Before I proceed to review the Top 15, I’ll have to salute one candidate who didn’t make the cut but garnered a special award. And she is…
BEST IN NATIONAL COSTUME: BINIBINING 3 – Angela Lauren Fernando. This medical doctor has the consolation of winning Best in National Costume for her intricately embroidered terno. I think part of the appeal was that it was in a different color–instead of white it’s a pale purple. I also noticed that she evokes Miss Universe 2013 3rd runner-up Ara Arida during finals night, albeit with a less buffed figure. At least she put up a good fight.
In previous editions, the two camps would have almost equal share of the Top 15, with one or two ladies from lesser-known camps sneaking through. This year, 13 came from one camp, Aces & Queens, with the remaining two from the main rival Kagandahang Flores. Was Aces & Queens’ dominance warranted?
BINIBINING 12 – Edjelyn Joy Gamboa. She was in my list and during the looks rounds she delivered the goods exerting an exotic spell in swimsuit and looking smashing in her burgundy satin gown. But I had to put her first as she was by far the weakest in the question-and-answer round. She was asked by youth representative Paolo Roxas this question: “One of Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach’s advocacy is to stop cyber bullying, how will you help her with this advocacy?”. Edjelyn’s response: “If I win Binibining Pilipinas tonight, of course I will have the crown and having a crown is influential and I will use my convincing aura of beauty to influence, especially the youth, that they shouldn’t let anyone makes inferior. That will be all. Thank you.” We have to also note she was the first called out so there might be an excuse that being called first contributed to a lot of nerves but still,it’s just glaringly weak. If she gets another go-round, hope she can master how to have presence of mind whether she’s called first, middle, or last.’
BINIBINING 5 – Riana Agatha Pangindian. I didn’t have a high regard for her as I found her features a bit plain, and the way she performed on finals night didn’t convince me she earned her spot in the Top 15. Okay, she has a trim enough figure, but what I found so unworthy was her gown, as it was basically a striped cocktail dress with fringes and sheer overlay to qualify as a gown. For me it was the worst gown of the night. Perhaps the only justification why she made the final cut was that she aced the closed-door pre-judging interview. I heard hints of her good communication skills when asked by Miss USA Olivia Jordan, “If you had the chance to ask our own Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach one question, what would that queation be?” RIana replied, “How does it to feel to compete in Miss Universe? I would like to get some advice from her; and more than that, I would like to ask about her advocacy and how she is confidently beautiful with a heart and bringing pride to our country.” Though she gave a good answer, I have to note it was delivered with nerves obviously apparent so it didn’t leave as strong an impression.
BINIBINING 9 – Roshiela Tobias. She was admittedly outside my radar, but she showed why she justifiably belonged in the Top 15 as she delivered a faultless, polished performance in both swimsuit and evening gown. One of the officers of Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI), Betsy Westendorp-Bria, asked her this: “Would you compromise your integrity and personal values just to win a crown? Why or why not?” Roshiela gave a decent response thusly: “I won’t compromise my integrity just to win the crown because I believe in what I stand for. I will just do my best to do what is right for I believe God always sees everything that we do.”
BINIBINING 4 – Kimberle Mae Penchon. She delivered on buzz as one of the semifinalists most likely, and this placement was 100% wholly justified. ABS-CBN’s COO for broadcast Cory Vidanes asked this timely question: “What kind of leaders do Filipinos need today?” Kimberle’s answered this way: “ For me the kind of leader that Filipinos need today is a parental leader — someone who is parent enough, someone who sympathize with the people, someone who encourage them to go forward and approach their goals.”
BINIBINING 16 – Vina Openiano, I was expecting two other candidates to win the Talent award, but her skillful belly-dancing was worthy enough to win. An added feather on her cap is that she also won Miss Congeniality. I always had a high regard for her ever since she competed in Miss World Philippines 2013, and with her bright, polished presence all throughout, I’m pleased she made the cut instead of being an upset shut-out like in that previous stint. She was asked by actor Ian Veneracion, “If men and women are equal, why do you think men ought to give their seats to women in public transports?” Vina answered this way: “I think because they’re gentlemen and being a man they should be gentle to each woman. And I believe that we are all connected. What you do can help us and what we do can help everyone.” It may not be presented as perfectly as I like, but she has a point that men behaving like gentlemen is the right thing to do, and though most straight men might disagree with the last sentence as it implies men’s importance is more limited compared to women’s, it’s still a justifiable stance to take.
