It is interesting to note that even if they now have four titles on offer, they apparently wanted to stick to a Top Five royal court.  It turns out that based on the prize package announced, the Supranational title only has a similar value as that of the runner-up.

I have to say the final announcement of results were surprising, but in the end I was actually satisfied.  Only two of my Top Five choices made it, with the one most pageant fans and pundits believed is guaranteed a title actually shut out of one.  Plus, the one who got the top prize was only in my bubbling under list (though I have to note, I actually so wanted her in my Top 15 list, but I didn’t know who to remove at the time).

1ST RUNNER-UP:  CANDIDATE NO. 15 – Pia Wurtzbach.  If we judge based solely on performance, I thought Pia should have gotten one of the crowns.  I thought she was flawless onstage in the swimsuit round, and she was appropriately dreamy in her light blue number in the evening gown round.  I thought she or Mutya deserved to win the Best in Swimsuit, but the San Miguel Zero Fit and Sexy Body special award was appropriate also.  In my reckoning, her answer in the final Q&A was the second best after Shan Apuad’s.  She was asked by Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general Allan Purisima about what is the greatest achievement of Bb. Pilipinas in its 50 years of existence.  Her response:  “I think the greatest achievement that Binibining Pilipinas has given to the world is the candidates, not just the winners, but everyone because each candidate, our lives changed when we joined this pageant and we become inspiration to other people and that’s why I think the greatest gift of Binibining Pilipinas is its candidates. Thank you.”

So what gives?  Why was a title ultimately outside of her grasp?  I think it’s simply a matter of taste with the panel of judges on hand, and I have to admit her features are not universally to everyone’s liking.  It was a shock that she was shut out of a title when most pageant pundits (including myself) believed she was a lock for a title.  I bluntly believe she deserved better, but I can stomach this outcome.  Hope if she chooses to compete again, she finally gets rewarded for her consistently strong performances.

BB. PILIPINAS – SUPRANATIONAL:  CANDIDATE NO. 39 – Mutya Johanna Datul.  She was the one to watch out for, for both the right and wrong reasons.  For the right reasons, she possesses a luminous radiance that lights up everything she sets foot on, with an irresistible beauty that I could not peel my eyes away from, plus a lively stage presence and trim figure.  For the wrong reasons, pageant fans and pundits who saw YouTube videos of her Mutya ng Pilipinas interview and her primer video have noted that her communication skills are very suspect.  So, there is some sort of excitement and suspense in seeing how well she would fare–how well she would deliver in the swimsuit and evening gown rounds, then with fear and trepidation how she’ll fare in the Q&A round.  As it turns out, she actually gave the best performance in both swimsuit and evening gown, and her Best in Evening Gown special award was definitely well deserved.  Equally deserving was the Bb. Photogenic special award she also won (she was only one of two candidates who won more than one special award).  Based on her performance in those “looks” rounds, it would’ve been a cinch for her to nail either the Universe or International titles.

Then, pageant fans and pundits braced themselves nervously with the Q&A round, wondering if we are going to witness a new “Janina San Miguel Moment”.  She was asked by Chilean ambassador Roberto Mayorga about what his her advocacy since many beauty queens embraced advocacies.  Her response:  “Thank you so much, sir. My advocacy is I want to extend my help to those people who are in need especially the BPCI charity and I want to be part of them to help those charity of BPCI. Thank you much.”  Yes, her diction and grammar left much to be desired, but at least she kept her answer simple (even if it was trite) and sensible.  Yes, it was one of the weakest answers among the 15 semifinalists, but it still thankfully passed muster, and pageant fans and pundits heaved sighs of relief.

In a way, she was penalized for the relative weakness of her answer by being granted “only” the Supranational title.  But at least she was spared the anticipated severe boot camp she would need to endure if she were to win either the Universe or International titles.  I would’ve prescribed a speech bootcamp a la Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady if that happened (see the hint I left in my Homestretch review) but since she got Supranational, the Dale Carnegie courses she would take as part of her prize package would already suffice.  (Personal note:  I have taken some of those Dale Carnegie courses over 20 years ago–they were wonderful!)  Barring any possible politicking, she is likely to become a front-runner in the Miss Supranational pageant in Belarus this September.  If she wins, she is on her way of relieving her recent family misfortunes–go for it, Mutya!

