The Top 15

In general the 15 finalists chosen were the ones that were expected to be there, with a couple of exceptions.  Without further ado, let’s start with…

BINIBINING 16 – Zahara Mae Soriano.  I sometimes wonder if perhaps the tabulators from SGV may sometimes make mistakes.  I couldn’t for the life of me understand what the judges saw in this lady to make her make the final cut over, say, Kimverlyn Suiza or Diana Arevalo (who are numbered immediately before and after her respectively.  I actually scored her the second lowest overall of the 40 candidates in the swimsuit round when I looked at her less than buffed figure, and her red evening gown looked old-fashioned and matronly.  Worse yet was the question and answer round–Megaworld’s Kevin Tan asked her about what she would tell an international audience about Filipino heroism.  She started off with “As a Filipino, I am proud to be a Filipino and…” then her brain froze that she let the 30-second timer lapse.  After a brief conversation with host Anne Curtis, she then asked the judge to repeat his question, then continued her answer with “I can say that we have modern heroes that are the OFWs who sacrifice their life, their family to go abroad and work for their family. That’s the only thing that I want to say to foreigners or to international visitors.”  Nothing about her performance justifies her placement in this lofty group.

BINIBINING 3 – Joana Angelica Romero.  I was also surprised by this lady’s selection over the likes of, say, Hannah Mariz dela Guerra, but I could tolerate her presence better.  Generally she was solid, even if I still prefer other girls to make it over her.  Anyway, for the question and answer round, the person who asked her question was Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez (NOTE: besides the 11 judges, other people who would be asking questions are three past international titleholders from our country and internationally acclaimed fashion designer Michael Cinco), who (edited out of the telecast) plugged the designer of her wardrobe before asking this piquant question: “There is a song saying ‘All you need is love.’ Apart from love, what else do you think we need?”  Joana first thanked Melanie for that question and then responded ” I think aside from love, all we need is beauty. Beauty is not about physical appearance alone. It is about what is inside of you. It is how you share, how you inspire other people and through that, we can achieve unity. And it goes on and on and on.”  It’s decent enough, but well, it’s a very pageant patty answer.

BINIBINING 20 – Kenneth Santiago.  I didn’t include her in my “Bubbling Under” list but in hindsight I realized I should have because you can’t ignore her height.  Her facial features may not be my cup of tea, but it is with the judges on hand, apparently.  Interestingly, when asked by Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman about what one thing she would sacrifice for a Bb. crown, she responded by talking about a “tall/big girl” issue: “I think one thing that I would sacrifice for Binibining Pilipinas crown is my shoes. You know it’s very hard for me to find shoes because I have this very big shoe size. But for Bb I will sacrifice this precious thing that I have just to have a crown.”  I initially liked her answer as it was sincere but in hindsight, it seemed actually rather absurd to sacrifice shoe size…

BINIBINING 19 – Mae Liezel Ramos.  I placed her in my “Bubbling Under”list, but she performed well enough to win over the judges (who do like their tall girls, though too bad they didn’t like Miss Friendship winner Racquel Kabigting to include her in this lofty list).  She was asked by US diplomat William Christopher “What about a Filipina woman are you most proud of and why?” Her response: “The part where I am most proud of being a Filipina woman is that I am confident. In every step that I do I believe in myself. I love what I do and I am really compassionate in what I do so that is what I am confident about.”  It seems the word “confidence” is starting to be a key buzz word in this pageant, as you will hear this word in other answers, too.

BINIBINING 14 – Emma Mary Tiglao.  I know you need to have more dramatic makeup whenever you’re onstage, but I thought in her case, it was overkill.  Still, she performed well enough that she deservingly made the Top 15.  She was asked by Skycable President and CEO Carlo Katigbak (personal note:  he’s my classmate back in college) regarding the reasons why our country became the No. 1 powerhouse of beauty last year.  Her response: “I believe that it is not about only the physical beauty but also the inner beauty but what we called the true beauty of a Filipina–it possess the heart. We are committed and we are capable to do our duties and responsibilities of being a beauty queen.”  It’s a bit pageant patty for my taste, but there is a ring of truth to what she said.

