The last time Miss World Philippines held the finals in Solaire, it was a very stormy night as Tropical Depression Maring unleashed heavy downpours.  That was two years ago in August and the winner was Megan Young, who went on to win Miss World 2013 more than a month later.  This year, same venue and guess what–there was a storm named Lando hovering over our shores–though it did not bring forth as heavy a downpour in Metro Manila, it brought some scary heavy winds with it.

Nevertheless, the pageant finals went ahead as scheduled.  The show opened to a mash-up of Beyonce’s “Who Run The World (Girls)” and Britney Spears / Iggy Azalea’s “Pretty Girls”, with the candidates grooving and striking fierce poses in canary, plum, and coral dresses.  The candidates then made their requisite live introductions and then danced a bit again.  It was generally simple, but still worthwhile to behold.

MWP 2015 opening
Nymphs in canary, plum, and coral: the Miss World Philippines candidates during the opening number (images courtesy of Rob Reyes for Rappler)

The hosts for the show were “eventologist” Tim Yap, GMA talent Iya Villania, and Miss World 2011 1st runner-up Gwendoline Ruais.  All did their jobs well, with Iya Villania providing an example of how to add flashes of sass without rubbing audiences the wrong way the way Toni Gonzaga did at Binibining Pilipinas earlier this year.  Sure, she doesn’t generate the guffaws that Toni did but a few of her quips do manage to earn a few small chuckles.

Hosts Gwendoline Ruais, Tim Yap, and Iya Villania. (Image courtesy of Rob Reyes for Rappler)

The format of Miss World Philippines and Binibining Pilipinas share similarities in terms of both pageants present all candidates in two rounds–the first in swimsuit and the second in evening wear.  For this edition, the swimsuit round featured candidates parading in one-piece swimsuits (instead of the usual bikinis that is usually the norm in this decade) designed by Rocky Gathercole.  They are generally bright and colorful, though some color combos might be unflattering to some.  Before they paraded individually, they also appeared en masse sporting poufy white skirts–they are actually quite cute.  The evening gown round was again a showcase for local designers–this year’s theme was Hollywood glamour, and just like in the opening number, the candidates follow a color scheme according to their number:  Candidates 1-8 sported sophisticated black, Candidates 9-17 in fiery red, and Candidates 18-26 in pale pink/nude colors.

The beginning of the swimwear round
The evening gown segment

The twist was after they call out the Top 13.  In previous editions, the semifinalists would be subject to the judges’ questions, and when they are whittled down to the Top Five, they would basically deliver a speech on why they are the best choice for the title.  This year, the first set of Q&As was “select-the-questions-from-a-bowl” and for the Top Five, it was the judges’ questions.  This subtle change slightly threw off the candidates a bit, but for most part, they manage to compose themselves and prepare for the new format.

Before I proceed to discuss the Top 13 semifinalists, I’ll pay tribute to one non-finalist who at least garnered a special award (albeit in  a three-way tie):

CANDIDATE NO. 13 – Avonlea Paraiso.  At least her harp playing gave her a moment in the spotlight as she garnered the talent prize.  I have previously noted she’s also the recipient of the Ruth Ocumarez award for this pageant.





The Miss World 2015 Philippines stage

It’s interesting that on the date that the Miss World 2015 Philippines finals was scheduled, Typhoon Lando (international code name Koppu) made landfall in Aurora Province and begun its slow but devastating trek across Northern Luzon.  Metro Manila was affected with heavy winds and intermittent downpours throughout the day.  With such foul weather, my parents admonished me not to push through with my plans to attend the coronation night, just be content to stay home to watch the proceeding on late night TV.  Besides, they argued, I just came out of being awake for 22 continuous hours without any sleep the previous day–besides my night-shift work, I finished my Homestretch review for this pageant, then be with my officemates as we enjoyed a feast at Todd English Food Hall in SM Aura, then going to Citibank in Makati to pay my credit card bills, and finally having my bi-monthly appointment with my endocrinologist.

Despite those concerns, I felt I was well-rested enough, and took brief naps that Sunday afternoon to gather my energy for the long night ahead.  I did not hear the sounds of downpour during that afternoon, so I thought the coast is clear enough for me to proceed.  So at 5 PM, I got myself ready and observed it was no longer raining so I proceeded to take a cab from my home to Solaire.  Although even inside a closed air-conditioned taxicab, we observed the strong wind, but somehow I didn’t feel that worried as I was hopeful that when the pageant ends the weather would improve somehow.  Anyway, when I was finally inside of Solaire, I’m not even aware at all of the weather outside, and I had a blast hobnobbing with friends and acquaintances, old and new.

