This year’s Bb. Pilipinas pageant featured a slew of third-time veterans who were aiming for their final shot of glory as they vie for one of the titles, most particularly Miss Universe Philippines.  These highly regarded veterans include Toni Alyessa Hipolito (2008 semifinalist and 2010 candidate), Patricia Lae Ejercitado (2010 candidate and 2012 semifinalist), Hannah Ruth Sison (2013 candidate and 2014 2nd runner-up), and most especially Pia Wurtzbach (2013 1st runner-up and 2014 semifinalist).  Most pageant fans and pundits’ eyes were on Pia as in her two previous go-rounds she was regarded as a shoo-in to garner a title, only to see those prognostications (and her dreams) dashed–yes, she made the final cut in both go-rounds, but everyone (including myself) believed she deserved much better.  These ladies took a big gamble as there are only two available outcomes–a big reward with a title, or nothing (a runner-up or semifinalist finish is not going to be consolation enough).

Making the path to victory even more treacherous for those veterans were the appearance of some major first-timers, either with pedigree or with prior splashy experience in other national pageants.  Garnering the heaviest press prior to the finals was Teresita Ssen “Win-Wyn” Marquez, niece of Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez and daughter of actor-politicians Alma Moreno and Joey Marquez.  Then, there was Janicel Lubina, the dusky sexy bombshell who won Miss Bikini Philippines 2012 and was 1st runner-up at Miss World Philippines the following year (her obstacle to the crown?  The one and only eventual Miss World winner Megan Young).  Also making a major splash and looking in major contention for a title was Mutya ng Pilipinas 2010 titleholder Christi Lynn McGarry, who got to compete successfully at Miss Intercontinental (with a Top 15 finish and a continental queen award) as that pageant was originally under that franchise before Bb. Pilipinas acquired it last year.

Before we continue with the outcome of this exciting showdown, let’s get the discussion of the production aspects out of the way.  This year’s production seems to follow an urban-industrial them, featuring an assymetrical stage.  This theme is evident in the opening number, as the screens projected skycrapers (as the candidates strutted and danced fiercely to Little Mix’s “Salute”, and in the swimsuit competition as the candidates paraded with hunky male models dressed as wifebeater-and-denim-clad construction workers as the backdrop.  The evening gown competition is more of an upbeat pop tone that fits the urban theme, as the two sections of this segment featured pop/R&B songs sung live by pop/R&B-oriented male singers Jay-R (who covered Nico & Vinz’s “Am I Wrong”) and The Voice of the Philippines Season 2 winner Jason Dy (who covered Pharrell Williams’ “Come Get It Bae”).

Jay-R with the first half of candidates in evening gown
Jason Dy singing Pharrell’s “Come Get It Bae”

The main hosts were actor/model Xian Lim and actress/comedienne/presenter Toni Gonzaga.  Xian was his usual unobtrusive self–no major flubs on his end, but his presence isn’t really memorable.  Toni Gonzaga, on the other hand, was her usual fun and irreverent self–which generated a polarizing reaction among viewers.  I personally thought she was just being playful and amusing when she uttered her asides, like singing Sia’s “Chandelier” when talking to a semifinalist about her earrings, or making a pun on the name of one of the judges, Frederick Go.  It was similar to how Jerry Springer hosted the Miss World pageant back in 2000 and 2001, especially when he interviewed the Top 10 semifinalists.  But there were several who took serious offense and found her hosting style “disrespectful”, especially Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2000 Nina Ricci Alagao who ranted about Toni’s hosting in a now-famous Facebook post.  True, some people might have a point when they compare her hosting style to being in a local comedy bar, but we do need energy and levity to liven things up, just like during the interminable wait before the results were announced (of course TV winners wouldn’t experience this, because the pageant is telecast on a delayed basis, and the wait is edited out).

Hosts Xian Lim and Toni Gonzaga

Providing co-hosting duties and color commentary were three of our recent Miss Universe runners-up, Miss Universe 2010 4th runner-up Venus Raj, Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup-Lee, and Miss Universe 2013 3rd runner-up Ara Arida (where is Miss Universe 2012 1st runner-up Janine Tugonon, you might ask?  Well, she emigrated to the US and is pursuing a thus-far productive modeling career).  Venus and Shamcey were generally strong in their spiels, with Venus showcasing her vibrant charm and Shamcey being her cool, intelligent, competent self.  Many Filipino pageant netizens would criticize Ara’s diction, as her accent is very native like a huge majority of Filipinos trying to speak English–think the way YouTube vlogger (and Canadian Idol Season 1 finalist) Mikey Bustos speaks in his “Pinoy Tutorial” videos.  For many Filipino netizens, Ara’s accent sounded unsophisticated and less refined, but I think non-Filipino ears (including Fil-Canadian Mikey Bustos) will have a more tolerant opinion.

