I got four of the six titleholders right.  It’s interesting to note that the two survivors of the Aces & Queens onslaught made quite an impression that they earned titles too.

BB. PILIPINAS – GLOBE:  BINIBINING 28 – Nichole Marie Manalo.  I have to hand it to Nichole that she was competing at the top of her game, as she’s way buffer than she was two years ago, and her red gown was sexy.  She also earned the Miss Cream Silk special award, making her the successor to the reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach as spokesperson for the hair conditioning brand.   It was a looming possibility that she might win the plum prize of following in Pia’s footsteps, but then came the question and answer round.  She was asked by diplomat Joseph Lani Bernardo,  “What is the toughest challenge a Filipina of your age faces nowadays?”  This is Nichole’s answer:  “For me, the toughest challenge a Filipina of today faces is to be courageous, determined, and resilient. But what I would advice to her is to continue to have that quality because when you have that quality you can always stand of what you believe in, to make things happen; and you can transform not just yourself, but the society into the best version of it.”  It seemed well-composed, but the thing is, she didn’t really answer the question–the question called for obstacles, not desirable qualities which she gave.  If I rank the quality of her answer compared to the others, I would actually yank her out of a title and put either of the two runners-up or perhaps Vina, Apriel, or Dindi in her place.  But still, of course you need to take her swimsuit and evening gown performance, and her pedigree into consideration, so being given this title is a justified result.  Interesting note:  I’ve noticed there is a seven-year cycle of titles for the Manalo sisters–Katherine for Miss World in 2002, then Bianca (who is shown on TV standing up while cheering and hollering for her sister) for Miss Universe in 2009, and now this sister seven years later.

Now that she got this title, can she bring forth a back-to-back win for Miss Globe after Ann Colis’s victory?  I don’t really expect she’ll achieve that, but we will celebrate when she achieves a semifinalist finish.

BB 28 finals

BB. PILIPINAS – GRAND INTERNATIONAL:  BINIBINING 11 – Nicole Cordoves.  Just like Yvethe Santiago two years ago, she won me over on finals night.  In fact there is a bit of parallelism as she sported flowy wavy locks parted in the middle like the way Yvethe was styled then.  Though she wasn’t a stage sensation like Yvethe, she was one of the strongest out there in both swimsuit and evening gown.  If you ask me, based on her response in the question-and-answer round, she deserves a plummier title than what she got.  She was asked by DILG Secretary Adrian Cristobal, “(I)f you could switch bodies with somebody for one day, who would it be and why?”  Nicole’s answer: “If I could switch bodies with somebody for one day, it would probably be our kind president because I’d like to know how he handled every decision he ever made. It must have been so hard, even though sometimes it is sometimes unpopular. I would like to know how he brought the Philippines from being the ‘Sick Man of Asia’ to the ‘Bright Spot of Asia’. I would like to think, how we get advice from our president.”  There might be some viewers who would disagree with the achievements of our incumbent president, but her answer is arguably the best composed and best delivered answer that evening.  But it’s clear that the judges had their big favorites and even if one of those favorites faltered, they couldn’t find room to elevate this lady to the higher echelons.

So how are our prospects for Miss Grand International, which is expected to be held in Las Vegas this October?  Can she top our best-ever 2nd runner-up finish* delivered by Parul Shah?  It is highly possible–just maintain her form and stage polish, and as long as she keeps her sharp presence of mind, she could be a title contender.

*  Parul was originally announced 3rd runner-up, equalling Annalie Forbes’s finish two years before, but the winner, Anea Garcia of the Dominican Republic, was dethroned and replaced with the 1st runner-up Claire Elizabeth Parker of Australia.

