The question and answer round often times provide fodder for ridicule, especially if a contestant seriously flubs his answer. Fortunately for this group, though some exhibited some nerves all gave answers that are at the very least decent, proving that these guys are clearly not himbos.
MISTER NO. 26: BOHOL PROVINCE – AR dela Serna. Admittedly I don’t totally get his appeal and why he’s rated highly by other pageant fans and pundits. His lanky and slender frame, lack of muscle definition, and those protruding ears just don’t scream “contender” to me, and his raw stage presence made me think he shouldn’t have advanced to the Top 15, much less the Top Ten, and that his admittedly cute face cannot overcome all those factors. I don’t really object to his winning Mister Photogenic, though, though probably I would’ve preferred it be handed to one of the Fil-Aussie trio. But the judges and powers that be liked him a lot that they rated him highly. He was asked to choose between smart and sexy, and he gave the “correct” answer, choosing smart as “intelligence is power” and how this is the best way to use God’s gift to us. Though I disagree with the choice of him making it this far (I would prefer John Outlaw or Nicholo Zacarias in his place), I respect the judges’ decision.
MISTER NO. 24: FIL. COMM. OF VICTORIA – Ari Kane. Among the handsome Fil-Aussie trio, this guy has the most “Filipino” features, and that could be the key how he edged out his other two “brothers” and made it this far. Making it this far is acceptable in my reckoning, as his handsomeness is undeniable. He was asked about what he can teach to the leaders of the future. He gave a decent answer about teaching them to better appreciate our environment, to preserve its quality, though he was slightly beset with nerves.
Throughout the pageant proceedings I was under the impression that the Fil-Aussie trio has a unified team of patrons and followers supporting all three of them. But I was surprised when I saw a posting by Rob McNamara’s kin on Norman’s timeline (since removed) that seems to throw shade at this guy. He revealed that in the pageant search back in Australia, Rob won, Daniel Polbrat was second, and this guy only won a special award but for some reason was given a wildcard slot to compete in this contest. As much as I understood his sentiments, it made me recall the plot of the 1993 drag queen road trip comedy To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, starring Wesley Snipes, John Lequizamo, and the late Patrick Swayze. In the opening of the film, Vida Boheme (Patrick Swayze) and Noxzeema Jackson (Wesley Snipes) were tied for first place in their local contest and were jointly given the right to compete in the big drag queen pageant in Los Angeles. Chi Chi Rodriguez (John Leguizamo) simply tagged along due to the generosity of Vida. At the ending of the movie, Chi Chi ended up as the winner. Though the outcome may not be to Rob’s kin’s liking, I think Ari’s more successful placement over the other two seems to be justified and I think Rob and Daniel themselves don’t really resent that, as far as I know.
MISTER NO. 16: STA. ROSA CITY – Karan Singhdole. With his lean and buffed physique and his experience at Bodyshots, there is no question that he delivers on stage presence, and hence was a Top Ten shoo-in from the get-go, with a shot of garnering a title. Though in most occasions he has proven he can handle himself well in interviews, nerves got to him when he was asked what men can learn from women. Again, the content of his answer was actually solid, as he talked about a woman’s caring and giving nature, but his nervous delivery may have cost him a title slot.
MISTER NO. 7: FIL. COMMUNITY OF GERMANY – Siegfried Schmidt (Bauer). As expected he got a fast-track in multi-media to make the final cut. He was clearly very solid all throughout finals night and gave the best he could until the very end. When asked about what makes for a good representative from our country, he gave a well articulated answer about being a man who takes the time and effort to present the best of himself and be a good example to others. With that answer I thought he would clinch a title, but it was surprising when he was shut out instead–perhaps his situation is the opposite of Karan, though he gave one of the strongest answers in this group, his looks are probably deemed not strong enough for the judges to be granted a title. Anyway, he has a great career as cabin crew for an international airline to fall back on so it’s still a win-win situation for him.
