This second half features the “Perceived Favorite” that I mentioned in my previous installment, plus a few Bb. Pilipinas 2013 alumni and a previous Miss World Philippines runner-up on another go-round.
CANDIDATE NO. 14 – Vina Openiano. She was a Top 10 semifinalist in the recently concluded Mutya ng Pilipinas pageant. She was under the radar initially, but she caused a stir at the Miss World-Laguna pre-pageant event, reportedly tying with the “Perceived Favorite” for the special award before it was decided to award it to the “Perceived Favorite” with her getting the first runner-up honor. Some may say it’s because she’s a Laguna native that was why she fared so well, but I think there is more to it than that. Her looks admittedly do not fit my conventional notions of beauty, but I have to hand it to her that she knows how to carry herself well and put her best foot forward. Her sort of native features could actually give her an edge if she would be selected to represent our country at Miss World. She also gave a good impression in her hula dance at the talent competition. I wonder if Julia Morley could permit us to crown the representative for this year and next year, so she (or maybe Janicel) would no longer need to have to repeat the process if she does not win this year. RATING: 9.
CANDIDATE NO. 15 – Maria Lily Teresa Salazar. She is one of the plainer looking contestants in this year’s batch, to be blunt. Her edge might be that considering her talent was a basketball demonstration, maybe she could be the one who might win the sports event. Still, her basketball skills aren’t at the level that would give the Harlem Globetrotters, much less the players of the WNBA much pause. RATING: 5.
CANDIDATE NO. 16 – Aikah Dindah. She’s a worthwhile candidate who could pull off a sleeper surprise–she was shortlisted in the Top 10 of the Miss World-Laguna event. She isn’t as highly buzzed about as Pia, Janicel, Vina, Bianca, Ria, or Patricia, but she is making a positive impression. RATING: 8.
CANDIDATE NO. 17 – Jennifer Hammond. Her mestiza features and prominent cheekbones are actually highly valued in Philippine society. But to my eyes, I find her plain and I don’t think she’ll make a serious impression in the international arena. But if the panel of judges is predominantly Filipino, she’ll be a shoo-in for the semifinals, just like what happened in the Miss World-Laguna event. Some might argue–well, she resembles Miss Earth 2008 Karla Henry. But then again, you wouldn’t want to hear how international pageant fans and pundits regarded Karla Henry’s looks (though personally I disagree with them as I do find Karla Henry attractive)… RATING: 7.
CANDIDATE NO. 18 – Omarie Linn Osuna. She has one of the prettier faces in this year’s batch. She seems to be a relative newcomer in the pageant world, but I think she is making a good impression that with more seasoning, she could eventually make a much bigger splash and eventually garner a title to represent our nation in a major pageant. But at this point, she is a likely semifinalist and a possible sleeper finalist. RATING: 8.5
CANDIDATE NO. 19 – Maria Paula Bianca Paz. This pageant veteran (Bb. Pilipinas 2009 contestant and Miss World Philippines 2011 3rd princess) is putting up a strong fight–this is the last year she would be eligible to compete in this pageant. Besides being a known quantity, she made a great impression in the talent round with a sultry rendition of Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why”. But can she win it all? Remember, the one who follows her is the “Perceived Favorite”… RATING: 9
CANDIDATE NO. 20 – Megan Lynne Young. This lady may be a first timer in the pageant scene, but she has extensive experience in the public eye, being a Top 6 finalist in the second season of GMA’s reality talent search Starstruck, a houseguest in rival network ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Big Brother: Celebrity Edition 2, and a Channel V VJ, along with movies and TV shows to her credit. Her beauty excited pageant fans and pundits for a long while now, and there was heavy clamoriing for her to tip her hat in this arena for the past few years. Though due to its conservative and antiquated rules she is no longer eligible to compete in Bb. Pilipinas, it opened the door for her to compete in this pageant, and yes, this lady is the “Perceived Favorite” and thus far she delivered on her status. Is she actually going to be the “Chosen One”? If I have my way (and along with pageant fans and pundits from here and around the world), yes, she should win, and yes, she’s our best bet thus far to finally clinch that ever-elusive first Miss World crown for the Philippines.
