Now, it’s time for me to discuss the winner of this pageant and evaluate if it was a well-earned victory.

MISS WORLD PHILIPPINES 2016:  CANDIDATE NO. 13 – Catriona Elisa Gray.  If you speak to an Irish person, they would declare that “Catriona” should be pronounced exactly as the way you pronounce “Katrina”.  And there is an active celebrity who pronounces it as such, Outlander star Catriona Balfe.  But we have to forgive this lady for pronouncing her own name the “wrong” way, with the “o” as an additional syllable, as one have to note that her father is Australian (though perhaps of Irish extraction), and one must understand that Australians and Filipinos are not familiar at all with those peculiar Irish spellings, so it’s obvious they will constantly mispronounce her lovely name.

Anyway, from the time she signed up to prepare for this pageant, many fans and pundits have declared that she’s a lock to win the right to represent our country at Miss World in December.  With her statuesque 5’10” height and her features that at several angles resemble the beloved Miss World 2013 Megan Young, it indeed looked to be a total cinch.  But unlike when Megan competed in her national pageant, this model/singer dominated the lion’s share of the special awards. leaving very little room for the others (turns out only Sandra Lemonon) to win something.  Her status as a favorite was very obvious, but is it overkill?

Well, let’s face it–you can’t miss her from the crowd of 24 contenders as she towers over them, and possesses the prettiest face of them all.  But on top of all that, she exuded such a regal, serene, and elegant presence onstage both in swimsuit and evening gown that clearly no one else can quite compare.  Admittedly her wine-colored satin gown was a very simple construction, and Nick Verreos found it a bit “mumsy” (and objected the use of nude-colored heels underneath the gown), but Catriona elevated this number with her refined catwalk and sublime stage presence.

So one might assume–she can’t have it all can’t she?  Well, turns out not only she delivers on the looks and stage presence, she delivered the best answer in the Top 12 Q&A round, and the best speech in the Final Five.  For the Top 12 Q&A, she was asked “When you get up in the morning and look in the mirror, what do you see?”  She gave this well-composed answer: “I see someone who is constantly trying to be better.  I always endure to be always better than the day before, to do things that challenge me, to do things outside the box.  And something fulfilling that I have found is when I look in the mirror I want to see someone who gives back to the community, and that is someone who I achieve to be every single day.”  Her Final Five speech is a picture of poetic eloquence–I guess it’s the Irish-Australian in her that brought this out:  “To be a Miss World is to be passed a torch that burns with passion and purpose. If I am to become MIss World Philippines, I will dedicate my voice and essence to carry that torch and to set charitable causes alight, such as my personal advocacy, the Paraiso Bright Beginnings Project. And I would focus on passing on this torch to empower others because I believe together there is no darkness in this world that our light cannot overcome.”


Assuming that this pageant will employ the challenge points system they have implemented since 2011, Catriona will have the Top Model, Multimedia, and Beauty with the Purpose down pat.  But she also won the talent award in this contest–how does it hold up to what typically would be a relatively high caliber of talent?  Turns out, she’s one of our strongest talent contenders since Quenerich Rehman’s beatboxing feat four years ago.  It turns out her singing voice has this rich, distinctive mezzo-soprano-to-alto tone that works well covering songs by Adele (like “When We Were Young” from 25, as shown as this was her performance piece in the talent competition) or Rihanna’s ballad “Stay”, or Patti Smith’s classic Bruce Springsteen-written song “Because the Night” (though most later generations would think of this as a 10,000 Maniacs song), or repertoire from the late Eva Cassidy (particularly her cover of Sting’s “Fields of Gold”).  Noticing that her speaking voice sounds higher than her singing voice, I have a feeling if she challenges herself further, she can probably also do Sia.  I foresee her being shortlisted in talent and highlighted in their traditional talent show.

A final observation is that unlike in previous editions, after the coronation, we observed how the contestants spontaneously went into a group hug congratulating the victors.  It was a welcome sight as it showed there was genuine camaraderie that developed among the candidates.  I suppose it probably was a good thing that a certain camp was absent, as their presence (and focus solely on competitive winning instead of holistic aspects) may have ruined the spirit of sisterhood that this pageant aimed to espouse.  I’m looking forward to see how this will all unfold in Washington D.C. in December.  All the best for Catriona!





