The three titleholders were worthy of earning their designations–all performed at a stellar level onstage and delivered some of the strongest answers during the Q&A rounds.  It’s a bit sad, though, that the presumed order was disrupted by a well-regarded usurper.   As great looking as the runners-up were, if we base their responses during the Q&A rounds they wouldn’t deserve to belong in this group, that their slots should be taken by MJ, Sherlyn, or even Angelee.  But I suppose like what happened in 2008, interviews do not hold much weight that is why the runners-up were able to secure their high placements.

2ND RUNNER-UP:  CANDIDATE NO. 29 – Annalie Forbes.  On one hand, I felt vindicated as the judges saw what I saw during her public appearances even as other local pageant fans and pundits dismissed her as an also-ran.  She struck a radiantly sexy presence onstage in her swimsuit and in her red evening gown, and like Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman, you forget about her relatively short stature when she walks onstage.  Her performance during the Q&A round is another question–she was asked by Spanish ambassador Jorge Domecq about the disadvantages of social media.  As experienced by the live audience at the Araneta, she blanked out at first and could barely come up with an answer, and then was given a re-do for broadcast, where she responded by stating the advantage that one can use social media to communicate with loved ones and tacked on a quote from Mother Teresa which has little to no relevance to the question or the answer she gave.  I think because of her placement, the MJ legion were extremely upset as they deemed her unworthy of overtaking their beloved heroine.  But there was one stronger target for their vitriol (even though I would disagree with them in this respect).  Still, the fact that she was able to place as high as she did validated and justified my high regard for her–weak communication skills notwithstanding.

1ST RUNNER-UP: CANDIDATE NO. 15 – Elaine Kay Moll.  I have to hand it to her–she improved her catwalk significantly during coronation night.  She was able to capitalize better on her good looks and tall stature because of her improved skills, and I suppose this was the factor that impressed the panel of judges that they ranked her this high.  For the final Q&A she was asked by Finance secretary Cesar Purisima if there is one thing she would change about Filipino culture.  After a two-second pause, she responded that she would like to change “Filipino Time”, and awkwardly stated it is very important to be on time to appreciate and be considerate to others.  When I watched the telecast, I thought she gave the weakest answer at the time, until I learned about what transpired live and reviewed the answers of a few others, then her answer didn’t turn out to be the weakest link after all.  Still, you still wish there was a slot for the likes of MJ in her place.  Anyway, I did mention in my homestretch review that she might be rewarded for her potential, and this indeed occurred.  Now, moving forward, to realize that awesome potential would be dependent on her–if doing this whole pageant thing would be something that could be a means for her to realize her dreams and if she’s motivated to continue pursuing this path, she could eventually shine in the international arena.

BB. PILIPINAS – TOURISM:  CANDIDATE NO. 13 – Katrina Dimaranan.  I could object all I want about her facial features and her 1980s sexpot vibe, but I could not deny she’s an exceptional performer all throughout, that it’s not surprising how she was able to usurp MJ’s presumed crown position (and not garner much of the ire of the MJ legion).  She has a confident presence that is exhibited in the strides she made during the swimsuit round and in the confident bearing she displayed wearing her white evening gown.  But her greatest asset is her gift of gab packaged in an appealing sultry tone (which also help her win Miss Talent as she sang Alicia Keys’ “A Woman’s Worth”), with perfect American English diction as she was raised in the USA. This was parlayed to full effect as she was asked by actor Richard Gomez during the Q&A round about being president for one day.    She gave a well-composed answer about promoting education among children as lack of education is one of our major problems and education is important to develop people with good morals, intelligence, and happier optimism about life.

I found it interesting that the spiel the hosts gave when they were about to award this title did not mention anything about competing in Miss Tourism Queen International (TQI), but using last year’s spiel about promoting Philippine tourism.  Most people may assume they just simply recycled an old script, but I have this gnawing feeling that there is no guarantee she will see action in Miss TQI.  There were rumors that BPCI acquired the franchise of Miss Supranational, but there was no official confirmation about that, but I have a feeling that perhaps if Katrina is to compete in an international pageant she might go to this pageant instead (debunking rumors assuming Elaine Kay Moll would be the one designated for that pageant).  But we’ll have to wait and see about that.

Anyway, observing Katrina’s overall presence, one thing stuck in my mind–she needs a Major Major Venus Infusion.  I fantasized about her stalking Venus Raj 24/7 and eating and sleeping with her so she can get the Venus vibe fully ingrained in her, but she doesn’t need to do that.  She only needs to subscribe to Venus Raj Major Major Module on Stage Presence, Regal Bearing, and Charisma and if she mastered that, she’s on her way to shine in the international arena.