Color commentators/co-hosts Ara Arida, Venus Raj, and Shamcey Supsup-Lee

Before I review the Top 15 semifinalists and this year’s royal court, there are two candidates who garnered the consolation of winning special awards, namely:

MISS CONGENIALITY: BINIBINING 5 – Toni Alyessa Hipolito.  Her prettiness should have garnered her a ticket to the Top 15, but she fell short in the judges’ reckoning, and so she has to console herself with this special award.  THough she has competed in this pageant three times, she conceivably can still go for a fourth go-round as a final hurrah (though I don’t necessarily recommend it unless between now and next year she started to exude extra fiery drive and winning spark).

MISS PHOTOGENIC and MANILA BULLETIN’S READER’S CHOICE: BINIBINING 5 – Caneille Faith Santos.  It’s actually a great consolation for this lady as she was not one of the original candidates selected from the screening–she only came in after hearing-impaired candidate Christine Balaguer was forced to drop out for contractual conflicts.  I don’t quite agree with these wins for her as I find other girls more photogenic, and I presume she probably has a certain group of dedicated supporters who generated the votes for her win the text vote award.



Snapshot of the festive cheering crowd

It was a noisy fiesta at the Araneta Coliseum last night as I attended the Bb. Pilipinas coronation night.  Though the front seats were not fully occupied, the noise levels from the bleachers and upper box section more than made up for it as the energetic cheers were loud enough to stir up a 100,000-seater football stadium (the Araneta Coliseum can seat between 20,000-25,000).

I had a blast hobnobbing with old pageant colleagues and bumping into a former officemate and even an old college schoolmate.  The expected intermittent wait for the deliberations prior to the announcement of final results was made worthwhile as host Toni Gonzaga treated the audience by singing along to “Let It Go” from Frozen, Ariana Grande’s “Break Free”, and Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”, interspersed with sassy comments about the time.  Toni’s irreverent hosting style, as I later learned, turned out to be polarizing as it rubbed several people the wrong way, like a Facebook posting from Bb. Pilipinas – Universe 2000 Nina Ricci Alagao, for instance.  I’ll discuss more about the overall hosting when I post a full-fledged review of this pageant later this week.

I got 11 of the 15 semifinalists correct in my “Fearful” Forecast.  Three of those I didn’t get were in my “Bubbling Under” List, and the one I didn’t include in my predictions wasn’t really a head-scratcher after all, as even then I vacillated between including her in my “Bubbling Under” list or not.  But I have to salute Binibining 9 (Maolin Yalung) as she performed justifiably well considering originally got into the ranks as a replacement for a withdrawing candidate.

Binibining 9, Maolin Yalung

The Ruth Ocumarez Award is particularly a bitter, tragic award this time with the preponderance of repeaters this year.  In terms of hubris, I’ll have to give this award to Binibining 30 (Patricia Lae Ejercitado) as this is her last hurrah and it was her third attempt and it’s sad it ended with a shut-out.

Ruth Ocumarez Awardee Binibining 30, Patricia Lae Ejercitado

I have a sentimental choice who I’ll give first runner-up honors for the Ruth Ocumarez award who I thought based on sheer beauty and the length of time between her first attempt and this one deserved to make the cut.  She first competed in 2008 and made the semifinals, and then missed the final cut in 2010 and this year.  But at least she has the consolation of garnering the Miss Congeniality award, and conceivably she can still make one last go-round next year–Binibining 6 (Toni Alyessa Hipolito).

Ruth Ocumarez Awardee (1st runner-up); Binbining 6, Toni Alyessa hipolito

Of the seven members of the royal court, I got five out of seven correct, and among the titleholders, I got three out of five right.  Still, there are twists that left an unpleasant aftertaste.  First, despite a sterling performance, Binibining 28 (Hannah Ruth Sison) is shut out of the five titles at stake and had to settle with the consolation that she improved on her 2nd runner-up showing last year by finishing as 1st runner-up.  Second twist is that it seems the judges were not properly briefed that Binibining 19 (Christi Lynn McGarry) already previously competed at Miss Intercontinental five years ago (and finished in the Top 15 with a continental queen award to boot), and yet she was still awarded with this title.  I doubt that Detlief Tursies’ World Beauty Organization would permit a candidate to repeat joining the contest–most, if not all, major international pageants don’t allow repeaters.  What will they do with this dilemma?  Again, I’ll discuss this further in my full-fledged review.

