BB. PILIPINAS – INTERNATIONAL: BINIBINING 11 – Janicel Lubina. She garnered a double whammy of winning both Best in Swimsuit and Best in Long Gown in this pageant, so it’s obvious she was on-track of garnering a plum title. Both wins were deserving and well-justified, though to be honest, we saw her dazzle better in evening gown when she competed at Miss World Philippines two years ago. But then again, that edition of Miss Philippines World was such a Filipino haute couture showcase that any Cumbia collection, however improved as in the case of this year, would never keep up. She was the only one who overshot her time limit in the Q&A round, when asked by congresswoman Leni Robredo what is more important to her, a successful career or a happy home. Her response: “For me, as a Filipina, we can have both. Because we are Filipina as very strong . We can face a lot of challenges and we do not let challenges to stop us from reaching our goals in life. And to have that, like me I want to pursue my education and I want to have a better life my family and for us to have a happy family also.” Albeit lengthy, it was sincere and if you know her inspiring rise-from-poverty story, you would clearly relate and empathize with her answer. Sure, I was more impressed with the answers given by Hannah Ruth Sison, Win-Wyn Marquez, Justine Felizarta, Christi Lynn McGarry, Kimverlyn Suiza, and Pia Wurtzbach (more on her later), but the quality of her answer cannot be denied and it’s a given she’s guaranteed a title.
It’s interesting that Janicel is fielded in this pageant, as it seems physically she doesn’t seem to fit the “Miss International mold” with her native features and dusky complexion. But then again, she makes up for defying the physical archetype with her superbly enviable figure, her indelible stage presence and the fact that she does surprisingly well with prepared speeches (as this has been part of the Miss International format since 2000 whenever this pageant is held on Japanese soil). The typical Japanese resistance towards darker complexioned beauties actually seems to be wearing down as of late, what with last year’s Miss International featuring a Top Two consisting of dusky Latinas and Miss Universe Japan crowning the bi-racial Ariana Miyamoto.
An hour prior to coronation night, I chatted with fellow pageant blogger/Bb. Pilipinas – Universe 1985 Joyce Ann Burton-Titular and she raised up an interesting proposal as a pageant fan in our group has speculated that Janicel could win International (which came into fruition)–Janicel can deliver her cultural speech in Filipino. Joyce noted that the Bb. Pilipinas organizers initially proposed that Miss Universe 2012 1st runner-up Janine Tugonon deliver her interview answers in Filipino, and Janine was totally amenable to that idea.*2 Perhaps that proposal can be revived for Janicel, and perhaps she can be more eloquent and heartfelt when she gets to speak in her native tongue–as long as there are available translators to translate her speech from Filipino to Japanese, it could work wonders. It helped Neil Perez clinch the Mister International*3 title last month.
*2 That ultimately didn’t push through, but then again, Janine never had any problems answering pageant interview questions in English–remember that in the three onstage pageant interviews we saw her in, she proved to be an exemplar of eloquence.
*3 Mister International is in no way related to Miss International. Mister International is run by Singaporean Alan Sim, while Miss International is run by the International Cultural Association based in Japan.
MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES: BINIBINING 10 – Pia Wurtzbach. The first word that came to my mind when she was announced the winner was “vindication”, and it has been long overdue, in my opinion. Yes, there were those who bashed Pia’s seemingly voluptuous frame, but somehow it reminds me a bit of Venezuela’s Migbelis Castellanos at Miss Universe earlier this January, who was able to get away with it (for the most part). Similarly, there are flattering and unflattering angles on Pia’s figure–there were angles where it seems she is actually in great shape, and there were angles where the bashers found kindling for their disses.
But once the swimsuit round was out of the way, Pia was on fire. In the evening gown round, despite sporting a dated metallic one shoulder number, she strutted with aplomb by applying the “Dayana Dervish” to it (so named after Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza’s signature evening gown move), that in my opinion she delivered the evening gown performance of the night. The gown design itself was what prevented her from eclipsing Janicel as “Best in Long Gown”, if you ask me. And once she made the final cut, she totally nailed her Q&A. She was asked by congresswoman Leni Robredo what she thinks of internet censorship. Her brilliant response: “I think that we should be careful of what we post online, especially with our thoughts and our opinions that we don’t hurt anybody, especially selfies, we have to be careful with what we post, especially with our bodies and our faces, so always think before you click.” It’s already an answer that I will give a grade of an “A”, but there is just one little thing that I would probably add to turn her entire answer into a Janine Tugonon-level “A+” answer: simply preface everything she has said with the phrase, “Though I believe in freedom of expression…”
After her win there were these reports that perhaps her victory was influenced by the rumors that she’s President Noynoy Aquino’s new girlfriend, and with the presence of three political figures associated with the current administration in judging panel, one might speculate that there was “undue political influence” at play here. I don’t really believe in those rumors, and whether they are true or not, we all know President Noynoy can’t sustain a serious romantic relationship anyway. Perhaps those political figures may have helped, but I still believe Pia deserved to win on her own merits in the first place (and these merits had been at play in the previous two editions she competed in).
Just like Janicel, Pia flouts conventional wisdom on who should we field for Miss Universe. Conventional wisdom has it that we should field brown-skinned native-looking beauties to make an impact in this pageant, and Pia is a fair-skinned, classically pretty mestiza. But then again, we had made a major splash with fair-skinned mestizas before–think Miss Universe 1963 3rd runner-up Lalaine Bennett, Miss Universe 1973 Margie Moran (though my mom would never classify her as “classically pretty”), and Miss Universe 1994 finalist Charlene Gonzales. Perhaps it’s about time for a pretty mestiza to bring forth glory to our nation.
For those bashers who would continue to harp on Pia about her figure, well, Pia has ample time with her physical trainer to fine-tune her figure in time for Miss Universe, and if she still remains in “voluptuous” mode? Well, I think Janine Tugonon is only a Skype away as Pia can get priceless tips from her on how to make major impact with an imperfect figure during the swimsuit round. For the national costume, I would definitely prefer that Pia wears that white satin terno that she paraded during the official fashion show, as it’s a dreamy elegant confection that can be a great national costume contender. Now I know Madame Stella Araneta’s current concession to allow Filipino designers is currently only extended to national costume, but I hope with more consistent clamoring, we can finally convince the top brass that it’s about time we tap into top-notch Filipino designers for the crucial evening gown–they had already made a convincing case for themselves at the Miss World Philippines pageant in the past two years, remember. And based from the gown design, Pia can figure out if she’ll revive the twirls, dervishes, and Gucci flashes that seemed to be discouraged in this current decade (but we so miss that I feel it’s time for a comeback), or be ethereally elegant as she was back in 2014–the gown would speak to her and I’m confident that Pia will figure out what to do.
I’m reasonably optimistic that we will be able to regain some lost traction in the international pageant arena this year with this batch of winners. I’m so looking forward to seeing them in action as those international pageants are underway. I’m certain legions of pageant fans will be rooting for them along the way in their international forays. Congratulations to all the winners, and Godspeed as you embark on your journeys!