Supsup (image courtesy of Miss Universe Organization LP, LLLP).
Miss Universe 1999 1st Runner-Up Miriam Quiambao (image courtesy of Miss Universe Organization, LP, LLLP)

CANDIDATE NO. 19 -Roxane Jesalva.  She has a native girl-next-door appeal about her.  In the primer she spoke mostly in the vernacular, which is not bad and we get a good glimpse of a sympathetic personality, but she would need to brush up on her English if she’s going to be granted one of the titles.  The good thing is she would have ample time considering the expected schedules of the three pageants.  U – 7.5; I – 7; TQI – 7.

CANDIDATE NO. 20 – Roxanne Tadique.  She is an academic overachiever, being a certified CPA and completed a law degree at Ateneo Law School.  She has a dignified yet exotic appeal that could make serious inroads in the international arena.  And I have to note that I love her voluminous red satin terno during the national costume competition.  U – 8.5; I – 8; TQI – 8.

All images courtesy of Raymond Saldana for BPCI unless otherwise indicated.

COMING UP:  CANDIDATES 21-30 and the “Fearful” Forecast.


After last year’s grandiose edition, this year’s Bb. Pilipinas pageant scaled things down a little as they reduced the roster of candidates from 40 to 30.  In my opinion, the overall quality likewise dipped slightly, but there are still a bevy of worthwhile contenders out there and after watching the Bb. Pilipinas primer on TV, some possible usurpers.  Plus there are no obvious duds that pepper other batches.  Standing out are two runners-up from last year who decided to forgo their prizes for the chance of finally clinching titles this year.  There are also a bevy of veterans from other national pageants and from previous batches, too.

With the Miss Universe pageant moved to December instead of its usual August-September schedule, an interesting scenario arises–should we select a girl who already has the qualities to shine in that arena right now, or should we select the girl who may not have the qualities yet but is perceived to have potential?  The Miss Russia pageant recently crowned a girl who seemed to be like the latter.  If they choose the latter direction, you would wonder if the risk will pay off.

Without further ado, I will now assess the chances of the 30 Bb. Pilipinas candidates with scores where I assess their chances in making serious inroads in the international pageants that are on offer if they are to compete right at this moment (U – Universe, I – International, TQI – Tourism Queen International; despite speculation that BPCI has now the franchise for Miss Supranational, nothing is officially confirmed so I will withhold from assessing their chances in that pageant).

CANDIDATE NO. 1 – Karen Gallman. She is arguably the prettiest face in this year’s batch, and with the fact that she’s raised in Australia, she is one of the strongest communicators in this group too.  Her main drawback is that considering the numbering, she is likely one of the shorter contestants in this batch and her frame seems to underscore that. (NOTE: The way BPCI allocates numbers for the candidates tend to be based on the candidates’ heights–the highest and lowest numbers tend to feature the shorter candidates while the numbers in the middle would feature the tallest ones).  She looks poised to make serious inroads into the finals, maybe going all the way to garner as far as maybe a runner-up slot.  U – 8; I – 8.5; TQI – 8.5.

CANDIDATE NO. 2 – Romelin Roxane de Castro.  Her features make me recall a fairer-skinned version of Bb. Pilipinas International 2006 Denille Lou Valmonte.  It might have worked then, but in this group of candidates she doesn’t seem to be making a serious impression.  But I did adore the lacy black-and-white terno she modeled during the national costume competition at Genting Resorts World.  U – 7; I – 6.5; TQI – 6.5.

Bb. Pilipinas International 2006 Denille Lou Valmonte (image courtesy of Miss International)

CANDIDATE NO. 3 – Nicole Marable.  She isn’t among the highly buzzed about contestants, but I do find her generally attractive (she somehow reminds me of a local actress whose name escapes my mind at the moment).  I do consider her a worthwhile, though not-as-polished, contender.  U – 7; I – 7.5; TQI – 7.5

CANDIDATE NO. 4 – Jaine Hidalgo. She reminds me of a cross between Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2002 Karen Agustin and well-regarded candidate (but non-finalist) from 2004 and 2007, Grace Patricia Francisco.  But unlike the latter girl, this athletic lady seems to have the proper proportions that compliment her slender and trim figure.  She seems to have a competitive drive to be able to have an inside track to the semifinals.  U – 8.5; I – 8.5; TQI – 8.5

Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2002 Karen Agustin (image courtesy of Miss Universe Organization LP, LLLP).
Patricia Francisco (image courtesy of OPMB Worldwide)

CANDIDATE NO. 5 – Rose Ann Aguilar.  She has nice high cheekbones and features that seem to have a passing resemblance to Miss Earth 2001 and Miss World 2005 semifinalist Carlene Aguilar (they are cousins, actually).  In the pageant primer as televised, she mentioned the fact that she was a kidnap victim a few years ago.  She previously competed in 2010 and made the semifinals–she was a surprising though worthwhile choice, though whether she can make the final cut and exceed her previous performance remains to be seen.  U – 7.5; I – 7.5, TQI – 7.5.