Cory Quirino raved that this year’s candidates are an intelligent bunch.  For most part, the Top 12 did deliver well-thought out answers to the questions asked of them (selected randomly from a fishbowl for the Top 12 round).

CANDIDATE NO. 10 – Kristine Gaile Lopez.  Well, some pageant fans wait with bated breath for someone to fail in the Q&A and this was the lady who delivered on the fail.  This otherwise good-looking lady was asked “What advice would you give to a victim of cyber-bullying?”  She spent about 29 of the 30 seconds allotted to her to gather her thoughts and all she could come up with is “Love your mother.”  Not sure if that would work but indeed getting the support of loved ones like your mother can help you overcome such attacks.  Such a shame the nerves got to her…


CANDIDATE NO. 2 – Sheena Mae Zaldivar.  I didn’t really expect her to advance to the Top 12 as I was expecting somebody like Candidates 11, 16 or 19 to advance in her stead.  Her response in the Q&A did not fully convince me she deserve to outrank any of them and I would’ve ranked her dead last in the Top 12 if it weren’t for the major choke experienced by Candidate No. 10.  Her question was “What is the biggest influence that social media has on the youth”.  Her answer was rather trite and pageant-patty, talking about how it makes the youth “think wisely” and then she linked this pageant and “Beauty with a Purpose” and how this pageant is beyond being a beauty queen but also having a purpose.  Its content is good, to her credit, but somehow doesn’t ring true.


CANDIDATE NO. 24 – Yuri Caunca.  She’s also a surprise advancer to many pageant fans and pundits, but she’s reasonably attractive and gave a decent answer in the Q&A.  Her question was “How does joining Miss World Philippines change you as a woman?”  Her answer was honest and direct, mentioning how the pageant boosted her confidence and self-esteem and how inspiring people means a lot to her.


CANDIDATE NO. 23 – Ralph Lauren Asuncion.  Among the 24 evening gowns on parade, I found the gown worn by this lady as the closest thing to a fashion disaster.  Still, I suppose because of her good looks, she’s able to pull it off to a certain extent and advance into the Top 12.  She was asked “What did you give up in order to participate in Miss World Philippines?”  Her answer was all over the place, as she misunderstood the word “did” with the word “will”, so she talks about giving up her pride, and in doing so she will serve Miss World Philippines to help dedicate her advocacy for the fishermen.   Well, come to think of it, it does make some sense, but I didn’t think she was able to link those ideas as effectively as it could’ve.


CANDIDATE NO. 12 – Arah Salientes.  I find her looks a bit too strong that I’m not that into her and would’ve wanted Candidates 11, 16 or 19 in her place, and though Nick Verreos was impressed with her purple satin gown, I was not quite that impressed.  Still, she has an inspirational human interest angle to draw from when she was asked, “What is the biggest challenge a beauty queen faces in this day and age?” Her answer draws from the fact that she was overweight at 150 pounds then trimmed down to a pageant-friendly 115 pounds, and reduced her waistline from 27 to 25 inches, and she capped it with the saying “nothing is possible, only I am possible.”  Her great answer helped her outrank some prettier ladies.


CANDIDATE NO. 7 – Sarah Margarette Pacis.  She’s one of the better looking ladies in this batch, and she has a poised, confident manner of speaking.  Her question was “In this day and age of modern technology, what was the one thing you would want to make our lives easier.”  I graded her high initially because of her poised response (especially since she was first to be called), but her answer about “using it wisely” upon further review didn’t quite address the question–unless she might be referring to having materials readily available on how to properly use our technology wisely, and her answer would make sense.  Still, her good looks and poised demeanor made her close to knocking on the Top Five’s door.


CANDIDATE NO. 4 – Alyanna Cagandahan.  She’s a great looking contender and I thought she’s a cinch for the Top Five, despite the busy, lacy pink gown she sported.  Her question was “If you were given a chance to acquire a superhuman ability, what would it be and why?”  She confidently answered about having “the ability to provide everything that I want” so that she can then give to the poor and needy so we can build a better society that will help each other and love one another.  When I heard it first live, I was so impressed that I thought she gave the second most brilliant answer behind the winner and was shocked why Marah Muñoz advanced instead of her.  But upon further reflection, I can see why some judges may not really like her answer, as despite good intentions it might promote materialism and mendicancy.  Still, there is merit to the content of her answer, and I have a feeling she missed the Top Five by only very little.


