The year 2013 marks the 50th edition for Bb. Pilipinas. For this auspicious milestone, it has been decided that they will have 50 candidates competing for the right to earn one of the three official titles at stake: Miss Universe Philippines, Bb. Pilipinas International and Bb. Pilipinas Tourism. Actually, even if there are three titles at stake, the winners and one of the runners-up would be given the right to compete in four international pageants: besides Miss Universe and Miss International, there is also Miss Tourism Queen International (if it is going to be held this year) and Miss Supranational.
Though the number of candidates is very far from the record set in 1973, when there were 73 candidates competing, 50 is a rather overwhelming number to follow (especially since there are no state/regional/provincial/city designations, like, say, in Miss USA or even Miss Philippines-Earth). Also, there is a possible issue that worthwhile contenders who would’ve made serious inroads in other years would be overlooked under this system. Or on the other hand, it could result in a batch that is noted for quantity instead of quality. Which direction does “Bb. Pilipinas Gold” swing? Read on…
In the first month or so of the pageant proceedings, I was almost gladdened that there may not be any last-minute disqualifications or candidate withdrawals unlike in editions past. But unfortunately, late in the game someone again was forced to withdraw, because of photos that by themselves are not obscene but the fact that they appear in an “undesirable” magazine–note that officially she wasn’t disqualified, but she voluntarily withdrawn. But let me still make a hypothetical assessment of her international pageant prospects (U-Universe, I-International, T-Tourism Queen, and S-Supranational).
FORMER CANDIDATE NO. 35 – Maria Theresa Fenger. She has the fair mestiza features that would’ve made her a good prospect for Miss International, if it weren’t for the fact she is veering towards being past that pageant’s age limit. As a member of girl group Eurasia and under the screen name of Lana Roi, she appeared in sexy outfits for men’s magazines like FHM and Circuit, and based on prevailing (though in my opinion, antiquated) pageant rules, it could’ve been grounds for disqualification (see–eventual Miss Earth-Air 2009 Sandra Seifert). Anyway, her best prospects would’ve been landing in the semifinals at most as there are stronger options out there. U – 8; I – 8.5; T – 8; S – 8
I have to admit that unlike in years past, I have not gotten the chance to attend any of the activities in this year’s pageant and my “armchair” assessment is mainly based on photographs, insider buzz, and the Bb. Pilipinas primer broadcast the week prior to the pageant. Now, without further ado, let’s proceed with my assessment of the “golden” candidates, beginning with:
CANDIDATE NO. 1 – Ria Rabajante. During the screening, she caused a major sensation as she her polished projection made pageant fans and pundits present go all ga-ga. As the activities wear on after she was selected as an official candidate, she seemed to be losing buzz and other contenders rose up to the forefront. Still, her Asian features (an interesting cross between Miss Universe 1999 1st runner-up Miriam Quiambao and Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman) are not to be denied and she could still be in contention for any of the titles. U – 9; I – 9; T – 9; S – 9
CANDIDATE NO. 2 – Maria Bencelle Bianzon. There were some insiders who regard her as a strong semifinalist contender, though her features were not really my cup of tea. But then again, there are people who dig her brand of dusky, exotic features (she was inspired by Sushmita Sen’s Miss Universe victory in Manila back in 1994, as she realized that darker complexioned ladies can be considered beautiful), so she could indeed be a worthwhile possibility. She does radiate in her two official Bb. Pilipinas portraits below. U – 8; I – 6.5; T – 7.5; S – 7.5
CANDIDATE NO. 3 – Zandra Flores. I actually like her features better than Candidate No. 2, though she has not been receiving as much buzz. She is noted to being an entrepreneur. U – 8; I – 8; T – 8; S – 8.
CANDIDATE NO. 4 – Nicole Kim Donesa. We Filipinos tend to have a high regard to ladies with fair complexions like this one. But with her less-than-toned figure and her relatively ordinary (by pageant standards; she is otherwise gorgeous if we use real-world standards) features, I think she’s one of the weaker links in this year’s batch. But I think she may have a future in Philippine showbiz, as her girl-next-door features are an appealing catnip for the masses. U – 6.5; I – 7; T – 6.5; S – 6.5
A piquant note about her profile in the Bb. Pilipinas primer–her mom seems to resemble actress Janice de Belen to my eyes.
CANDIDATE NO. 5 – Maria Sofia Gloria Mustonen. This half-Finnish lady initially generated buzz as some early portraits made some pageant fans and pundits recall Miss Universe 1996 2nd runner-up Lola Odusoga. In my opinion she should pull her hair up (as in above her head, not parallel or below) as this seems to best accentuate her beauty, as otherwise she seemed to be registering as simply just another pretty face. U – 8; I – 8; T – 8; S – 8.
CANDIDATE NO. 6 – Yvette Chantal Mildenberger. Her features are a tad too angular to my taste, and she evokes the vibe of the “typical German contestant”*, though oddly enough my Miss Venezuela-loving Friend (MVLF) is reporting she’s rising in buzz. I don’t quite agree, but we’ll see.. Anyway she is notable for being an animal lover. U – 6.5; I – 7; T – 7; S – 7.
* A bit too laid back or demure, relatively less polished contestant, as exhibited by German representatives in various international pageants over the past two decades.
CANDIDATE NO. 7 – Maria Ivy Kristel Gonzales. I wonder what happened to her that she didn’t seem to be at the National Costume competition at Makati Shangri-La after the Press Presentation? Anyway, without the eyeliner (her handlers are trying to package her as a Janine/Miriam clone), her features reminded me of 1990s actress Nanette Medved, albeit a duskier, less charismatic version of her. U – 7.5; I – 7; T – 7.5; S – 7.5
CANDIDATE NO. 8 – Abbygale Monderin. I think part of the reason why Ria Rabajante lost some buzz is that some this year’s candidates resemble her that you sometimes confuse them with her. For instance this candidate shares several of Ria’s features that if we mix up the gold lamé swimsuit portraits, I could have thought the photo below is that of Ria. I’ve noticed also in the video profiles of the Bb. Pilipinas primer is that some of the candidates would get emotional and break down in tears, and this lady is the start of the breakdowns, as she sentimentally recalled how her stepfather supported her. U – 8.5; I – 8; T – 8.5; S -8.5
CANDIDATE NO. 9 – Katherine Anne Enriquez. Her dusky, native features register much better on video than in photos, and she exudes an exotic vibe. I would’ve regarded her as a cellar-dweller based on photos but on her video profile, I find her a confident and likeable lady and her exotic features are not as homely as I thought. U – 7.5; I – 6; T – 6.5; S – 7.
CANDIDATE NO. 10 – Anna Carmela Aquino. She is great looking, actually, and a confident speaker, though she probably needs a bit more polish before being regarded as a serious contender for the finals. But with the right grooming, she can go places. Interesting note about her video profile–though she describes herself as coming from a broken family, it seems like there is a chance that her separated parents could still come back together; it seems economic concerns was the main factor for the separation and not an irreconcilable factor. U – 7.5; I – 7; T – 7; S – 7.5.
Images courtesy of Raymond Saldana and Owen Reyes for Bb. Pilipinas, and Edmund Chua and Jory Rivera for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated. Videos courtesy of Sash Factor and ABS-CBN.
COMING UP: CANDIDATES 11-20