Now let me talk about the results of the pageant.  First, most of us pageant fans and pundits presumed there will be a Top 12 but instead it turned out to be a Top 13.  I got 10 out of 13 correct, which I’m very satisfied with.  Two of them were in my “Bubbling Under” list, and the one I totally missed out on was Candidate No. 2 (Jannie Loudette Alipo-on).  To her credit, though she was a polished presence all throughout the finals so I don’t begrudge her placement or consider it a headscratcher–just a worthwhile surprise.

Surprise semifinalist: Jannie Loudette Alipo-on

The winner of the Ruth Ocumarez award for this pageant is Candidate No. 13 (Avonlea Paraiso).  She seems to be unable to fully capitalize on her Gwen Ruais-meets-Karla Henry vibe to make the final cut, though she at least had the consolation of wining the Talent award (sharing it with two others).

Ruth Ocumarez Award: Avonlea Paraiso (photo by Rob Reyes for Rappler)

Though the pageant itself is actually well-paced and straightforward, there were a few long lulls in between the sequences, such as a 30-minute break in between the swimsuit competition and evening gown competition, and a 15-minute break between the Top Five final question and the farewell walk of the outgoing queen and the announcement of the results.  For the longer breaks, they employed some eye-candy (who provided to younger generations ear-candy) with the cutie Tyson Kraft DJ’ing some dance tunes (and adding a few beats of his own by waving his lighted electronic drumsticks in the air) to make the lull more tolerable.  For shorter lulls, hosts Iya Villania and Tim Yap were pretty good in engaging the audience.  Iya had a few amusing quips here and there–not as saucy as Toni Gonzaga’s controversial hosting stint at Bb. Pilipinas, but still has a touch of playful sass.

DJ Tyson Kraft
Hosts Tim Yap and Iya Villania (photo courtesy of Rob Reyes for Rappler)

I learned that the TV broadcast edited out a full sequence onstage–the announcement of the special awards.  On TV, it was just shortened to a static list of winners.  But there was a full-fledged announcement onstage with the special award winners posing with sponsors and such.  As Candidate No. 19 (Hillarie Danielle Parungao) began sweeping most of the awards, Iya attempted to count the number of awards won, until at the end Tim Yap quipped that all those sashes she earned can be transformed into a new evening gown.

Enroute to sweeping the special awards: Hillarie Danielle Parungao (Image courtesy of Rob Reyes for Rappler)

I intend to post a full-fledged review on this pageant soon.  In general I do say that the results are fully justified and the best girl won, even if I know there are significant factions of local pageant fans who would beg to differ.  This can be reflected on the subtle signs when you look at the pictures of the royal court.

The royal court: 3rd Princess Vanessa Wright, 1st Princess Marita Cassandra Naidas, Miss World Philippines Hillarie Danielle Parungao, 2nd Princess Mia Allyson Howell, and 4th Princess Emma Tiglao

My evening left me with a great feeling of gratitude.  First, I get to hang around longer with my esteemed fellow blogging colleague Norman Tinio, and through him I got to meet my sentimental favorite at Misters 2015, JE “John Outlaw” Adajar again.  There were some missed opportunities as I had to conserve battery power on my cellphone as the wire of my portable charger wore out, so I missed taking a selfie with John Outlaw.  Another missed opportunity was the chance to pose with the beloved Miss World 2013 Megan Young and another celebrity judge, Venezuelan telenovela star Fernando Carrillo (best known for playing Fernando Jose in Thalia’s 1999 telenovela Rosalinda).  Some got to have pictures of both of them together.  Darn if they weren’t whisked away.

After the coronation, I decided to help out my friend Lex Librea, who had some duties to perform behind-the-scenes of this pageant (like picking up and handing the coronation bouquets back to the winners, etc.).  Thanks to him, I got to attend the coronation party. Though we noticed the hints of disappointment in the faces of two of the runners-up after the announcement of results, little did I know that it would extend to their conspicuous absence at the coronation party.

It was around 2:30 AM when the party ended.  Lex planned to meet up with other friends and it turns out many of them are hanging out at the outgoing queen, Valerie Weigmann’s hotel suite.  It turns out the winds were strong and the rain was pouring hard at that time so I decided to come along, and I had a blast hanging out with them, discussing and dissecting the results.    From what we discussed it dawned on me that a paradigm shift is needed for some parties if they want to truly shine.  I have to say thank you to Valerie Weigmann and Bodie Pulido for providing us with a safe shelter from the storm, so to speak.

Shelter from the storm: hanging out in Valerie’s suite (image courtesy of Bodie Pulido)

Early in the morning, we got to meet with Hillarie’s mom and discuss plans to prepare her for the main event in Sanya.  To all the readers, what I can say is watch out for her introduction and Beauty with a Purpose videos in the coming weeks because they promise to be exciting treats.  Hillarie is on track to make our country proud at Miss World 2015.  Congratulations again, and may everything work in your favor!




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

Left: Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup-Lee; Right: Miss World 2013 Megan Young

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.