BINIBINING 23 – Nichole Marie Manalo. Just like 12 years ago when her sister got the Bb. Pilipinas World crown, she had a whole crowd of supporters with her cheering her on.  But I observe most of them are seated at the bleachers instead of the upper box, at least.  Still they made very significant noise prior to the pageant and when she appears.  But just as I thought, though she performed strong enough to make the Top 15, she ultimately could not clinch a title.  She was asked by ABS-CBN channel head Cory Vidanes if being a beauty queen is a plus or minus in landing a serious job in the corporate world.  Her response: ” For me, being a beauty queen is an advantage because if you have the beauty, you have this ability to inspire and influence other people. You have this beauty in you that you can use to share your talent, your skills and your resources and in that way, it is an advantage for your work.”  I’m not crazy about her answer, but she was on the right track–I recalled while hunting for a job as a graduated from college that the process of getting a job is actually no different from a pageant, in my perspective–candidates are whittled down to “semifinalists” before they pick those they would hire, I could recall in several hiring processes.  In a corporate environment, perception and putting your best foot forward are essential qualities, and that is what is also important in a pageant.

BINIBINING 1 – Julian Aurine Flores.  Her modeling background worked for her well here as she performed convincingly and consistently well to make the Top 15.  She was asked by Sofitel Philippines general manager Adam Laker “As a beauty pageant contestant, what would you say to people who lack confidence that you have?”  Julian’s response was short, sweet, and simple: ” What I would say to the people who lack confidence is to trust yourself. It is by then that people will believe in you and when people believe in you, they will love you. That is all, thank you.”  Definitely worth belonging in this hallowed group, though obviously no further than that.

BINIBINING 8 – Pia Wurtzbach.  It’s been a week and I’m still upset by this outcome–everything this girl had and did was “title-worthy”.  Her figure was top-notch and she showcased it with massive aplomb in the swimsuit round.  In the evening gown round, I thought she brought a sense of drama with her poses that I thought she deserved to win Best in Evening Gown.  Well, she did not win that special award, but she was one of the three candidates who won two special awards–she garnered the Philippine Airlines and She’s So Jag special awards.  It seems just like two years ago, that Philippine Airlines special award was a precursor of her fate.

Some pageant fans and pundits felt the way Senator Sonny Angara chose to ask his question in Filipino was probably the one that killed her chances for a title.  He asked her: “Ano yung pinakamagandang leksyon na maituturo ng isang babae sa buong miundo? (What is the best lesson that a woman could teach to the whole world?”  Pia’s answer went thusly:  “Ang isang leksyon na maituturo ng babae sa buong mundo ay ang tiwala sa kanyang sarili, yung intuition po na tinatawag natin. Kapag meron kang intuition, alam mo kung saan mo ilulugar ang sarili mo. Kahit na hindi ka sigurado sa nararamdaman mo or naiisip pero kung alam mo sa intuition mo, magiging successful ka sa kahit anong gawin mo sa buhay mo. (One lesson that a woman can teach to the whole world is her belief in herself, what we can call intuition.  If you have intuition, you know where you can place yourself.  Even if you are not certain in what you’re feeling or thinking, but if you trust your intuition, you will become successful in whatever you do in your life.)”  This answer was delivered in a heartfelt, sincere manner and I felt it was one of the best answers given that night.  So what gives?

Pageant fans and pundits turned to social media to vent their outrage over this injustice and of course the Senator was the target of their vitriol.  The Senator tried to defend himself, first by tweeting the judges’ criteria that says that it’s 50% beauty of face, 30% figure, 10% intelligence, and 10% personality.  That still doesn’t satisfy or justify this shut-out–does this mean this panel of judges don’t find her facial features “beautiful” enough for the plum prizes?  I know of international pageant fans and pundits who have a high regard to her features, but such a shame that this mix of judges have a rather different notion of beauty.  The Senator then reported that he actually translated Pia’s answer during the deliberations for the foreign judges in the panel, but still why were the other judges unimpressed?  He then disclosed the reportedly Pia was actually tied with Parul and Kris Tiffany and they had to break the tie and unfortunately Pia got the short-end.  But it also makes pageant fans and pundits wonder–so why was she then shut out of runner-up honors, at least?  That should’ve at least eased the sting of her loss a bit.

All I could think about is that fate seems to dictate that in exchange for a vindication victory for one veteran, one must “inherit” her up-and-down trajectory.  Logically this could mean that Pia will be vindicated when she decides to compete for a third time, but that is rather risky and not a guarantee, like what was witnessed with poor Diana Arevalo.  And despite having a significant following, her followers are not as rabidly fanatical as the one who finally got her vindication.  As upsetting her fate is at the moment, I do hope whatever path she decides to take she will ultimately find major success–she is owed big time.

All images courtesy of Bruce Casanova for Bb. Pilipinas unless otherwise indicated.


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