BB. PILIPINAS INTERNATIONAL:  CANDIDATE NO. 8 – Nicole Schmitz.  As expected, this lady delivered with competitive drive and flair and garnered the title most suited to her fair semi-Caucasian features.  She was a stage dynamo with such a lively catwalk during the swimsuit round that she deservingly earned the title “Best in Swimsuit” (though arguably the best, buffed figure actually belonged to either MJ Lastimosa or Angelee de los Reyes).  She was likewise topnotch on evening gown, though her olive green satin number was a bit too simple for comfort.  For the Q&A round, she got Nestle Philippines CEO John Miller, who asked if she prefers to be loved or respected.  Nicole stated she prefers to be respected because being respected means she keeps her integrity, dignity, and self-respect, and because of that in turn one will be loved by the people who matter.   I think she is more than ready to compete at Miss International and sustain the semifinal streak began by Patricia Fernandez in 2008, and prospects are actually looking better that it has been announced last week that it would be held in Okinawa, Japan.  There would be less of the unpredictability factor that was characteristic of the China editions, and based on the usual predictable criteria preferred by the Japanese panel and organizers, Nicole has the qualities to be guaranteed at least a semifinal slot.

MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES:  CANDIDATE NO. 18 – Janine Tugonon.  Back in 2011, I didn’t expect her to make the Top Five, but when the Q&A round came, she surprised every pageant fan and pundit by delivering the most perfect answer to the question (asked by Miss Universe 1973 Margie Moran) about what is the “major major” lesson men could learn from women.  Though it felt somewhat scripted, I have to give her the highest grade in terms of the Q&A round.  I think that was a crucial factor how she earned her 1st runner-up finish last year, over the likes of Patricia Tumulak and Sabrinne Al-Tawil.

After forfeiting her prizes for the right to compete this year, this lady has emerged the favorite to garner the Miss Universe Philippines title, especially as she exuded the vibe of a hybrid between Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup and Miss Universe 1999 1st runner-up Miriam Quiambao (especially with the Cleopatra makeup she sports in public appearances).  She may not have garnered the special awards and sponsors prizes, but in my opinion she performed well enough during the coronation night to be a convincing choice for the right to represent our country at the Miss Universe pageant.  Local pageant fans and pundits may have quibbled with her figure, but I thought it was trim and competitive enough (though yes it could use more toning)–definitely buffer than, say, Zora Andam’s figure back in Miss Universe 2001.  The white frock she sported during the evening gown round was admittedly a busy mess if worn by any other girl, but somehow, Janine managed to carry it well and gave a strong performance in it.  For the final Q&A, she was asked by People Asia magazine publisher and CEO Jose Manuel Romualdez what she feels about having to choose between family and career.  Janine delivered a strong answer, as expected, but this time sounded more spontaneous as she replied, “Women have the right to choose what they want, but, for me, you have to go for what God has called you to do, whatever it is, between the two.  You must do what is your purpose in this world; and with a childlike faith and mature obedience, everything will go smooth.”

I am aware there are factions within the MJ legion who have serious objections about Janine’s victory, for various reasons–first, because she took the title they felt belonged rightfully to MJ especially with MJ garnering the Avon and PAL sponsors prizes; second, because allegedly there was an unwritten agreement for Janine to not join this pageant this year to make room for MJ (since MJ is pushing 25), but that agreement was broken as reportedly BPCI chairperson Stella Marquez de Araneta insisted she join this year’s screening; and third, simply that Janine’s features are not to their taste.  But I had felt from the first time I laid eyes on this batch that Janine is indeed the best one for the Miss Universe title, and she won this fairly and squarely.  I can also attest that several international pageant fans and pundits are also rejoicing her victory and are relishing her prospects of shining at Miss Universe–I would personally be pleased enough if she made the semifinals, but she can aim as high as winning it all though considering the formidable likes of Irene Esser of Venezuela and Bodine Koehler of Puerto Rico, a 2nd runner-up finish might be in the cards.

She is already almost fully ready to compete, just a few fine-tuning to optimize her prospects.  First, which she also acknowledged herself, is to streamline her figure to competition-worthy shape (hope she would be taught a healthy approach by her trainers to reach that goal).  Second, it is observed that outside of the formal Q&A’s onstage, her interview tone may somewhat come across a bit too clinical–but she can learn a lot from her co-titleholder Katrina Dimaranan in terms of modulating her voice to be more alluring and charm the judges over to her side.  We all know she’s already on the right track and she has the competitive drive to keep her eyes on the prize.  Let’s all support and pray she would be able to utilize her obvious strengths to the fullest.

Images courtesy of Melvin Sia and Jory Rivera for OPMB Worldwide.

All-in-all, I bought into the energy emanated from this pageant.  Even with the upset outcome for one major favorite, I found the results more than satisfying and I’m optimistic about our prospects in the international arena.



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