BB 11 finals

BB. PILIPINAS – SUPRANATIONAL:  BINIBINING 13 – Joanna Eden.  I only placed her in my “Bubbling Under” list, but I should’ve paid more attention to her, as I should’ve noticed that she was raised in Australia, and don’t we all love an Aussie accent?  She shone very well onstage, though I found her Best in Swimsuit win a bit surprising as I thought another lady deserved this title more (and no, my choice was not Dindi Joy Pajares).  To be honest, I thought she was on fire during the evening gown round, with her Jessica Rabbit-styled red satin evening gown, but the judges were more inclined to award a gown with a more dramatic styling and design.  Still I’m definitely fine that she placed this high.  She was asked by Danish Ambassador Jan Top Christensen this “very easy question”: “If you are to choose between having a multi-million business or a crown, what would you choose and why?”  Joanna delivered this simple, but well-delivered answer:  “This might sound cliche, but I really think I would choose to have the crown because with the crown comes, not the responsibility but the ability to inspire other people; and I really think if we start with each people we can hope better world.”

There is barely an opportunity for contestants in Miss Supranational to speak onstage but there is a preliminary interview component prior to the pageant finals, and Joanna can easily charm the judges over (yes, because of that lovely Australian accent).  She has proven she has the stage chops to make major impact in this pageant–just ramp it up a bit and she’s golden–and if all goes as planned, she can outdo the Top 20 showings delivered by Yvethe Santiago and Rogelie Catacutan and go further.

BB 13 finals

BB. PILIPINAS – INTERCONTINENTAL:  BINIBINING 26 – Jennifer Hammond.  Trimming her hair to a shoulder-length bob helped make her stand out in an almost universally long-haired pack.  She delivered the Riyo Mori Gucci Flash with her dramatically lacy fire-engine-red satin evening gown, that even if I didn’t think she delivered the best gown performance, her win in Best in Evening Gown was not that surprising.  She was asked by Belgian Ambassador Roland Van Remoortele:  “Winning one of the crowns tonight will make you your country’s Ambassador of Goodwill. What international problem or issue would you focus on and how would you address the problem?”  Jennifer gave this very timely and relevant answer:  “I would focus on terrorism because I think that is one of the major problems of the world right now; and I would encourage people to fight for their belief by kind words, by communication because I think communication begets understanding, and understanding begets tolerance, and tolerance begets peace.”

Can Jennifer give us our first win in Miss Intercontinental?  I have to say Christi Lynn McGarry is a very tough act to follow, and at this point I don’t think Jennifer has the awe-inspiring qualities that Christi possesses.  For me, it will be a moment of rejoicing if she sustains our Top Five streak in this pageant, and I think she can do that.

BB 26 finals

BB. PILIPINAS – INTERNATIONAL:  BINIBINING 31 – Kylie Versoza.  Little did I know that Kylie can deliver stage magic, especially if last year’s performance was any indication–she was a slightly timid, less polished presence then.  I was shocked at her transformation this year as Kylie was spellbinding.  During the swimsuit round her smizing eyes and her delicate poses created a seductive yet tantalizing mystique that was leagues ahead what everyone else delivered.  The heady spell continued in the evening gown round as she wore this gorgeous low-cut violet A-line gown designed by Francis Libiran that evoked an elegant fashion-forward Asian princess.  If you ask me she should’ve hogged the Best in Swimsuit and Best in Evening Gown awards.  But apparently the powers-that-be decided to spread the wealth a bit, though she still had the most special awards with three:  Miss Photogenic, She’s So Jag, and Manila Bulletin Reader’s Choice.

Miss USA Olivia Jordan asked Kylie a question that was similar to what was asked of her and Pia at Miss Universe: “Why do you deserve to win a Binibining Pilipinas crown tonight?”  Kylie answered:  “The person who deserves to win a Binibining Pilipinas crown tonight is the person who has worked hard for it and is willing to continue the legacy of the Philippines. She is confident with an attitude and a personality, and has a personality; and I believe I am her.”  If you ask me, she should’ve clinched the big Miss Universe Philippines title, but it seems the judges were favoring another lady despite the fact that she faltered in the question-and-answer round–more on her later…

BB 31 finals

Still, perhaps it is destiny that Kylie ended up with the Miss International assignment instead.  With her strong communication skills and the stage presence she delivered during this coronation night, she could bring forth our sixth Miss International crown.  She has ample time to prepare her cultural speech–all she and her trainers need to remember is that her speech must focus on the theme of helping others and not be focused on the self (which was Janicel Lubina’s tactical mistake that cost us a Top Five finish).

