CANDIDATE NO. 14 – Maria Cassandra Naidas. Her statuesque 5’11” stature could not be missed. But she’s now harnessing a charisma that she was not quite able to muster during her stint at Binibining P8ilipinas two years ago. She seems very much on track to make the Top Five, perhaps if Emma, Hillarie, and Mia faltered anywhere during finals night, she can seize and usurp the crown from them. RATING: 9.25.
CANDIDATE NO. 15 – Erika Mari de Castro. There is something about her face that reminds me of former So You Think You Can Dance judge Mary Murphy (she of the ballroom chops, the hysterical screaming and the “Hot Tamale Train”). She is attractive, but I feel she is facing an uphill battle to make the final cut. RATING: 7.5
Mary Murphy (image courtesy of Deadline.com)
CANDIDATE NO. 16 – Erica Rose Bayani. She does have attractive native features, but in relation to the contenders in this group, she is also likewise going to face an uphill battle making that much needed standout impression. It’s interesting that during the Press Presentation it was announced she has a 28-inch waistline, though I thought she looked trimmer than some of the heftier looking candidates out there. RATING: 7.5
CANDIDATE NO. 17 – Jessica Rose McEwen. I thought she made a great impression during the Press Presentation, and she looks like a worthy choice of belonging in the semifinals, and possibly making all the Top Five. RATING: 8.75.
CANDIDATE NO. 18 – Leitz Camyll Ang. Her features and vibe seem to work better if she competes in, say, Binibining Pilipinas. Here, she’s a worthwhile contender who may face resistance with the bevy of Eurasian possibilities out there. RATING: 8.
CANDIDATE NO. 19 – Hillarie Danielle Parungao. This lady is the only one with prior international pageant experience, finishing 3rd runner-up in last year’s Miss Asia Pacific World held in Korea (some pundits felt she should have been the winner and that there were some “machinations” at play preventing her win). Her features that are a blend of highly esteemed pageant achievers Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup and Miss World 2013 Megan Young are clearly nothing to sneeze at, and she also has an edge with her Beauty with a Purpose project, involved in a program preventing child mortality in the provinces. Sure she didn’t win the Miss World – Ilocos Norte title, a title (and its similar provincial ilk in previous editions) for the past two years seems to be the predictor of the overall winner, and there are concerns about her being r on the shorter side, but remember that in 2012 the provincial winner didn’t win the finals, and that highly esteemed Indian winners Aishwarya Rai (1994) and Priyanka Chopra (2000) were also of similar height. RATING: 9.75
CANDIDATE NO. 20 – Mariah Nilo. She has a slender figure and she does have attractive native features. But the most it seems that she’ll end up with is being regarded as a worthwhile contender. RATING: 8.
CANDIDATE NO. 21 – Mia Allyson Howell. What’s not going well for her is that her figure seems thicker than what we expect in a beauty queen. However, she has the great looks, the gift of gab, and the intelligence to wear down objections to the point that she also won the Miss World – Ilocos Norte title, The no-swimsuit directive by Julia Morley would definitely work in her favor, that she can indeed be an excellent fit for the title. From a two-way race, it is emerging as a three-way race with this development. RATING: 9.25.
CANDIDATE NO. 22 – Vianca Louise Marcelo. She is generating some strong positive notices, that she looks like she has an inside track to make the final cut. RATING: 8.5.
CANDIDATE NO. 23 – Janette Roanne Sturm. Yes, she has a Eurasian heritage, and she does have some appeal. It may be a bit of an uphill climb for her to make the final cut, but it’s still within reach. RATING: 8.
CANDIDATE NO. 24 – Jeddahliz Maltezo. I don’t like the unruly hair extensions she sported during the Press Presentation, but she undeniably has the looks and the figure to make major impact, possibly even going far into the Top Five. RATING: 8.75.
CANDIDATE NO. 25 – Casey Anne Austria. There are some angles that look flattering on her and others that are not. But being a radio DJ with an interesting Facebook nickname (“Kettle Corn”), her gift of gab and confidence may give her a ticket to the semifinals. RATING: 8.
CANDIDATE NO. 26 – Grapes Pacara. In real-world terms, she would be considered highly appealing, but in this stratified level, the most standout thing about her is only her name. RATING: 7.
Now that all 26 candidates are accounted for, here is my “fearful” forecast:
TOP FIVE: 12, 13, 14, 19, 21
TOP !2: 1, 5, 7, 9, 17, 22, 24
BUBBLING UNDER: 4, 6, 8, 10, 20, 25.
Unlike in two previous editions where there is an obvious runaway winner in the batch, this year proves to be a closely fought contest, with three currently emerging in front: Emma and Mia on one side, and Hillarie on the other, with Cassie as a possible usurper. It will make for an exciting pageant and it promises to be a nailbiter between two prominent pageant camps. Whatever the case, I wish all the candidates the best, and hope for a great decision in the end.