Beyond my wildest expectations, the Bb. Pilipinas Gold group last year turned to be truly that, as we had a banner year in international pageants in 2013.  The four titleholders generated two victories (International and Supranational), a 3rd runner-up finish (Universe), and a Top 10 semifinalist finish (Tourism Queen International).

This year’s batch has a lot to live up to with the staggering successes of last year.  The pressure is on to garner that elusive 3rd crown at Miss Universe (we last won 41 years ago), especially since this year we would be graced with the presence of the reigning Miss Universe from Venezuela, Gabriela Isler.  But an extra incentive is at hand as there is an extra title at stake — Bb. Pilipinas has acquired the franchise of Miss Intercontinental (which has been held by Mutya ng Pilipinas for the past few years).  Is there a potential Miss Universe winner in this year’s batch?  And how do this year’s 40 candidates stack up to last year’s Golden 50?

Without further ado, I will assess each lady’s worthiness in competing in the international pageants at stake (of course assuming Tourism Queen International will be staged this year, and for ladies who are above the age limit for International, I will still provide a hypothetical rating).  The abbreviations of the ratings go like this:  U – Universe; I – International; TQI – Tourism Queen International; S – Supranational; and IC – Intercontinental.

BINIBINING 1 – Julian Aurine Flores.  She does have appealing Asian features that make a strong positive impression.  She’s generally strong in all aspects that she is in contention to make the semifinals, at the very least.  U – 8.5; I – 8; TQI – 8; S – 8.5; IC – 8.5

BINIBINING 2 – Mary Anjely Manalo.  She is trim enough and attractive enough, but not quite making a standout impression.  U – 7.5; I – 7; TQI – 7; S – 7; IC – 7.5

BINIBINING 3 – Joanna Angelica Romero.  What I found most intriguing in her primer is that her dad is working in Aruba.  I also find the voluminous black terno she sported in the fashion show a standout sight.  But otherwise, I find her facial features generally plain and I think making among the 40 candidates (which was rather cutthroat this year based on the protracted screenings) major achievement enough.  U – 6.5; I – 6; TQI – 6; S – 6.5; IC – 6.5.

BINIBINING 4 – Parul Shah.  She is among those who previously saw action in this pageant hoping to improve on their previous fortunes.  In her case, she made the Top 15 last year.  There were some pageant fans and pundits who thought her number designation may not bode well for her, as no one reportedly ever won a title with that number designation.  She does have fans who treat her in high regard, and she does have the right mix of beauty and exoticism to make waves in an international arena.  But so far, it seems she is on track of simply securing and repeating her semifinalist finish, even though she has sterling qualities worthy of faring better.  U – 9.5; I – 9; TQI – 9; S – 9.5; IC – 9.5

BINIBINING 5 – Hannah Mariz dela Guerra.  She has one of the prettiest faces in this year’s group, and her fair mestiza features are highly regarded in these shores.  In my opinion, she is a sleeper possibility to make the final cut.  U – 8.5; I – 9; TQI – 8.5; S – 8.5; IC – 8.5.

BINIBINING 6 – Anabel Christine Tia.  In real-life terms, she will be regarded as attractive.  But in stratified pageant terms, well, it’s enough that she made this strong group of 40.  U – 6.5; I – 6.5; TQI – 6; S – 6.5; IC – 6.5

BINIBINING 7 – Aiza Faeldonia.  Her angular features may not be for everyone’s tastes, but she knows how to work the stage and make her presence felt.  She could be a possibility for the semifinals.  U – 8; I – 7; TQI – 7; S – 7.5; IC – 7.5

BINIBINING 8 – Pia Wurtzbach.  There are some people who believe this 1st runner-up from last year is not standing out as much as she should.  I think that though there are other contenders garnering heavy buzz, this lady is still one of the strongest contenders out there, and it’s almost a cinch that she’ll finally be granted a title.  Now, which one remains a big question especially with those rising stars out there.  I do hope she gets one of the more plum titles like International or even Universe (there were some looks where she emphasized the Asian-ness of her features which might show that she could indeed be suitable for Universe, indeed).  U – 9.5; I – 10; TQI – 9.5; S – 10; IC – 9.5

BINIBINING 9 – Joy Antonette Diaz.  Her resemblance to her aunt is very obvious.  Who is her auht?  None other than Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz.  And interestingly enough, she seems to share similar qualities that made her aunt win it all in Miami Beach back then–unconventional beauty laden with charm, brains, wit, and gab.  Those qualities will most likely secure a slot in the semifinals.  But I’m not sure the milieu that allowed her aunt to win all those years ago would ever be replicated in this day and age.  Nevertheless, I would love seeing her make the Top 12 and ace the Q&A round.  U – 8.5; I – 7.5; TQI – 7; S – 7; IC – 7.

Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz

BINIBINING 10 – Shauna Indra Salina Curran.  Her background as a radio DJ means that she will be able to hold her own in the Q&A rounds.  Facewise and personality wise I find her as a sleeper possibility, but her figure is not as buffed as other contenders out there.  Perhaps in a year or two she could be in much more serious contention.  U – 8; I – 8; TQI – 8; S – 8; IC – 8.