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…
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.
COMING UP: THE ROYAL COURT