2ND RUNNER-UP — MISTER NO. 10: FIL. COMM. OF ITALY – Kevin Fichera. I have previously mentioned in my Homestretch review that I’m not really that into him, but I do understand how his boyish appeal can snag the hearts of many. So I have no objections regarding his high placement. It’s interesting to note that in the Q&A round, he used an Italian translator–though he could probably converse informally in basic English, his native tongue is really Italian. He was asked about how he would promote Philippine tourism to the world and he gave a decent-enough answer about the fact that he has visited this country five times thus far, and as of late (and with this pageant) he learned to appreciate the wonders we could offer and he will share that to the rest of the world.
1ST RUNNER-UP — MISTER NO. 30: CITY OF MANILA – Don McGyver Cochico. He has the biggest crowd of supporters during the finals, and to his credit, those enthusiastic cheers fueled him to deliver his best performance throughout the whole pageant proceedings. He was asked by the reigning Mister Model International Victor Zanatta, about the biggest challenge. He mentioned about the time being away from his family plus the fact that adapt to new situations and meeting new people. It was a confidently delivered answer that I initially assumed he seemed to be a lock for a title. But he ended up missing it by a bit. Some say the judges felt he still is a bit rawer and less experienced to handle the responsibilities required for the title that is why this is as high as he could get.
Before I proceed with the titleholders, let me give you a few cryptic hints about what I learned at the pageant finals that made me a bit concerned (but still hopeful) about the road ahead.
- What most would perceive as the “plum prize” may not be viewed as such by the candidates themselves. Well, there is the fact that the plum winner wouldn’t be traveling abroad as the international pageant will be held in these shores this year. But one of the key issues is, well, one should recall the messy logistics of the previous edition that led to frayed and severed relationships. Then again, I reflected that the most “established” male pageants also have their own share of struggles and messes–for various reasons, Manhunt International has not been staged for three years and counting, and arguably the most prestigious of them all, Mister World, has always been meant to be staged as an annual event, but has never managed to do so–there is always a skip of a year or two.
- It’s inevitable that with four titleholders to manage there will be a division of labor. The rub here is that I heard talk that some parties assigned to manage some of the title holders have a propensity to metaphorically employ an alliterative piece of furniture commonly associated with show business. Another hint that I can give is that because of that furniture, there is a possible scenario that makes me recall a Biblical story involving my namesake. A third hint is that the only time this kind of scenario can be considered acceptable is if the situation is exactly like that of a multiplatinum international megastar who is renowned for singing in more than one language.
MISTER TOURISM INTERNATIONAL PHILIPPINES — MISTER NO. 6: ILOILO CITY – Willan Pagayon. I know there are many pageant fans and pundits who rated him high because of his outgoing personality, buffed-enough physique, and polished persona honed by his previous pageant experience. I do respect that, but again, I’m just not that into his looks–he reminds me of a straight officemate of mine who some colleagues playfully wanted to pair up with me; I’m just not that into his looks although I play along at times by giving him hugs and squeezes. So, if only my officemate is taller, younger, and have a buffer bod, he can conceivably become a titleholder? For the Q&A he was asked who is the most important person in his life. He gave an obvious answer–his mother, and he salutes how she has made him become the person that he is right now. It’s a good and well-reasoned answer, though I was more impressed with Siegfried and Don’s answers. Still I respect the judges’ decision in rewarding this guy with the title. Now, he has the luxury of time to prepare as he will be competing in next year’s pageant (it’s still Judah Cohen’s turn this year). We’ll see how well he will fare compared to Judah’s footsteps.