Though for a long while I have been advocating selecting a girl with native features as a ticket for us to make serious inroads in Miss World, it dawned on me that our best placements thus far were when we fielded mestizas (I would define mestiza in the context of one who is fair-skinned with European features). Though Evangeline Pascual sported a tan in 1973 when she garnered 1st runner-up, she is actually mestiza (and if you see her these days, she is fair complexioned–another example of a tanned mestiza was Miss Universe 1975 4th runner-up Chiqui Brosas). Miss World 1993 2nd princess Ruffa Gutierrez and Miss World 2011 1st princess Gwendoline Ruais’ European pedigrees are more obvious and apparent. Though looks alone are no guarantee in clinching the crown, the charisma and beauty Megan Young possesses is something that the world would highly appreciate and behold. The only justifiable reason why she should not be granted the title is probably if Megan choked big time during the pageant finals. The crown is hers to lose. RATING: 10!
CANDIDATE NO. 21 – Jennyline Karla Malpaya. There are some people who might appreciate her very native features, especially in Bb. Pilipinas (especially circa 2006). But in this pageant, I don’t think she is standing out–she could be a solid contender, and that’s about it. RATING: 6.
CANDIDATE NO. 22 – Patricia Lae Ejercitado. She was a thank-you girl in Bb. Pilipinas 2010 but then made a splash two years later and landed in the semifinals. I was surprised why she didn’t make the Top 10 in the Miss World – Laguna event as I thought she seems to be making all the right moves. She got a sponsor’s prize (Miss Prudential Life) at least, so maybe she will be vindicated later in the game. I do hope she garners a Top Five finish. RATING: 9.
CANDIDATE NO. 23 – Ria Rabajante. Also hoping for vindication after an unsuccessful stint at Bb. Pilipinas 2013 is this erstwhile big favorite in that pageant. For some odd reason, based on the earlier photos she didn’t seem to be styled right and was not projecting the way we remembered her to be. I was not surprised that she was not short-listed in the Miss World – Laguna event if she looked the way she did. There was a bit of course correction that took place during the Gala Night, but is it too little, too late at this point? We’ll see what happens during the finale this Sunday. RATING: 8.
CANDIDATE NO. 24 – Zandra Flores. This lady is the equivalent of South Africa’s Bokang Montjane in terms of local pageantry as she took part in all the major national pageants–she competed at Miss Philippines Earth 2012, Bb. Pilipinas 2013, made the Top 10 in the recently concluded Mutya ng Pilipinas, and finally is hoping for a strong finish in this pageant. I’m optimistic about her prospects, as besides her good looks she also delivered in the talent competition–she’s the best singer amongst those who sang in that event, and remember, Miss World tends to prize singers highly. Making all the way to the Top Five is highly conceivable. RATING: 8.5
CANDIDATE NO. 25 – Melanie Barret. She’s a fair-skinned mestiza so many Filipinos would have a high regard for her features. Though to my eyes, she looks rather awkward at times, like a gawky, paler version of actress Cherie Gil. But I have to hand it to her with her unique performance in the talent competition, dancing with two puppets to make it appear that there were three people doing a folk dance onstage. RATING: 6.5.
CANDIDATE NO. 26 (now CANDIDATE NO. 1) – Henna Kaizelle Nicole Cajandig. After squeaking by and replacing a withdrawn candidate in this year’s Bb. Pilipinas, at least this lady was already among the chosen candidates for this pageant. But again, she technically acted as a replacement again after Nicole Marable withdrew as she now takes a new number, Candidate No. 1. She is generally a solid contender, but I think in this group her best prospect is a creditable performance. RATING: 7
Now that all the candidates are accounted for, allow me to trot out my leaderboard for my “Fearful Forecast”:
MISS WORLD PHILIPPINES: 20
TOP FIVE: 10, 14, 19, 24
SEMIFINALISTS: 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 18, 22
BUBBLING UNDER: 5, 8, 17, 23
If it weren’t for the presence of Megan Young, a win by the likes of Vina, Janicel, Bianca, or even Patricia would be well-regarded and highly acceptable. But the breathtaking beauty and charisma of Megan is just such that pageant fans and pundits (including myself) would be extremely disappointed if any other final outcome occurred this Sunday. Let’s see if fate and destiny would bring forth the anticipated outcome or deal us a lousy hand.
All images courtesy of Jory Rivera, Bruce Casanova, Melvin Sia, and Noli Berioso for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.’