MISS WORLD 2015 PHILIPPINES: CANDIDATE NO. 19 – Hillarie Danielle Parungao. From the first time I met her at the Press Presentation, I got the Megan Young vibes from her, especially with her demeanor and personality. And I’m not the only one who felt that vibe–several other people felt it, and reportedly, even one our our now most beloved and praised beauty queens had that vibe at first sight when she met Hillarie at the start of her training under Aces & Queens. Little did I know that the Megan Young parallelisms would continue to extend beyond that, from the stormy weather that greeted the pageant finals, to other things that I will discuss later.
Prior to the finals, most pageant fans and pundits (including myself) presumed the special awards would be almost evenly divided among Hillarie, Emma, and Mia. Though Emma and Mia ended up in a tie with the second most number of awards with three each, it was a shock as the awards announcement went on that Hillarie would end up with the lion’s share (with nine). She garnered five sponsor’s prizes from Zen Institute, Technomarine, Figlia, Solaire, and Phoenix Petroleum. Add to that her wins as Best in Fashion Runway, Best in Sports Challenge, Best in Swimsuit, and Best in Evening Gown. Fashion Runway and Evening Gown were actually expected, the swimsuit win was slightly surprising as several pageant fans and pundits were willing to concede that to Emma Tiglao, but the judges do like the vibrant presence Hillarie brought to that round that they gave it to her. What about Sports? Mia supporters noted that she is a Southeast Asian Games medalist, so how did Hillarie beat Mia there, they wondered? Well, I learned that the Sports challenge was structured closely to how the individual portions of the Sports challenge was actually conducted at Miss World–remember the first stage involve a series of endurance and aerobic exercises, then swimming and running. It turns out Hillarie has a lot of experience running and swimming, and she has been doing a lot of crossfit training on top of the fact that she is an experienced mountain climber (which requires endurance). A fencer’s skill set may not always fully match the exercises set for this challenge event as I doubt swimming is an integral part of a fencer’s regimen and endurance exercises are likewise not that emphasized (though they do matter).
For the semifinal Q&A, her question was “What is the significance of being a beauty queen in this society?” She gave this answer: “As a woman I uphold the value of compassion and I want to be a beauty queen because I want to share this compassion to others and this would lead to a greater society of love, of hope and a brighter future for everyone.” This answer is definitely in line with the charitable spirit that Miss World is looking for, and in my opinion she probably gave the best answer during this round (pipping ahead of Cassie Naidas). For the final round, she was asked by Fila Philippines executive Chris Albert this: “What is your life philosophy and why?” Hillarie slightly had an effort gathering her thoughts as she answered, “My life Philosophy always relies on compassion. I believe that compassion can open doors to many challenges in life. I also believe that in compassion, we get to understand other people, and in understanding other people we become a better society.” Norman felt after hearing the answers delivered by Mia and Cassie that Hillarie is vulnerable and her win is far from guaranteed. But I felt her status as the “chosen one” still remained steady even if Cassie and Mia gave arguably stronger answers, as even if she could be criticized for using the same theme (compassion) in both Q&A rounds, her answers were cohesivej, coherent and relevant to the questions asked. I think the only way she would not win is if her answer was in the same caliber as Emma Tiglao’s. Also, for the final round, the way she pauses for a second to gather her thoughts is reminiscent of how Megan Young gave her final answer and clinch the win in Bali, albeit Megan has a more “perfect” diction than Hillarie–which doesn’t matter at all outside of this country.
It’s interesting to note that she made history for the Cory Quirino franchise–she’s the first winner under this franchise to have parents both of Filipino descent–remember the four previous winners have foreign fathers. Yes, she does have foreign extractions in her bloodline, but the point here is that her parents were both born and raised in the Philippines and are Filipino citizens–any foreign extraction comes from generations above them.
also noticed parallelisms with how supporters of key rivals to Hillarie reacted to this result and how supporters of Janicel Lubina reacted to Megan’s win in the national finals two years ago. I noticed anger and vitriol hurled at the victor by these people, and derogatory comments denouncing them were all over social media. You could say their reactions are “stormy”, though of course there are far more supporters for the victor than the vocal detractors and whatever detractions are easily countered with messages of support and most detractors were easily neutralized.
I learned that the key reason why Hillarie was deadset in being part of this pageant was because she has a cause she has been involved in since 4th year of high school, a program to minimize infant mortality in rural communities, starting from her home province of Nueva Vizcaya. Indeed this pageant is an ideal platform for her to promote her cause and vocation.
I don’t know how she’ll stack up athletically compared to her fellow contestants at Miss World, but it seems Hillarie could be our best bet in landing a short list in the Sports challenge. I have a strong belief that her project would help her sustain the precedent set by Valerie Weigmann and Gwendoline Ruais and get shortlisted in that realm, too. For multimedia, she may bring a playful bubblyness as she engages her fans that hopefully she can earn good points from that round, and even with people’s objections toward her height, remember that in Top Model, Miss World also likes to shortlist a few “petite” contenders and she could be one of them. One of the aces up her sleeve is that she has the same body frame as Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman–if you see her walking on stage on her own, you would forget about her height as she has the proportions of a taller woman. For performing talent, I think as long as she auditions and tries her best, it will be enough.
I am aware of the possible obstacle that might be in place since the pageant is held in China, and we currently have tensions with that nation over territorial disputes. But I feel this plucky girl has the qualities to wear down resistance, and for me, as long as she makes the semifinals it will be mission accomplished in my book. For now, though, what I’ll say is a hearty congratulations to Hillarie and may the odds be ultimately in her favor in Sanya.