The mood set for the 51st edition of Bb. Pilipinas is highly celebratory and festive. The reasons are pretty obvious–we just came from enjoying the banner year that was 2013 with wins in Mz. International and Supranational, plus a strong 3rd runner-up finish in Miss Universe and a Top 10 finish in Miss Tourism Queen International. Plus, present as a special guest and judge is the reigning Miss Universe Gabriela Isler.
The upbeat, celebratory party started off with a grand opening number featuring the four reigning titleholders and the 40 candidates dancing and posing to Cher’s recent club hit, “A Woman’s World”. I love the poses the candidates strike and the upbeat dancing (albeit they are not always well-synchronized), and the colorful red, pink, blue, and yellow chiffon mullet (because it’s short in front and long at the back) skirts gave an enjoyable effect. It felt like we’re watching nymphs in colorful clothing in the midst of their celebration.
The pageant was hosted by actress and commercial endorsement queen Anne Curtis and actor/model Xian Lim, with co-hosting/color commentary duties provided by the first three proponents of our Miss Universe renaissance, Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup, and Janine Tugonon. Anne is her usual lively, perky, bubbly self, which was especially valuable during commercial breaks and during the long-ish wait before the final results were announced. Xian was more spontaneous and relaxed, a far cry from the forced enthusiasm he exhibited two years ago. Venus, Shamcey, and Janine were actually impeccable in delivering their spiels, though I have to note that in the first sequences, I have a major quibble about Janine’s styling, with her messy updo making her look frumpy beside the more consistent sparkles generated by Venus and Shamcey. Fortunately, all five hosts underwent two more wardrobe changes throughout the program and Janine’s styling improved significantly as the pageant wore on.
The structure of the main program remained generally unvaried–all candidates parade in swimsuits and evening gowns, then the Top 15 would undergo the judges’ question and answer round, and then the winners would be announced. Unlike before when the special awards were announced after the swimsuit competition then after the evening gown competition, this time, the first set of special awards were announced prior to the swimsuit competition (the second set is still announced after the evening gown competition). For this year’s swimsuit competition, the 40 candidates strutted in what is described as a “tri-kini” (but it’s actually technically a one-piece swimsuit with a front printed floral top with a fabric tapering down to a small strip as it joins the pink bikini bottom), accessorized with a pink shawl and some prop headgear (commemorating some of our local and regional festivals).
The evening gown competition, meanwhile, is basically a showcase of gowns available at the Cumbia Boutique* located at the Araneta-owned Gateway Mall. Fashion designer Nick Verreos’ description in his blog that this is “a fashion show for a top ‘Pageant & Prom’ dress manufacturer” is not too far off. I have to note that as long as Araneta’s agendas needed to be prioritized, it is highly unlikely we will see a haute couture showcase of Filipino designs in this pageant (unless you might be referring to what the female hosts were wearing)–that will probably be better reserved for Miss World Philippines and Miss Philippines Earth. * This boutique used to be known as the Bb. Pilipinas Boutique, but that branding is not that marketable, hence the name change over a decade ago.
The evening’s live musical guest is Emin, who performed two numbers, one after the evening gown competition (prior to the announcement of the second set of special awards) and the other after the Top 15 interviews. It seems to my ears that his performances are lip-synced instead of live, and as nice and gracious as he seems to be as a person, I can’t help but dismiss his music as a second-rate wannabe Enrique Iglesias.
Before I discuss the 15 finalists, three ladies got some airtime in the finals even without making the final cut as they won special awards. These ladies are:
BINIBINING 33 – Gabrielle Tilokani. She was awarded Miss Talent for her singing performance during the Talent Competition held on 14 February.
BINIBINING 21 – Racquel Kabigting. She was awarded Miss Friendship, which was determined by votes from the candidates themselves. In my opinion she could’ve been a worthy semifinals contender, and of the four tall ladies above 5’10” in this year’s batch, she’s the only one who missed the cut.
CANDIDATE NO. 39 – Ladylyn Riva. She probably has a significant group of supporters who also subscribe to Manila Bulletin that she ended up winning the Manila Bulletin Reader’s Choice award. Normally, in some editions of this pageant, this would’ve meant an automatic entry into the semifinals, but that is not employed this year. Still, she did put up a good fight and calso ould’ve also been a Top 15 contender.
COMING UP: THE TOP 15