BB. PILIPINAS – TOURISM:  CANDIDATE NO. 16 – Joanna Cindy Miranda.  She exuded the vibe of a sexy bombshell during the coronation night, so I understood why she could fare so high with the panel of judges.  She was also the only other person besides Mutya Datul to garner two special awards, Bb. Petron and the Cream Silk Beyond Beautiful Woman awards.  For the Q&A round, she was asked by Liliana Marquez Zawadzky (yes, Madame Stella’s sister) about what personality quality most people would remember about her:  Her response: “One word that can describe is I’m unstoppable. Everything that I wanted in life, I get it even though I didn’t have any permission from my parents, my friends, or from people around me. If know that what I wanna do is right and good for me, I will do it. And at the end of it, every people around me will be proud of me.”  Well, she does seem to be a driven competitor, and in hindsight her answer is stronger than I originally thought (though Shan Apuad and Pia Wurtzbach’s answers were still better, in my reckoning). I may wish that Pia got a title and Shan was in this list over this lady, but I’m fine with her placement.

BB. PILIPINAS – INTERNATIONAL:  CANDIDATE NO. 20 – Bea Rose Santiago.  There might be some detractors who weren’t impressed with her looks, but I thought she does have what it takes to possibly become one of the titleholders, as I find her looks, though not that conventionally pretty in some angles, very striking and very attractive.   For the Q&A she was asked by the chairman of the Miss International pageant, Hirofumi Hashimoto to complete this sentence: “The ideal Filipino is…”  She completed it by saying, “The ideal Filipino is both proud and happy people. We love Philippines that we are willing to come back here every year. We’re willing to spend our Christmas, holidays every year just to be here in the Philippines because we Filipino will always feel our home here in the Philippines.”  It’s generally a solid answer, but with her great English diction, it is not surprising that she was granted a plum title.  She is very likely to extend the current streak we are enjoying at Miss International–the question now is if she can propel us beyond semifinalist level and make the Top Five, at least.  It is highly possible, in my opinion.

MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES:  CANDIDATE NO. 41 – Ariella Arida.  Talk about an under-the-radar surprise.  Though she is well regarded by pageant fans and pundits, no one expected her to be the one to clinch the top prize–most pegged her only as a likely semifinalist and a long-shot finalist at best.  But I suppose most (including myself) did not anticipate the final makeover she received that catapulted her into front-running contention.  There were two key elements–first, her normally pale complexion has gradually turned bronze; and second, they piled on the dramatic Cleopatra eye makeup.  The results surprisingly made her evoke all the successful Philippine beauty queens who competed in Miss Universe, without her mimicking any one of them.  Come to think of it, a similar strategy was also employed on Charmaine Elima, and Charmaine made such a great initial striking impact.  I think the difference why Charmaine fell by the wayside while Ara shot up was that Ara’s features are more subtle and would win one over in the longer term, along with the fact that Ara is a more solid (though imperfect) communicator.

I personally felt that though her figure is undeniably fit and trim, I thought the Best in Swimsuit award should have gone to Pia.  But well, the judges were more mesmerized by her more bronzed persona that I do not totally object to her winning it.  For the evening gown round, well, she did look resplendent in the pretty white Grecian styled one-shoulder number selected by the powers-that-be for her.  For the Q&A round, she was asked by PNP director-general Allan Purisima about a lesson women can teach men.  Her response:  “One lesson in life that, we, women can teach men is being sensitive because we all know that men are more logical when it comes to decisions. They usually more rationale, straightforward, unlike we, women, we use our heart and we tend to get emotional in some of our decisions. And so that’s it for me. Sensitivity is something that we, women, can teach men. Thank you.”  She was on the right track, but the gnawing quibble I have about her answer is that she didn’t show why sensitivity is an advantage and something that is worth learning.  If she mentioned the “why”, it would’ve been a perfect answer.

