The Mister International pageant marked its 10th edition, and by that milestone itself it is an auspicious occasion. But amplifying the noteworthiness of this occasion was the quality of this year’s candidates–many of them prove to be breathtakingly exceptional, and may I dare say it, magnificent. The Philippine hosting committee led by PEPPS has its work cut out to deliver a pageant worthy of marking a major milestone and showcasing the 36 terrific candidates in the best light.
The opening number promised grandeur with backup dancers clad in various native Philippine costumes energetically setting the tone with lively, celebratory choreography and flag bearers proudly waving the flags of the 36 candidates. Though unlike in the previous national costume event at Ilocos Norte, many of the tribal-costumed candidates appeared without their elaborate headgear and props, they still looked majestic in their costumes. But then the choreographer made the decision to have these majestic men mimic the moves of the backup dancers, albeit in simplified format. And this was where things went awry–making these men move like those dancers resulted in a cringe-inducing hot mess–instead of a grand spectacle, the opening number devolved into a kindergarten recital.
I know the choreographer might blame the contestants themselves for this fiasco, but in my opinion, the blame is squarely on the choreographer–sure this is a pageant, but it doesn’t mean you make the men move like female beauty queens, with those arm waves and broad circular arm movements while making them sway from one side of the stage to another. Doesn’t the choreographer know how a real man moves? Sure we don’t expect them to be as skilled as the Jets & Sharks in West Side Story but at the very least make them strike ferocious poses (like hunching down instead of doing those arm movements as they move sideways onstage), or segregate by region and make them do masculine folk dances (and those in tribal costumes do tribal dances), or many other options. It’s such a waste that these men weren’t presented as grandly as they deserved.
At least the next segment following the opening number redeemed the proceedings somewhat–the 36 candidates were presented in a fashion show sporting formal wear designs by Francis Libiran. All 36 looked elegant and resplendent in Francis Libiran’s luxe suits, that it dawned on me that he could be the Philippines’ answer to Tom Ford. Both men are dashing, good looking gentlemen who are renowned for their luxurious and elegant fashions, both for menswear and women’s wear.
The rest of the evening was structured similarly to the current format of the Miss Universe pageant–a Top 15 would be called and they would parade in swimwear designed by Lemuel Roussos–this time in red and grey compared to the blue and yellow shorts they were clad in the preliminaries, press preview, and Raymond Saldaña official photos. They would then be pared down to the Top Ten who would then parade in formal wear of their own choosing, and from there a Final Five will be selected where they will be subjected to questions from the panel of judges.
The event was hosted by Ryan Tercero and Miss Earth-Air 2012 Stephany Stefanowitz. Both are generally competent performing their spiels, though they became infamous towards the end as they rattled off the list of sponsors and special thanks for a lengthy 10 minutes, which brought about an onstage incident which I will discuss in depth later. I suppose because of the absence of a broadcast partner (besides Rappler), PEPPS needed to compensate media mileage commitments by allowing them to be mentioned live onstage–but then again, wouldn’t a lingering video rundown suffice? Isn’t a video acknowledgement using the video walls onstage sufficient?
There was only one non-finalist who got special mention during finals night because he won a special award. He is…
MISTER CONGENIALITY: SINGAPORE – Edwin Aw. Most pundits and observers thought this award would go to Costa Rica (Richard Coronado), but I suppose there were just more guys who liked this fellow better. Anyway, I suppose the key talking point that helped him earn this award are his two huge arm tattoos–take note that many of this year’s candidates have tattoos, and Edwin’s tattoos are prominent and dare I say it, badass.
The Top 15 swimsuit competition is the probably one of the toughest to judge as all of the Top 15 are extremely fit with enviable physiques–it’s a matter of nitpicking the minutest details and perhaps weighing in terms of charismatic projection and (in one case) some other factors.
CHINA – Nan Li. If it weren’t that one guy advanced to the next round, this guy would not really hold up the rear. He has a good lean, sinewy frame, and does have appeal and charisma. In another year he would’ve been a Top Ten shoo-in, but well, this batch is just simply too spectacular that making this far is enough.
SWEDEN – Ivan Djelevic Virriat. I forgot that this guy has pedigree–his brother, Marko, competed in this pageant four years ago and became 4th runner-up. I initially thought he was drowned out by other stellar contenders out there, but then I learned of the pedigree and I realized his Raymond Saldaña photo was a stunner as I realized he has an edge with his perfectly rippled physique. That impressive physique was no doubt his ticket to making this hallowed cut. But, as solid as his stage projection skills are, there are simply more charismatic contenders out there.
MEXICO – Alejandro Ruiz. I knew he was an early favorite but buzz fizzled as the days wore on, but I’m glad not enough to knock him out of a Top 15 slot. His undeniable charm and appeal are still up there, but the judges (and most of the public) had their eyes on others.
LEBANON – Farid Matar. It’s no surprise to me that this guy made the final cut as he has all the elements worthy of belonging in the Top 15. In another year, he could’ve advanced further, but well, this is such an extraordinary group of guys that it’s simply too cutthroat for him to get further ahead.
SPAIN – Daniel Barreres. This was for me one of the biggest upsets of the night, and several in the audience were shocked when he didn’t advance. He has a bright smile and a luminous charisma onstage that it’s an outrage for me that he didn’t advance further. Sure the judges wanted to make room for a boyish cutie to go further, but doesn’t this tall drink of water also fill the “boyish”, “cutie” tag? It’s a big injustice, if you ask me.
(Francis Libiran formal wear images courtesy of Joy Arguil)
COMING UP: THE TOP TEN