MISTER MODEL INTERNATIONAL PHILIPPINES — MISTER NO. 15: BACOLOR, PAMPANGA – Arcel Yambing. He can be described as a “clutch” performer, delivering his best at the moment that counted the most. He was asked regarding what makes an ideal Mister for today. His answer took a fresh approach as he talked (in Tagalog) about etiquette and manners, besides the obvious qualities required like wits, personality and physical fitness. It was a strong answer in my reckoning that it wasn’t that much of a surprise that he garnered a title. Now the challenge for him is besides the frantic hustle to secure a US visa to travel to Miami, that he can channel his Asian features to stand out–I think he can study how America’s Next Top Model Cycle 22 Justin Kim does it…
MISTER GLOBAL PHILIPPINES — MISTER NO. 1: TACLOBAN CITY – Rick Kristoffer Palencia. If we based it on the flurry of special awards and short-lists that he garnered, many assumed that this guy will clinch the right to compete at Mister International. He does have the superb physique and his charisma is at much higher level than the rest. He was asked about which color best describes him (which references a much-parodied quote from Jeannie Mai at Miss Universe last January, about “yellow is the color of joy”). He gave a well-reasoned answer choosing the color blue, as blue is calming and he is the sort of person who likes to smooth things out whenever conflicts arise. You have to hand him that he was on all cylinders all throughout the pageant proceedings. So why was he only given the “2nd” highest title? I learned that the judges were concerned about his stature, that he’s relatively short compared to the expected international contenders. But then again, when the local franchise was with the other organization four years ago, they fielded a 5’8″ cutie named Fhrancis Oliver Lopez who made the Top 16, and one needs to note that on that same year, another 5’8″ hunky cutie from the Slovak Republic (Jakub Lorencovic) made it as far as Top Ten. Anyway, it’s still considered a plum title, and he has ample time to prepare before traveling to Thailand for his assignment, and he can do very well…
MISTER INTERNATIONAL PHILIPPINES — MISTER NO. 12: PAGBILAO, QUEZON – Reniel Villareal. This guy’s native handsomeness with that hint of Caucasian roots made some pageant fans and pundits recall the likes of handsome departed actors like Christopher Reeve and our very own Miguel Rodriguez, though to my eyes he channels a well-mannered version of Robin Padilla (who is still very much alive). He oozes undeniable movie-star charisma that its inevitable and expected that the judges rank him number one in terms of looks. He also delivered in the Q&A round, when asked by the reigning Mister Tourism International Andrio Falzon about when was the last time he cried, he gave a heartfelt response (in Tagalog) that it was a couple of weeks before when he said goodbye to his family so he can compete in this competition.
Sure, he won’t have the opportunity to travel out of the country (ironic considering he was an OFW), but he can make the most of the experience being the host representative of this year’s Mister International. He can sustain the streak began by Gil Wagas and a Top Five finish is conceivable and a very feasible target–but you readers know that I’ll already be content if any Philippine bet makes the semifinals. Whatever the outcome, this will be a good stepping stone if he chooses to pursue a career in showbiz.
After his win, I hung around with a good pageant friend of mine who happens to be his chief patron (and to some extent I can consider my patron, too, especially during my days being associated with Mabuhay Beauties) and from the plainspoken and polite manner when I hear him speak plus the way my friend describes him, an American stereotypical equivalent came to my mind: a Midwesterner with heartland values. And this makes me wonder if he will even like to dip his toes into Philippine showbiz because his values will clearly clash with the intrigues that are part and parcel of this industry–moreover, the aforementioned alliterative piece of furniture that I alluded to earlier is institutionalized in some key channels. My patron friend may not be active in showbiz anymore, but he has undeniable ties due to his family history–will he have the power to protect Rein if he decides to pursue a showbiz careeer? Rein has the makings of a star and has the aptitude for acting–the tricky part if he chooses this path is how to keep his integrity intact with all the intrigues that will inevitably come his way.
All in all, I salute PEPPS for a very successful staging of this national pageant. Now that they will be organizing this year’s Mister International, I hope they will apply the lessons learned from Manhunt International 1999 and ensure they can sustain the success. Also, I still believe in PEPPS’ potential, as with the environment of brotherhood they were able to foster among the 30 candidates, they have the capability of keeping relationships fair and professional. I do look forward to the day that Cory Quirino and company can tie up with them to search for our Mister World – Philippines, as they have the infrastructure and the right tools to select the best fit; all they need to do is add more grueling military exercises and athletic pursuits on top of what they already have and we would be all set for Mister World. Well, as long as they stay on the right path, PEPPS can become a beacon that can showcase the best that male pageantry can be.
All images courtesy of Joy Arguil unless otherwise indicated.