Come to think of it, Ara could indeed be a great fit for Miss Universe.  Miss Universe is no longer looking for the brightest brains nor the most eloquent speakers–the reigning Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo is regarded as smart enough but nothing extraordinary (none of the eloquence that Janine Tugonon provided in her onstage pageant interviews, that’s for sure)–and Ara might actually fit that bill.  There is a big weight over Ara’s shoulders right now especially with such heightened expectations after the consecutive successes of Venus, Shamcey, and Janine.  I want to scale down expectations and state that all I really ask of Ara is to simply sustain a semifinalist finish.  Though she can aim high and go for the win, we should all remain supportive as long as she ends up a semifinalist (and love her nevertheless even if she falls short of that).  Anyway, she is backed up by a proven team who can ensure her success in the cutthroat arena that is Miss Universe, and she has that one intangible ace that can also help give her a big splash–her name.  Her name has a dramatic ring to it, especially if we use her nickname: “Ara Arida” is very cathy and memorable, isn’t it?  And doesn’t it evoke visions of a diva-rrific glamazon?  Ara is on her way to living up to the fierceness that her name evokes, and if that happens, the Universe should watch out.

As a parting shot, I should say that even if the results are not exactly what I anticipated, I wholeheartedly support these queens on their journeys.  All hail the reigning queens!



All images courtesy of Bruce Casanova for Bb. Pilipinas and OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.


I am generally pleased with the selection of the 15 semifinalists in this year’s pageant.  I only got 9 out of 15 right, which is not a bad batting average, with four of those who I didn’t get being part of my bubbling under list so that extends to 13 out of 15.  I should’ve added one statuesque lady in my bubbling under list, too, because I forgot to realize that her exotic features do make a great impact.  For the other lady, all I could explain regarding her exclusion is that the ghost of the late Bb. Pilipinas-International 1977 Pinky Alberto momentarily possessed the panel of judges that evening that they decided to favor her and include her in the list.  Anyway, she is a not-completely objectionable choice as she has a bubbly personality during the primer.  Without further ado, here are the 15 semifinalists in this year’s Bb. Pilipinas:

CANDIDATE NO. 22 – Pinky Alberto, er, I mean, Ellore Noelle Punzalan. This winner of the Manila Bulletin Reader’s Choice award didn’t give the weakest answer in this year’s group, but it is still a weakly delivered answer.    She was asked by Philippine-British soccer player James Younghusband if she had the opportunity to meet the new pope (Pope Francis), what would she tell him?  Her response: “If I would have the opportunity to meet the new Pope, I would congratulate him first for having that opportunity. And I would like him to pray for our country, the Philippines, to be united, to have love, to serve as … something that would be relevant to everyone. The Filipino family is something that we should be proud of.”  That answer is rather rambling and disjointed, in my opinion.  Well, okay, during the coronation night she did have a likeable spunk and sparkled onstage, especially during the evening gown as she wore a white long-sleeved number with her hair styled in an elegant bun and that could be justification enough for her placement.  But I still maintain there was some intervention from the great beyond that aided her in her placement…

The late Bb. Pilipinas International 1977 Pinky Alberto (images courtesy of

CANDIDATE NO. 13 – Charmaine Elima.  Many international pageant fans and pundits have regarded her as a front-runner for one of the crowns, but insiders had a more muted opinion.  Well, she did deliver in the looks rounds during the coronation night that she indeed is proven worthy of making the final cut.  But she then gave the closest thing to the dreaded “Janina San Miguel Moment“when she was asked by ABS-CBN honcho Gabby Lopez about how social media like Facebook makes a lot of things about yourself public, what aspects does she think should remain private?  Her response:  “For me, those things should remain private is yourself especially in terms of being open-up in everything to them. Your personal, your personality, your personal intentions should be private. Thank you!”  It’s vague and flaky, almost as flaky as Irene Esser’s notorious answer in last year’s Miss Universe.