Carlene Aguilar (image courtesy of Miss World Organization)

CANDIDATE NO. 6 – Alicia Ariosa.  I’ve noticed this lady has a significant amount of very vocal fans.  As much as I wanted to join the bandwagon, there’s something about her facial features that prevented me from being a full supporter–sure she resembles Miss Universe 1987 semifinalist Pebbles de Asis, but those features are so 1980s and dated and I don’t think they would make an impact in this day and age (even with several pop-culture attempts of a 1980s revival).  She’s still in the realm of landing in the semifinals, and she had previous experience making the final cut, making the final 10 at Miss Philippines Earth 2011.  U – 8; I – 8; TQI – 8.

Miss Universe 1987 semifinalist Geraldine "Pebbles" de Asis (image courtesy of Miss Universe Organization LP, LLLP)

CANDIDATE NO. 7 – Patricia Ejercitado.  Like Rose Ann Aguilar, she was an alumni of batch 2010 who failed to make the final cut.  But with the sultry makeover she received (where she invited comparisons to Miss Universe 2006 Zuleika Rivera), she received a lot of positive buzz amongst pageant fans and pundits, and she was initially one of the major favorites to take a title.  But then, reports of her weak communication skills surfaced, and buzz about her died somewhat.  Well, her best bet is that the panel of judges that would be selected would overlook that weakness and even if she flubbed the Q&A portion during the finals, they would still award her with a title, a la Janina San Miguel back in 2008.  U – 8.5; I – 8.5; TQI – 8.5

Miss Universe 2006 Zuleika Rivera (image courtesy of Miss Universe Organization, LP, LLLP)

CANDIDATE NO. 8 – Nicole Schmitz.  She was a Top 13 semifinalist back in 2007, and she was highly regarded then.  Now, she is poised to have an inside track to one of the titles.  Though there are features that I sometimes would find unflatteringly angular, she is undeniably an extremely polished and driven contender possessing all elements needed to make the right impression in any international pageant.  Though we have done well at Miss International recently with Asian features like Precious Lara Quigaman (winner 2005), Patricia Fernandez (semifinalist 2008) and Dianne Necio (semifinalist 2011), I would still maintain the Caucasian features like what this lady possesses remains our best bet to sustain the semifinalist finish at Miss International.

An additional note:  it was a savvy strategy during the national costume competition that while the majority wore ternos and Spanish-influenced Filipiniana dresses, she sported a midriff-baring sequined tribal-inspired costume that defied the norm.  The risk was rewarded as she won the special award.  U – 9, I – 9.5, TQI – 9.

CANDIDATE NO. 9 – Mary Jean Lastimosa.  MJ has developed an extremely vocal and fanatical following rallying behind her to garner the victory–it’s almost at the level of Venus Raj two years ago.  And everyone agrees that this lady has the drive, the motivation, and the qualities required for her to succeed in the international arena.  But whether the fans’ wishes for her to garner the Miss Universe title would be granted remains an open question–in my reckoning, there is one major favorite and one possible usurper standing in her way (you will read about them in Part 2 of this article).  I am aware that several of those fans would not settle for anything less than her garnering the Miss Universe title, that other titles would be considered unacceptable.  In my reckoning, I’ll be pleased with whatever major title she would end up, as she will be able to shine in any of them–my only tip is to tone down her currently overdone stylings and she would be able to sparkle more luminously.

The fans have a campaign directive to wear yellow to show their support for her in her public appearances.  I happened to wear yellow during the traditional Bb. Pilipinas car parade and sat beside MJ in the press meal after the event.  I relayed to her regarding the yellow shirt campaign and she was surprised and was unaware about that, but gracious in accepting the support of her fans.  U – 9; I – 9; TQI – 9

CANDIDATE NO. 10 – Jillean Orbina.  I’ll be blunt and state that I didn’t get the hype about her at first, especially when I first saw her during the Ali Mall streetwear fashion show.  I was scratching my head when told by other pageant fans that she’s considered a favorite and a near shoo-in for the semifinals.  I only started to get her when I watched the pageant primer on TV, and she emotionally relayed the heartwarming story about her growing up in poverty and losing a precious pair of rubber slippers.  I was moved by her emotions that I felt that was her ticket to make the needed inroads.  I also adored the red gown she sported during the national costume competition.  But then, the following day, I chatted with a pageant-loving officemate who noted her story sounded to similar to the plot of an acclaimed Iranian movie (Children of Heaven), so doubt suddenly entered my head as if I was being manipulated.  I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt for now, but I don’t really see her as an ideal fit for any of the international pageants.  U – 7; I – 7; TQI – 7.

All images courtesy of Raymond Saldana for Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI) unless otherwise indicated.