BINIBINING 27 – Dindi Joy Pajares. I expected her to be one of the possible titleholders as her figure was buffed to perfection and she made a great impression in her Grecian-styled white evening gown. But I can concede she was overshadowed during finals night by somebody, that is why she didn’t get the Best in Swimsuit award as most fans and pundits anticipated (but my choice was not the one who won that award). So what prevented her from making it all the way to the royal court? She was asked by famous TV director Laurenti Diyogi another topical question: “in a few months we will have a new set of country leaders. what is your message to our next president?” Dindi’s answer was thus: “My message to our next president is to be a person of being competent (sic), a person who is transparent, and he or she should be someone with the desire to serve the people. I just want to tell him that, have a heart of a hero that is willing to fight for the sovereign dignity of our country.” It’s a good answer, but not really delivered with confidence and that was what probably cost her a title.
BINIBINING 22 – Apriel Smith. It is common in Filipino culture to regard darker complexions and any trace of African features as inferior. It took decades for people to begin appreciating those qualities, but vestiges of that bias still remained. This is the type of resistance Apriel has to face, but I’m gladdened she broke to the barrier, making her the darkest complexioned candidate and first candidate of African or Afro-American descent to make the final cut in this pageant. And this is highly justified has she has the polish and charisma to pull off the breakthrough–especially looking radiant in her canary yellow evening gown. Though I was rooting for her to make the royal court, I think she only missed it by just a tad. She was asked by actor Ian Veneracion this: “Women use make up to enhance their facial features, do you think it is appropriate for men to do the same?” Apriel took an honest stance thusly: “For me, I think it’s not, because if you do believe your physical attribute is beautiful then you wouldn’t do and put on any make up on your face. And if any woman would accept who you are and as you are, this includes the strength of a man and weaknesses to learn and to grow more.”
I’ll discuss the titleholders in-depth in the next section of my essay. The runners-up will be in this section. I have to note that most pageant fans and pundits didn’t expect the eventual runners-up to make it further than a semifinalist finish, but as you look at the quality of their answers below, their strong finishes were justified.
2ND RUNNER-UP: BINIBINING 37 – Jehza Mae Huelar. Xian, it’s pronounced the Spanish way, “Weh-lar”, not “Hue-lerr”. KC gave the correct pronunciation. Anyway, I’n glad this Atenean made the cut, and it’s justified as she was polished and sleek, especially in evening gown in her satin pine-green number. But she exceeded expectations in the question-and-answer round, as she delivered a succinctly witty response to the question asked by Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev, as follows: “How will you encourage a Filipino citizen, who is feeling hopeless, to cast his or her vote?” Her answer: “I would encourage the person who is hopeless by changing his mindset. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It might sound tautological at first , but if you reflect on it a bit more, it makes deep sense.
1ST RUNNER-UP: BINIBINING 38 – Angelica Alita. Pageant fans and pundits have been giving rising buzz about her going into the finals. Though in photos, her makeup seem to register too harshly for my taste, I think she garnered a lot of goodwill that she still made a great impression. And she nailed the question-and-answer round as Department of the INterior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Adrian Cristobal, Jr. posed this question to her: “What do you think is the most undervalued profession right now and why?” Angelica’s answer went like this: “I would say that the most undervalued profession right now is being a teacher because I believe that the teachers have a very big impact in the students right now — like they teach us every single thing we have to know whether it comes to social issues to physical things we have to fix; but they haven’t been appreciated much.” It’s a predictable answer, yes, but it is relevant and well compposed. With that, this lady earned a 1st runner-up finish, with a promise that she can eventually earn a title a few years down the line.
COMING UP: THE TITLEHOLDERS