CANDIDATE NO. 12 – Camille Carla Nazar.  I can understand how she made the final cut, as her brand of exotic features do appeal to this panel of judges.  She took a different tack in her question and answer round, as she decided to speak in Filipino.  When asked by Macanese businessman Louis Ng, about which country fascinates her and why, here is her un-translated answer:  “Ah, nais ko po sanang sagutin ang inyong katanungan sa wikang Pilipino. Sa totoo po, kung ako’y papipiliin, ayoko po sanang iwan ang … ayoko po sanang bitiwan ang Pilipinas dahil mahal ko po ito. Pero kung bibigyan ako ng chance, nais ko po sana na makapunta uhm sa Amerika po. Dahil sa tingin ko, ito ‘yung pinaka … para sa akin maunlad itong bansa at nandun si President Obama na siyang matatag na presidente.” [TRANSLATION: “Ah, if you would please I would choose to answer your question in Filipino.  To be honest, if I were to choose, I don’t want to leave the Philippines because I love this country.  But if given the chance, I would like to go to, um, America.  This is because in my opinion, this is the most prosperous nation and President Obama is there and he’s a strong president.”]  It’s not a bad answer, but she doesn’t need to ramble about loving her own nation before making her choice, and to be honest, America is no longer the most prosperous nation on earth–but it’s still the most powerful.  And I feel she can answer this in basic, simple English instead of having to say her points in the vernacular, and I wouldn’t begrudge her if there are diction issues if she spoke in English.

CANDIDATE NO. 46 – Amanda Noelle Navasero.  She deserves her placement with the elegantly sophisticated presence she exuded that evening.  Unfortunately, she was given the most difficult question in the final Q&A round by Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz, regarding if one could be a good Catholic if she believes in the RH (Reproductive Health) Bill.  Her response: “I believe that believing in the R.H. bill is good, especially for us, educated people. We should know how to … we should know how to understand the R.H. bill, itself, so it’s really important especially for the kids right now. Thank you!”  I will give her the benefit of the doubt that it’s so tough to come up with a great answer to that type of controversial question so even if she was vague and generic, I wouldn’t penalize her too much and she did well under the circumstances.

CANDIDATE NO. 43 – Rhea Nakpil.  She did strike the right chords when it counted that is why she made the final cut.  She particularly struck like an elegant gamine during the evening gown round billowing in her blue gown.  She was asked by Secretary Rene Almendras about the trait that made the Filipinos stand out in the world, especially since President Obama praised a Philippine nurse for her conduct during Hurricane Sandy in his most recent State of the Union address.  Her response:  “I think one of the traits that make Filipinos stand out in the world is honesty. For I believe honesty is the root to success, to heroism, heroic deeds, and to the success of the world, most especially, in terms of being a Filipino. Thank you very much.”  It’s actually a simple, well-put answer, though I disagree with it a bit–perhaps when we emigrate and work in a foreign land we make the effort to be honest and have integrity, but in our own shores, well, that’s a different story and that trait is not something you would typically associate with a Filipino.  Warmth, compassion, hospitality, and empathy, yes, but honesty?

CANDIDATE NO. 33 – Parul Shah.  I’m glad she was styled correctly for the coronation night, though I found the coral gown she sported ill-fitting and unflattering.  In the Q&A round, she was asked by Colombian jewelry and interior designer (and sister of the head of BPCI, Stella Marquez de Araneta) Liliana Marquez Zawadzky, regarding what she would tell a child who was being bullied in school.  She started off well when she responded: “I would tell the child to never look down—bring himself up even though he’s being stepped on.”  But then, her answer unraveled as she had issues finding the appropriate words, ending up sounding rambling even if there is substance to it: “Because … for me, I do believe that it’ll start from oneself. Respect … respect everyone around you and humility in oneself will actually, uh … will actually, uh … will actually eradicate people who bully children. Thank you!”  It seems she was not really favored by the powers-that-be (hence, the unflattering gown), so as much as she has what it takes to be a crown contender, this is indeed the best finish she can muster in this edition.

CANDIDATE NO. 25 – Merry Joyce Respicio.  I forgot how her exotic features are perfect catnip in this pageant’s judging panels over the past several years, and yes, she is able to capitalize on her statuesque 5’11 height to the hilt as she worked the stage and emanate a strong presence that evening.  She kept it sweet, sincere, and simple when asked by James Younghusband about what habit she would want to break and why.  Her response: “Ah, as a 18 years old, I love eating junk food. And that’s one thing for … that’s one thing that I like to break because it’s not healthy. Thank you!”  Local pageant wags may quibble about her grammar, but I don’t because as proven by the likes of Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez grammatical correctness and diction are not that important.