But the road will not be easy as we know of two superbly formidable obstacles to that path.  First, we have Jessica Duarte of Venezuela, whose beauty evokes Miss World 1999 1st runner-up Martina Thorogood and Miss World 2013 Megan Young.  We’ve witnessed three epic Philippines-vs-Venezuela showdowns during the past 11 years in this pageant* and so far the record is two-to-one in our favor, and we can stretch our advantage further with Kylie as there never had been a back-to-back victory in this pageant and we know how the Japanese powers-that-be like to stick to tradition.  If that was not enough, we also have to deal with Colombia’s Yudi Daniela Herrera–she evokes the vibe of two Venezuelan winners, her namesake Miss International 2006 Daniela di Giacomo and Miss Universe 2008 Dayana Mendoza.  But I’m confident that with a strong will, Kylie can counter those two intimidating contenders with the regal Asian princess spell she cast during the national pageant.  Whatever the case, this year’s Miss International looks to become very exciting with the presence of these three awesome ladies.

* The first showdown was in 2005, and Venezuela fielded a drop-dead gorgeous blonde contender with Andrea Gomez, but she was a bit too casual onstage that our own steady-and-consistent Precious Lara Quigaman clinched the win.  The second showdown was in 2013, where Venezuela fielded the sexily buffed Elian Herrera, who reportedly flubbed the pre-pageant cultural speech activity that she became a shocking non-finalist while our own Bea Rose Santiago became the winner.  The last epic showdown was last year between Best Dresser winner Janicel Lubina in our corner and Miss Perfect Body winner Edymar Martinez for Venezuela–Edymar won, of course.

Jessica Daniela
Kylie’s biggest obstacles: Venezuela’s Jessica Duarte (L) and Colombia’s Yudi Daniela Herrera (R)

MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES:  BINIBINING 29 – Maria Mika Maxine Medina.  With Kim Ross delos Santos disqualified, Maxine took over the mantle as Kylie’s co-front-runner.  This veteran model delivered on the hype onstage, though I quibble that her purple sequined evening gown was a bit too pageant-patty.  Anyway her status as a big favorite was sustained as reflected by her Bb. Philippine Airlines win.  But then came the question-and-answer round.  ABS-CBN COO for broadcast Cory Vidanes asked this: “(E)ven if her parents can afford to send her to school, a 15-yr-old girl wants to stop her studies. What would be your advice to her?”  Maxine’s response went like this:  “I would tell the little girl to study hard no matter what their parents would tell them because having an education is something that cannot have that anybody else. Education can make you even a better person. Thank you.”  It looks like Maxine misunderstood the question as “no matter what their parents would tell them” implies she interpreted the question as the parents preventing the girl from going to school when it’s actually the opposite.  There is nothing in her answer that would help motivate a girl to continue her studies even if that girl doesn’t feel like it, that is why I deemed her answer the second weakest of the Top 15.  I thought she deserved to be demoted if not outside the court, at least be granted a lesser title and Nicole Cordoves takes over, say, the International title and Kylie takes Miss Universe.  But, it’s fortunate that the weight of the question-and-answer round is such that she got away with it and still clinched the primo title.

Anyway, to Maxine’s credit, she was well-aware that her answer was sub-par, and according to Aces & Queens’ interview coach Nad Bronce, she wants to be trained more in interview.  That awareness of her own weakness and willingness to work on it could serve her well, and if she’s able to take it and apply what she would learn, she will go far.  I’m not expecting her to deliver the back-to-back that Venezuela had back in 2008-09, but I’m going to rejoice if she ends up in the Top Five, just like the Aces & Queens representatives before her.

BB 29 finals

It’s a bit inevitable that we’ll probably end up a few notches below the achievements of Batch 2015, but there are potential bright spots that we would celebrate as we follow the six titleholders in their respective international assignments.  Best of luck to all the winners!