The year 2015 proved to be a bountiful year for Philippine pageantry as we regained momentum that was lost the previous year. One might argue if 2015 exceeded or merely approached the heady heights of 2013, but the track record is enviable: after gaining two new international pageant franchises with Grand International and Globe (the one that originated in Albania, not to be confused with the one that originated in Turkey) and making a major mark in those two arenas with a 3rd runner-up finish for Grand International and a win for Globe; a sustained Top 20 finish in Miss Supranational and a splashy Top 10 finish in Miss International (with a Best in Evening Gown award to boot); a record 1st runner-up finish in Miss Intercontinental; and of course finally achieving that elusive third Miss Universe crown with Pia Wurtzbach. It is with deliciously piquant irony that the winner of Miss Universe had roots in the legendary Gold batch of 2013–the awkward sole non-titleholder in the Bb. Pilipinas Gold court turned out to be the one to eventually win the most important crown of them all.
The achievements of the court of 2015 would definitely be a very tough act to follow, but we definitely had to go through the business of selecting the people who would follow those lofty footsteps. So far early in the process there was some drama with more than the usual share of casualties. First, after making an initial selection of 40 candidates, the Bb. Pilipinas screening committee decided to re-evaluate the candidates and were stricter in enforcing the minimum height requirement of 5’5″, and five previously confirmed candidates turned out to fall short, so to speak, and were replaced. You would think it would stop there, but just when supposedly the candidate roster was set in stone, two more candidates fell by the wayside and were disqualified and replaced, including one perceived front-running favorite to succeed Pia’s crown…
ORIGINAL BINIBINING 20 – Kim Ross Delos Santos. Filipino pageant fans and pundits were all agog and excited when this model decided to dip her heels into pageantry, as she got the model frame and stature to make waves internationally, like in Miss Universe. She was perceived to be guaranteed one of the titles (possibly the plum Miss Universe Philippines crown), but then someone spoiled it by sending an unpublished editorial modeling photo to the powers-that-be. How that mole obtained that photograph remains a mystery but the photograph in question would not be grounds for disqualification at all in Miss Universe. First, Kim is fully clothed. Second, yes the photo is sensual (what with a smoking hot male model in it) but is far from pornographic–it’s editorial, classy, and artistic to most people with reasonably modern values; she was held aloft several inches higher to avoid any suggestive impression–anyone who sees anything prurient with the photo has a severe case of a maliciously perverted imagination. Third, it wasn’t intended to be published until whoever the mole was decided to raise a firestorm (supposedly to advance a certain pedigreed candidate’s agenda and prospects). Because of this controversy, Kim Ross ends up with one of those tantalizing “what-if” stories.
ORIGINAL BINIBINING 1 – Janelle Olafson. Considering that back in 2009, another perceived front-runner, eventual Miss Earth-Air 2009 Sandra Seifert, was disqualified for having (very modest and fully covered) lingerie photos published in FHM, a few days after Kim Ross’s disqualification some pundits wondered why this lady was not immediately shafted on similar grounds as she has a lingerie photo published on said magazine (it was actually explicitly stated in this pageant’s rules that having such photos published in “men’s magazines” are verboten). Not only does she have a photo published in FHM, she also has a host of topless shots circulating around. Anyway, I suppose to be consistent with the rules, she likewise stepped down. She would’ve been otherwise a worthwhile candidate with her attractive features, her modern vibe, and her reportedly strong communication skills (since she’s half-American).
Now, let’s discuss the final roster of 40 candidates. Do they have what it takes to uphold the strong precedent set last year, or would it be like 2014 all over again? As in my previous homestretch reviews I will rate their likelihood of making the semifinals in the six international pageants at stake: U – Universe, I – International; S – Supranational; IC – Intercontinental; GI – Grand International; G – Globe.
BINIBINING 1 – Gail Ventic. Since she was brought in to replace Janelle Olafson, it would be thought that she is one of the weaker candidates. Actually, she’s a decent, worthwhile contender in my opinion, although I do agree that it will be a long shot for her to make the Top 15. U – 7; I – 6.5; S – 7; IC – 7; GI – 7; G – 7.
BINIBINING 2 – Alexandra Faith Garcia. This aspiring triathlete has a pretty face, a trim enough figure, and confident projection skills. Another worthwhile contender. U – 7.5; I – 7.5; S – 7.5; IC – 7.5; GI – 7.5; G – 7.5
BINIBINING 3 – Angela Lauren Fernando. Her standout qualities are her intelligence and background, as she’s a medical doctor (currently doing her internship at Makati Med). Could she parlay that and edge out the prettier contenders out there? Anyway, her elegant lace costume earned her a finalist slot for the Best in National Costume award. U – 7; I – 6.5; S – 6; IC – 6; GI – 6; G – 6.
BINIBINING 4 – Kimberle Mae Penchon. She withdrew last year because of a job opportunity. Now she’s back and seems to be on track of making the final cut. U – 8; I – 8; S – 8; IC – 8; GI – 8; G – 8
BINIBINING 5 – Riana Agatha Pangindian. She’s a worthwhile contender, albeit not making as big a splash as other contenders out there. U – 7; I – 7; S – 7; IC – 7; GI – 7; G – 7.
BINIBINING 6 – Candy del Castillo. See BINIBINING 5. U – 7; I – 7; S – 7; IC – 7; GI – 7; G – 7.
BINIBINING 7 – Angelique Celine de Leon. I liked her when she competed in 2014 and thought she could make the final cut though she ended up missing it. This time, she’s back roaring and looks to be in contention for one of the titles. She exudes an exotic sexiness that will work very well in the international arena. She seems to be a successor to MJ Lastimosa in terms of having an extremely devoted fanbase, and that devotion is warranted. U – 9.5; I – 9; S – 9.5; IC – 9.5; GI – 9.5; G – 10
BINIBINING 8 – Karen Ibasco. Just like Angela Lauren Fernando, intelligence and academic background are her main assets, being a medical physicist working in the oncology department at St. Luke’s Hospital on top of being a mathematics and physics teacher. Just like Angela, can she parlay those credentials to shut out more attractive contenders out there? U – 6.5; I – 6.5; S – 6; IC – 6; GI – 6; G – 6
BINIBINING 9 – Roshiela Tobias. She has attractive features and a slender frame that given the right breaks, can bring forth a modeling career. U – 7; I – 7; S – 7; IC – 7; GI – 7; G – 7
BINIBINING 10 – Jeslyn Santos. She is attractive enough, but it is going to be an uphill battle for her to make the Top 15. U – 7; I – 7; S – 7; IC – 7; GI – 7; G – 7
COMING UP: BINIBINING 11-20
Official swimsuit portraits by Raymond Saldaña, confirmation portraits, press presentation and national costume photos by Bruce Casanova, and glam shots by Owen Reyes, all for Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc. unless otherwise indicated.