CANDIDATE NO. 31 – Maria Angelica de Leon.  It has been rumored that this lady was among the front-runners for one of the titles prior to the coronation night, and there are several vocal detractors, along with pageant pundits, who expressed objections over that prospect.  To their relief, that prospect never materialized and Mariel ended up where she should be, as a semifinalist.  Showbiz talk show host Boy Abunda asked her this question:  “Are the best things in life really for free, why or why not?”  Mariel gave a simple and sincere response: “Yes, I do believe that the best things in life are free—like love, family, happiness, and of course, the care that you get from all your loved ones. And of course, you can’t buy that from anyone, you get it from respect and love. Thank you.”

CANDIDATE NO. 45 – Imelda Schweighart.  Besides Mutya Datul (more on her later), the most gorgeous face in this year’s golden batch belongs to this lady, and she’s blessed with an enviable (especially in Philippine society) alabaster complexion.  Host Martin Nievera may fumble on her name, but that beauty and dreamy presence are imprinted on several people’s consciousness.  San Miguel Brewery president Bobby Huang asked a kinda-silly question:  “(T)he Beatles believed that all you need is love. Agree or disagree, and why?”  Imee responded gamely with an answer that might be cliched but she gave a fresh spin on it nevertheless:  “You know what, we should spread world peace. We, people, we tend to over think sometimes. And we tend to think negative energies. And I think we should just think of positive energies. In that case, we would spread love to everybody. Thank you.”

CANDIDATE NO. 34 – Grace Yann Apuad.  Shan possessed the prettiest face after Mutya and Imee.  Plus, in my opinion she delivered the best answer of them all in the Q&A round.  When asked by Italian ambassador Massimo Roscigno about her greatest contribution to her local community, she tapped on her own personal experiences when she replied: “(T)he greatest contribution that I can give is being an inspiration to the youth because I, myself, is a very independent person. Ah, I have been living on my own and I was able to finish studies even without my parents. And I think that would serve as an inspiration to the youth today.”  In my opinion, she should’ve been part of the court instead of, say, Cindy Miranda.  Though as much as her missing the final crown was almost an injustice, I don’t really have serious objections over the ladies the judges chose.  Hopefully she getst to compete again and finally garner a title.



Former queens gathered onstage for Bb. Pilipinas 2013 (image courtesy of

A golden anniversary is a major milestone for anyone, be it a person, a married couple, or an institution.  This year, Bb. Pilipinas is marking that milestone, and with the help of ABS-CBN it planned to deliver a grandiose extravaganza to commemorate it.  Did the coronation night deliver on that promise?

The event was hosted by veteran host / singer Martin Nievera, who to open the proceedings sang the well-known Bb. Pilipinas theme as around 60 previous Bb. Pilipinas titleholders from various eras descended from the stage, from the most recent decade from 2004 to 2011 then going back until the 1963-1972 era was reached.  Given a solo highlight was the first international winner handled by this organization, Miss Universe 1969, Gloria Diaz.

Martin Nievera serenading Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz (image courtesy of Voltaire Domingo for NPPA images)

After the well-applauded glamorous parade of queens, the 50 candidates then came dressed in flesh-colored jersey mini-dresses draped with sheer pink overlay for a Grecian effect and kept the energy explosive at the Araneta as they vamped about and then introduced themselves to the warmly enthused audience.  Then, as is tradition, came the three reigning queens from 2012 to end the opening number.

Like Grecian nymphs: the 50 candidates vamping about
The three reigning queens: Miss International 2012 semifinalist Nicole Schmitz, Miss Universe 2012 1st runner-up Janine Tugonon, and Bb. Pilipinas Tourism 2012 Katrina Jayne Dimaranan (image courtesy of Voltaire Domingo for NPPA images)

Co-hosting the proceedings was resurgent actress Dawn Zulueta.  She and Martin made an excellent hosting team, delivering their spiels with competence and professionalism but with the appropriate enthusiastic energy that was the model that all other hosts should follow.  Martin, it should be noted, has the extraordinary skill of sounding as if he was memorizing his lines from the top of his head or speaking impromptu even while reading his lines from a teleprompter.  Dawn may rely on cue cards from time to time, but she was still at the top of her game in her hosting.  With such top-notch skills, the gaffe that Martin committed later in the evening where he missed out on one of the Top 15 semifinalists in the Q&A round was rendered forgivable.