It turns out the ladies most discussed/hyped about by pageant fans and pundits indeed ended up with the premiere titles of Universe and International, with Binibining 10 (Pia Wurtzbach) garnering the Miss Universe Philippines title and Binibining 11 (Janicel Lubina) garnering Binibining Pilipinas – International.   It’s a long overdue vindication for Pia, in my reckoning as in the previous two outings she ought to have already won a title but fate somehow shut out what was rightfully hers.  Fellow pageant blogger Joyce Ann Burton-Titular and I discussed about Janicel about an hour before the coronation proceedings began, and she gave an interesting insight regarding what could be done if Janicel bags that title–hint, something that helped policeman Neil Perez clinch the Mister International win last month.  I’ll discuss the possible strategies these two big winners could pursue in my full-fledged review.  Anyway, I’m in a rush of euphoria over the vindication victory of Pia, so a major congratulations to her, and to all the winners of this year’s pageant.



The 2015 court (from L-R): 2nd Runner-Up Bb. 8 (Kimverlyn Suiza), Bb. Pilipinas – Tourism Bb. 24 (Ann Colis), Bb. Pilipinas – Intercontinental Bb. 19 (Christi Lynn McGarry), Miss Universe Philippines Bb. 10 (Pia Wurtzbach), Bb. Pilipinas – International Bb. 11 (Janicel Lubina), Bb. Pilipinas – Supranational Bb. 25 (Rogelie Catacutan), and 1st Runner-Up Bb. 28 (Hannah Ruth Sison)



BINIBINING 18 – Crissa Marie Mendiola.  Her key advantage is that she’s the tallest candidate in this year’s batch.  But in other aspects, she falls short compared to other contenders out there.  U – 7, I – 6.5, S – 7, IC – 7.5, TQI – 6.5.

BINIBINING 19 – Christi Lynn McGarry.  If there is one who could usurp Pia’s dreams for the Universe title, it would most likely going to be this lady as arguably she is the best fit for the title amongst this year’s candidates.  She has the height, the dusky complexion, the outgoing personality, and the communication skills to make a major splash and probably even restore our Top Five standing there.  As a bonus, she already has international pageant experience as she won Mutya ng Pilipinas five years ago and actually made the Top 15 in Miss Intercontinental (with a Continental Queen title for Asia & Pacific to boot).  So she’s ineligible for the Intercontinental title since she already competed there, but prospects of her garnering a creamier prize is definitely within reach.  U – 10, I – 9.5, S – 9.5, TQI – 9.5.

BINIBINING 20 – Tanya Angelina Hyde.  Face-wise, she may not be much, but she has a buffed figure and she knows how to talk about matters of fitness especially since she’s a yoga instructor.  If there is not much weight on facial beauty she can make serious inroads.  U – 8.5, I – 7.5, S – 7.5, IC – 8.5, TQI – 7.

BINIBINING 21 – Alaiza Flor Malinao.  I think she’s reasonably attractive and exotic enough to appeal in the international arena.  There are pageant fans and pundits raving about her and rating her as having an inside track into the finals.  Me, I’m more rating her as a semifinalist contender, but then again, that’s what I thought about Ara Arida two years ago and look where she ended up.  U – 8.5, I – 8, S – 8.5, IC – 9, TQI – 8.

BINIBINING 22 – Anja-Vanessa Peter.  There are certain angles where she reminds me of Gwendoline Ruais when she competed in this pageant five years ago (before moving on the following year to become Miss World 2011 1st runner-up) albeit not as sharp and prominent as Gwen’s facial features could be..  Being half-German, she does have European pedigree like Gwendoline, but lacking her presence. U – 8, I – 8.5, S – 8, IC – 8.5, TQI – 8.5.

Gwendoline Ruais at Bb. Pilipinas 2010

BINIBINING 23 – Justine Beatrice Felizarta.  There is something about the features of this Vancouver-raised lady that I like that I regard her as a possible sleeper possibility for the finals.  Remember that Miss International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago has a similar background and attributes as this lady so she could be one to consider… U – 9, I – 9.5, S – 9, IC – 9, TQI – 9.5.

BINIBINING 24 – Ann Lorraine Colis.  There are a lot of pageant fans and pundits rallying around her corner, but oddly enough though I find her good looking, I don’t quite respond as well to her as much as say, the less-heralded Justine Felizarta.  Anyway, she’ll be someone I’ll also be watching out for.  U – 8.5, I – 8.5, S – 8.5, IC – 8.5, TQI – 8.5.

