CANDIDATE NO. 31 – Maria Angelica de Leon.  The media (both regular and specialized pageant-oriented) are all abuzz about her because of her showbiz pedigree, being the daughter of actors Christopher de Leon and Sandy Andolong.  The thing that I most noticed about her is that before I don’t get how Christopher de Leon and 1970s actress Pinky de Leon are siblings as I don’t see any kind of mutual resemblance, but seeing this girl and how she resembles her aunt, I now understand their gene pool better.  She is now hyped to be a favorite to win one of the crowns.  There are several pageant fans and pundits who would object to that prospect, in fact some are throwing bric-brats at her like she looks overweight, amongst others.  To be blunt, I kinda agree with the objections of those pundits, but not because of the “overweight” issue.  Sure, she has the fair complexion that we Filipinos favor and consider desirable but I don’t think those features make an impact in the international realm, so handing her a title may result in us breaking the string of successes we had last year.  U- 7.5; I – 8; T – 8; S – 7.5.

Actress Pinky de Leon (image courtesy of Philippine Star)

CANDIDATE NO. 32 – Cindy Abundabar.  Her looks are not my cup of tea, but she seems likeable and like Matet Gorgonio, her Asian features could look striking in modeling editorials.  But in major international pageants?  From my reckoning, it will be an uphill battle.  U – 7; I – 6; T – 6.5; S – 6.5.

CANDIDATE NO. 33 – Parul Shah.  Besides Pia Wurtzbach, this lady seems to be the best fit to win the Miss Universe – Philippines title.  If she does, I have one piece of advice–she should keep her hair flat and pulled back especially when it’s judgment time as her features seemed to sparkle the best in that style.  In fact, some pageant fans and pundits observed that she could channel Miss Universe 1994 2nd runner-up Minorka Mercado in that style, though the first celebrity that actually came to my mind when I looked at her was Glee star Naya Rivera.  When people tried to give her hair volume like a conventional beauty queen, it doesn’t seem to work as well, though I wouldn’t mind Fadil Berisha photos in that style.  She is also a strong communicator, though a tad serious–in fact she evokes the vibe of Indian beauty queens during their mid-1990s-to-early-2000s heyday.  This is not surprising as she is in fact half-Indian.  Right now, we are what India was in that era, and she is poised to help sustain our recent winning streak.  U – 9.5; I – 8.5; T – 9; S – 9.5

Minorka Mercado at Miss Universe 1994 (screenshot from TV broadcast)
Naya Rivera as Santana Lopez in Glee (image courtesy of Fox)

CANDIDATE NO. 34 – Grace Yann Apuad.  Buzz on Shan is relatively muted as of late, but to my eyes (along with fellow blogger Norman Tinio) it would be a major injustice if she failed to make the final cut.  She has one of the prettiest faces in this year’s batch (with a passing resemblance to Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman), she is a solid communicator and she has a trim figure.  U – 9; I – 9.5; T – 9.5; S – 9.5

CANDIDATE NO. 35 – Henna Kaizzelle Nicole Cajandig.  Since she replaces a withdrawn candidate, it might be assumed that KC would be the cellar-dweller in this group, but in my reckoning, she’s actually more of a worthwhile contender–sure it will be an uphill battle for her to land the semifinals, but take note she is a veteran model and has international pageant experience as she joined a modeling search held in Taiwan.  U – 7; I -6.5; T – 7; S – 7.

Filipiniana dress at a fashion show in PAGCOR Paranaque (photo courtesy of Jayd Ramos)

CANDIDATE NO. 36 – Angel May Villafuerte.  She generated buzz when photos of the screening showed her posing with Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup and how she looked like a clone–a Shamcey “Mini-Me”.  Though she lacks Shamcey’s renowned intelligence, she seems to be on track to be among the semifinalists.  U – 8.5; I – 8; T – 8; S – 8.5

Shamcey clone?

CANDIDATE NO. 37 – Maria Teresita Alaine Baccay.  Here is another one of Ria Rabajante’s usurpers, who actually currently has an edge as during the primer it was announced that the pink terno mini-dress she sported won the Best National Costume award.  She’s attractive and reasonably down-to-earth, so she could be a semifinalist possibility.  U – 8.5; I – 8.5; T – 8.5; S – 8.5

CANDIDATE NO. 38 – Mariz Ong.  I’m not that into her looks as her features remind me of some 1980s local starlet.  Anyway, she has an interesting human interest story as she was given up for adoption twice–but since this is the Philippines, this means being first handed over to a relative (her aunt) and then to her aunt’s friend.  She reported she viewed her situation as a blessing as she got to be able to be nursed to full health as an infant and complete her education thanks to her adoptive parents.  U – 6.5; I – 5.5; T – 6; S – 6

CANDIDATE NO. 39 – Mutya Johanna Datul.  If we talk about physical beauty, for me this one is the one to beat.  I love her radiant smile, and she has the prettiest, most goregously stunning face amongst all of the 50 candidates.  She also has a trim figure and great stage presence.  In my opinion, she is my ideal choice to be sent to Miss International.  But, there is one major caveat–her communication skills.  I saw her semifinal interview video at last year’s Mutya ng Pilipinas in YouTube and her English diction is unintelligible.  You might assume that she might be better off speaking Filipino / Tagalog, and this pageant now encourages that.  If you watch her video profile during the primer, she speaks Filipino with a very thick accent and you almost need subtitles to understand some of the words she says.  It makes me think that the language she would be most comfortable speaking is Ilocano (I assume since reportedly the majority of people living in Isabela speak that language), but the issue is, Metro Manila is predominantly Tagalog speaking and I’m not sure (besides some fellow candidates who also come from the same province as hers) anyone could step up and translate when she chooses to speak in Ilocano instead.  Her video profile is also most notable as she is the one who shed the most tears relaying the crises she faced over the past two years with her mom having a serious blood condition and her dad incapacitated by an accident.  That profile polarizes viewers–there are some who sympathize deeply with her plight, and there are others who found it too melodramatic.  I have a feeling that she is the one most likely to have that dreaded “Janina San Miguel Moment”.  Still, she might be able to get away with it like Janina did when she won the Bb. Pilipinas World title back in 2008 (though of course she then had to step down and Danielle Castaño became a worthy representative to the pageant).  If she garners the Bb. Pilipinas International title, someone should step in to become the Henry Higgins to her Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady as I would recommend extensive speech training, especially since if she makes the semifinals in Miss International, there is a “cultural speech” portion in that pageant.  U – 8.5; I – 9; T – 8.5; S – 8.5

CANDIDATE NO. 40 – Jhan Helen Villanueva.  From one native beauty with incapacitated parents to another–this lady reported that her father cannot work because of an accident and her mother is also unemployable because of hypertension.  But unlike the tearful meltdown of Mutya, she is more upbeat as she noted she joins pageants so whatever she earns she uses to support her family and allow her siblings to continue their schooling.  Pretty noble, but I don’t really see her as a standout.  U – 6; I – 5; T – 5.5; S – 6

All images courtesy of Raymond Saldana and Owen Reyes for Bb. Pilipinas, and Jory Rivera for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.



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