Hosts Martin Nievera and Dawn Zulueta

Providing color commentary to the proceedings were the two previous Miss Universe runners-up for this decade, Venus Raj and Shamcey Supsup.  They generally followed the Jeannie Mai model of color commentary, generally pleasant, bubbly, and perky in their spiels, and generally competent, too.  They also interviewed past queens in various segments, which was a treat to watch.

Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup and Miss Universe 2010 4th runner-up Venus Raj (image courtesy of

The rest of the program followed the structure employed over the past decade–all 50 candidates paraded in swimsuits in two groups and then in evening gowns from the Cumbia boutique, and then the semifinalists (15 this year) were selected for the final Q&A round with questions posed by the judges.  As befitting the “gold” theme, the swimsuits were glittery silver-sequined yellow one-shoulder bikinis for this year, and onstage I finally got to see the ladies figures in full and there were some (who didn’t make the cut, fortunately) who were obviously out-of-shape…  The evening gown round treated us to varying colors and this year there is no organized color scheme.  The ladies were also serenaded by some of the hunkier members of the ABS-CBN talent pool, like Sam Milby, Sam Concepcion, Matteo Guidicelli, and last year’s host Xian Lim, with “popera” artist Joseph Badon, all singing the romantic Smokey Mountain chestnut “Kailan” (“When?”).   Though efforts are made to make the two major rounds fast-paced, it’s still a bit taxing to the casual viewer to watch 50 candidates all parade onstage–for enthusiastic pageant fans of course, it would be a different story.

Hunky serenade: Sam Concepcion, Sam Milby, Xian Lim, and Matteo Guidicelli (image courtesy of

When the Top 15 was announced there was one key favorite who missed the cut altogether: Candidate No. 1, Ria Rabajante.  Though she was competitive in the swimsuit round, when she appeared in a dated, too-shiny beaded red satin number, pageant fans and pundits have felt that her final screening thunder has indeed totally dissipated.  Hopefully she gets luckier if she decides to compete in this pageant again in subsequent years.

Ruth Ocumarez awardee, Bb. Pilipinas 2013 edition: Ria Rabajante

Normally, the first set of special awards were given out during the swimsuit competition, but this year it was announced after the opening number.  Creatures of habit probably anticipated that this year there might be a second and third round of special awards, but it turns out they skipped the awarding after the swimsuit round and gave the second set after the evening gown competition as is customary.  I shall now pay tribute to the non-finalists who got the consolation of being special awardees, starting with…

BB. FRIENDSHIP:  CANDIDATE NO. 21 – Lourenz Grace Remetillo.  I have to say this is a nice consolation for this lady, as she is unlikely to be granted the Bb. Pilipinas Supranational title as she previously competed in that pageant, and her features are too exotic for the judges’ liking.

BB. TALENT:  CANDIDATE NO. 10 – Anna Carmela Aquino.  My friend and colleague Norman Tinio may have expected it would go to an Aces & Queens-groomed singer, it turns out it went to this lady instead, who performed an Igorot dance with multiple pots on her head.  I suppose the judges of the talent contest seemed impressed with the degree of difficulty of that feat that was why they rewarded this lady with the honor.

BB. BEST IN NATIONAL COSTUME – Maria Teresita Alaine Baccay.  Actually this award was previously announced last week during the primer.  I previously mentioned that I disagreed with the choice, but well, the judges have chosen so there.

BB. PHILIPPINE AIRLINES – CANDIDATE NO. 4 – Nicole Kim Donesa.  Normally the sponsor’s prizes would go to one of the perceived favorites, so this lady’s win is rather surprising.  But then again, the sponsor probably found her girl-next-door appeal welcoming and befitting their brand that is why they granted the title to her.

All images courtesy of Bruce Casanova for Bb. Pilipinas, and Melvin Sia and Jory Rivera for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.