In general the ladies who made the Final Five possess fully justifiable qualities to belong there.  Without further ado, let’s start with…

FOURTH PRINCESS:  CANDIDATE NO. 8 – Sandra Lemonon.  Since she got all the other special awards that the eventual winner didn’t get like Miss Friendship and Miss Photogenic, it’s a bit of a shock to find her ranked fifth instead of higher.  For the Top 12 Q&A she was asked to choose which charitable institution to support, either an organization that takes care of the elderly or an orphanage supporting abandoned children.  She cited the latter especially since it’s her current advocacy (particularly Tahanan ng Pagmamahal [House of Love]).  For her final speech, she said, “I will give my heart and try to do my best to help other people. That is Miss World is all about, Beauty with a Purpose.”  I think the fact that she didn’t elaborate that much on her final speech and the lack of confidence in her delivery may have been the reasons why she ended up fifth instead of a higher position.


THIRD PRINCESS:  CANDIDATE NO. 21 – Marah Muñoz.  I now appreciate her good looks and realize this might have been the ticket that allowed her to outrank Sandra Lemonon in the end, and how she advanced ahead of Candidate No. 4 (Alyanna Cagandahan), even if arguably she gave weaker answers than either of them in the final round and the Top 12 rounds respectively.  We do have to hand it to her that she was asked a tough question for the Top 12 Q&A, when she was asked “If there is a sector in society that does not appreciate the value of beauty pageants, what would you tell them?”  Come to think of it, her answer is solid, as she said she will demonstrate to any objector that a beauty pageant not only values what is beautiful on the outside but what is beautiful on the inside.  For the final speech, she gave this:  “Because I am assertive, enthusiastic, competitive and I am willing to do everything that I can. I’m willing to give all my heart to everyone, to my families and Filipinos.”  The first sentence dragged her down as she focuses on the qualities she has instead of phrasing it in the sense of what she’ll be offering or her willingness to assume the responsibilities ahead.


SECOND PRINCESS:  CANDIDATE NO. 18 – Ivanna Kamil Pacis.  She was generally on-point with her looks and styling this evening that edging out Sandra Lemonon was well-deserved.  Her Top 12 question was this:  “Would you be willing to spend one whole year without access to the Internet?  Why or why not?”  Her answer is simple and sensible–Yes, especially since past generations have done it, why not this generation?  Her final speech was likewise solid, though I have a mild quibble about the religious slant, but then again we live in a religious country:  “I consider myself as servant of the Lord in this country and it is my dream to fulfill the Beauty with a purpose. If ever I win tonight, I will not just carry the crown, I will carry with with dignity and honor.


FIRST PRINCESS:  CANDIDATE NO. 5 – Arienne Louise Calingo.  The first thing I’ve noticed about her is her close resemblance to Miss World 2003 Top Five finalist Mafae Yunon.  If it weren’t for the presence of the stunning, poised and intelligent favorite, she could’ve had a stronger shot of becoming our representative to this pageant.  As it was, she had to contend with Sandra Lemonon who was the girl who picked up the “scraps” that Catriona didn’t get, but with her with and presence of mind, she outshone Sandra and earned her second-place standing with her brilliant answers.  For the Top 12 round she was asked “Which significant event in your life influenced you the most and why?”  She recounted about her visit to Bangkok, Thailand last year which made her realize that her true calling was to become a human rights lawyer to fight for justice and that she set up a scholarship program to help needy schoolchildren there.  It was the strongest answer besides the winner’s answer, I thought, but I was concerned about the presence of Atty. Sal Panelo in judging panel–remember he is closely linked with the Duterte government, and we all know Duterte’s distaste of the term “human rights”.  I’m glad that wasn’t taken against her.  Her final speech as she advanced to the Top Five was similarly eloquent:  “Miss World Philippines is more than just a crown to me, it is an opportunity to serve as a powerful catalyst for change. If I were to achieve the crown, I will help uplift people specially the youth. I want to teach them that you are only as insignificant as you so choose to be, so choose great and choose to noble that you are worthy of your crown.