BINIBINING 25 – Rogelie Catacutan.  This well regarded Miss World Philippines 2011 semifinalist looks poised to be a possible usurper for one of the titles over some perceived favorites.  She has all the qualities to garner one of the titles, but there are other highly heralded bets in contention.  Will her turn come this time, or in another time?  U – 9, I – 9.5, S – 9, IC – 9, TQI – 9.5.

BINIBINING 26 – Anabel Christine Tia.  She seems more polished than when she competed int his pageant last year, but still it will be an uphill batle for her to make the final cut.  U – 7, S – 7, IC – 7, TQI – 7.

BINIBINING 27 – Ina Dominica Guerrero.  This Miss World Philippines 2014 semifinalist looks poised to make a similar showing in this pageant, as the same qualities that made her successful in that pageant–trim figure, strong stage presence, and appealingly exotic looks–are at play here.  U – 9, I – 8.5, S – 9.5, IC – 9.5, TQI – 8.5.

BINIBINING 28 – Hannah Ruth Sison.  What I’m noticing more and more about her is her gift of gab, and this could be a quality that could help her garner a title this time.  U – 9, S – 8.5, IC – 8.5, TQI – 8.5.

BINIBINING 29 – Nancy Lee Leonard.  She competed with Kimverlyn Suiza at Miss Philippines-Earth two years ago and garnered Miss Philippines – Water to Kimverlyn’s Miss Philippines-Air.  When Kimverlyn decided to compete at this pageant last year before relinquishing her title., this lady was then promoted to Kimverlyn’s position.  As much as Kimverlyn is owed a semifinal slot from last year’s shut-out, I have a feeling this lady will have a more successful shot at it than Kimverlyn this time around.  U – 8.5, I – 9, S – 9, IC – 8.5, TQI – 9.

BINIBINING 30 – Patricia Lae Ejercitado.  She is always a well regarded contender, having competed in this pageant in 2010 and 2012 (placing in the semifinals in the latter year) and at Miss World Philippines in 2013 (with a semifinals placement).  She is likely to again place in the semifinals, though it’s a challenge for her to garner a title as there are more highly heralded ones who are likely to clinch them.  U – 8.5, S – 9, IC – 9, TQI – 8.5.

BINIBINING 31 – Mia Allyson Howell.  She is one of those ladies who is not being buzzed about but I think she has the looks to be an underrated gem.  U – 8, I – 8, S – 8, IC – 8, TQI – 8.

BINIBINING 32 – Danita Joan Ruazol.  Her native features may be deemed beautiful in the real-world sense, and adequately attractive in the pageant sense, but she is also not garnering buzz so it’s an uphill battle for her to make the final cut.  U – 7, I – 7, S – 7, IC – 7, TQI – 7.

BINIBINING 33 – Namrata Neesha Murjani.  There are some flattering angles, but this lady doesn’t have the spark of, say, Bb. Pilipinas Tourism 2014 Parul Shah.  Still, she is a worthwhile candidate.  U – 7, I – 7, S – 7, IC – 7, TQI – 7.

BINIBINING 34 – Teresita Ssen “Win-Wyn” Marquez.  This lady possessed showbiz pedigree as she’s the daughter of actor-politicians Alma Moreno and Joey Marquez, making her the niece of Miss International 1979 Melanie Marquez.  With that kind of pedigree she is hyped to high heavens as one of the front-runners for one of the titles, most likely Miss International (just like her legendary aunt).  In the likely scenario that she wins the Miss International title, will she bring forth our sixth crown in that pageant?  One thing I have to note that unlike her statuesque aunt, she is officially declared as 5’6″ tall, generally on the short side in today’s pageant standards.  She does have the good looks and presence, and, well, a relatively short height did not deter Precious Lara Quigaman from winning 10 years ago.  But for her to duplicate Lara’s feat there are a particular set of circumstances that need to be met for that feat to be realized, and it’s far from guaranteed that those particular set of conditions would be repeated.  Still, she can restore our semifinals standing in that pageant.  U – 8.5, I – 9.5, S – 9, IC – 9, TQI – 9.

Now that all 34 candidates are accounted for here’s my “fearful” forecast on how it will all be played out:

TITLE-HOLDERS:  10, 11, 19,  28, 34


SEMIFINALISTS:  6, 17, 21, 23, 24, 27, 29, 30

BUBBLING UNDER:  3, 4, 8, 13, 14, 20, 22, 31

With this year being a battle of the seasoned veterans, I can see that some will savor and achieve much deserved vindication, while others will inevitably taste painfully bitter defeat.  I’m bracing myself for upsets in the offing.  There is going to be serious drama this coming coronation night, which could be exciting but could also generate outrage.  Let’s see what fate has behold on Sunday night.