Miss World 2003 finalist Mafae Yunon (image courtesy of MisS World Organization)

All images courtesy of Bruce Casanova for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.  Video courtesy of Viva Entertainment.



Cory Quirino‘s CQGQ organization has decided to tie up with Viva Entertainment to produce this edition’s Miss World Philippines.  This tie-up promised to bring elements of Filipino showbiz glamour to the proceedings, and the concept seems promising with the press presentation being held at the legendary Sampaguita Gardens*.  But it seems based on the impressions of the candidates (with the exception of the presumed front-runner) pageant websites decided to prioritize other concurrent pageant events and give this pageant a bit of a short-shrift.  For instance, the gala night held on 27 September at Enderun coincided with the arrival of the newly-crowned Miss United Continents winner, Jeslyn Santos.  The finals also coincided with the finals of another exciting pageant, Mister Gay World Philippines, and guess where the key pageant website proponents prefer to prioritize (though many of the prominent ones have photographer correspondents to cover on their behalf.

*Sampaguita Pictures by the Vera Perez family was one of the premiere Filipino movie outfits back in the 1950s-1960s.

Many pageant fans and pundits may attribute the lack of buzz to two key factors:  the lack of regional searches, and the absence of contestants coming from a competitive pageant camp that had been a major player in other national pageants.  But I noticed that, yes, this year’s batch isn’t that polished, but between the time of the press presentation and gala night, this group showed marked improvement and clad in pretty good stylish fashions they can deliver the goods.

The Viva tie-up also seems to bring forth a more professional production, just like in the opening number which was fabulous with a live-sung rendition of the Calvin Harris / Rihanna dance smash “This is What You Came For” by girl-group IPT, and the 24 candidates looking disco-fabulous in gold-lamé halter jumpsuits.  This extends to the choice of hosts–GMA star Richard Gutierrez (who happens to be the younger brother of Miss World 1993 2nd runner-up Ruffa Gutierrez), Miss World 2011 1st runner-up Gwendoline Ruais, and Miss World 2012 Top 15 semifinalist Quenerich Rehman.  Providing color commentary were Viva talents Lauren Reid and Miss World Philippines 2014 4th Princess Rachel Peters.  All presenters were faultless in their spiels.


Hosts Miss World 2012 semifinalist Quenerich Rehman, Richard Gutierrez and Miss World 2011 1st runner-up Gwendoline Ruais

Color commentators Lauren Reid and Rachel Peters

The format of the finals is generally fast-paced and familiar–there is a swimsuit and evening gown parade for all 24 candidates before whittling them down to a Top 12 where they will have a question-and-answer portion, followed by a Final Five where they will deliver their speeches on why they should become the next Miss World Philippines.  I know that Julia Morley had a directive that the Miss World pageant will no longer have a swimsuit competition, but I think local editions are allowed such competition as in many countries (like ours) this is usually a prerequisite to attract sponsors.  Now, for the evening gown round, I have to say that this is a well-done fashion parade, with dresses that are of a high standard–only the 2013 edition was better than this.

Before I proceed to discuss the Top 12, there are a few non-finalists that deserve some attention and respect, especially judging their final evening gown performances.  So i’ll pay tribute to them starting with:

CANDIDATE NO. 9 – Jan Helen Villanueva.  I like the way she did a twirl in her yellow Grecian slit gown which is why I am including her as among my non-finalist citations.


CANDIDATE NO. 11 – Shaina Lalaine Sazon.  Her white gown has the most distinctive design, with a flappy cape-like draping over her shoulders.  Needless to say she carried it with style and aplomb.


CANDIDATE NO. 16 – Roshiel Asingua.  She’s good looking and was impeccable in her pink gown.  I also have to note I saw a posting from Mister Universal Ambassador 2nd runner-up Andrea Biondo wishing her success–I think they’re an item.  She garnered positive notices, but too bad she didn’t make the final cut.


CANDIDATE NO. 19 – Vinnie Camille Quiangco.  I also noticed some pageant fans were also hyping this lady, but she’s another one of those who missed the final cut.  She also looked good, too.


All images courtesy of Bruce Casanova for OPMB Worldwide unless otherwise indicated.