BINIBINING 31: Katarina Sonja Rodriguez.  She had international competition experience as she placed third in Asia’s Next Top Model three years ago.  With that prior lofty placement, some pageant fans and pundits hyped her as a possible title contender.  Though her communication skills prove to be among the strongest among this year’s batch and she was shortlisted for national costume, buzz about her title prospects faded a bit.  Still, she seems to be a semifinalist shoo-in and can still be a royal court possibility if the circumstances on finals night work in her favor.

U – 8.5, I – 9.5, S – 9, GI – 9, IC – 9, G – 9.5

.BINIBINING 32: Charmaine Elima.  Many pageant fans and pundits were extremely excited when it was announced she would be returning to compete in this pageant four years after her previous stint.  In many ways she doesn’t disappoint as she improved tremendously in her communication skills, which was her Achilles Heel in her previous go-round.   She is hyped to win the plum Miss Universe Philippines title, but I have a feeling she’ll end up with a lesser title as she still is a few ways to go to keep up with the likes of Mariel or Rachel, or even Chanel, Juliana, and Katarina for that matter.  For instance, during the word association challenge she picked up the word “Compassion” and spoke about the orphanage she advocates, Cotolengo Filipino, and talked about those disadvantaged children, but somehow it doesn’t elaborate on why she has compassion for them, just that she has.  Still, I’m rooting for her to succeed.

An interesting note–she’s not shortlisted for National Costume with her La Naval -inspired outfit, but former Project Runway contestant Nick Verreos blogged that her dress is his favorite national costume in this year‘s pageant.  I think the judges were a bit turned off by he proportions of her dress, as the empire waist could be viewed as unflattering, and preferred the more flattering body-hugging silhouettes of the other costumes out there.

U – 9.5, I – 9.5, S – 10, GI – 9.5, IC – 10, G – 10

BINIBINING 33: Kristie Rose Cequeña.  She definitely has the attractiveness to deservingly belong among the 40 candidates.  But to advance to the semifinals?  She doesn’t really generate buzz and though her communication skills are adequate others are proving to be stronger.  Still she’s a solid contender all throughout.

U – 7.5, I – 7, S – 7.5, GI – 7.5, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5

BINIBINING 34: Gabriela Patricia Ortega.  Her figure is a tad on the thick side so in some ways, she could be playing the Siera Bearchell card.  She has an interesting cosmopolitan background as she’s raised in Spain (to full Filipino parents) and traveled across Europe.  I think I need to get used to her European way of speaking, as displayed during the word association challenge when she expounded on the word “Leader”–there is substance in what she said and a laid-back, down-to-earth manner in which she explains her views, but for me it doesn’t register as impressive for those who are used to what is expected in Miss Universe.  It dawned on me that perhaps she would probably be a better fit at Miss World Philippines instead.

U – 7, I – 7, S – 7, GI – 6, IC – 7, G – 7

BINIBINING 35: Thoreen Halvorsen.  I think she is part Norwegian, and obviously her name comes from the Norse god of thunder, Thor.  I don’t find her conventionally pretty, but she is an experienced pageant veteran, being Miss Philippines Earth – Fire five years ago.  There are some people impressed with her when she selected the world “LGBT” for the word association challenge, but I have serious reservations, especially as she has a lapse when she said “It’s time to end tolerance”.  I know some would give her the benefit of the doubt as she obviously meant the opposite term, “intolerance”, but still I have to dock her for the wrong use of word.

U – 6.5, I – 6.5, S – 7, GI – 7, IC – 7, G – 7

BINIBINING 36: Gillian Eliza Colcol.  She is actually a solid performer, so she shouldn’t be dismissed as a cellar-dweller by virtue of being a replacement for a disqualified candidate.  Of course becoming an official candidate is achievement enough for her as almost everyone in this group are on their A-game.

U – 7, I – 6.5, S – 7, Gi – 7, IC – 7, G – 7

BINIBINING 37: Sammie Anne Legaspi.  She’s another solid performer who isn’t receiving much buzz.  She is a worthwhile contender.

U – 7.5, I – 7, S – 7.5, GI – 7.5, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5

BINIBINING 38: Ana Patricia Asturias.  She’s a pretty face with a trim figure and an interesting story about having a masculine nickname, “Patrik”.  She is a semifinalist possibility.

U – 8, I – 8.5, S – 8, GI – 8, IC – 8, G – 8.

BINIBINING 39: Elizabeth Clenci.  She competed in this pageant six years ago, making a good impression though missing the final cut.  She is a consistently strong performer with a strong gift of gab so she could be  another semifinals possibility.

U – 8, I – 8, S – 7.5, GI – 8, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5

BINIBINING 40: Kristel Guelos.  She’s a solid contender with attractive native features and a trim hourglass curve.

U – 7.5, I – 7, S – 7.5, GI – 7, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5

With all 40 candidates accounted for, here is now my “fearful” forecast–I’ll make my list a Top 16 instead of a Top 15 as I have a feeling the People’s Choice Award would be an additional stot on top of the Top 15:

TITLEHOLDERS:  10 (Huelar), 15 (M.A. de Leon), 18 (Ibe), 19 (Peters), 22 (Thomas), 32 (Elima)

RUNNERS-UP:  13 (Sutton), 28 (Kapeundi)

SEMIFINALISTS: 1 (Marasigan), 2 (Calingo), 7 (Malpaya), 12 (A.C. de Leon), 21 (Ambal), 24 (D. Pajares), 31 (Rodriguez), 39 (Clenci)

BUBBLING UNDER:  4 (Ramirez), 9 (Saliba), 11 (K. Pajares), 16 (Lacap), 17 (Manalo), 20 (Borja), 26 (Nava), 29 (Manongsong), 38 (Asturias)

INTERVIEW FACTOR:  6 (Nama), 8 (Ang), 23 (Salientes)

It looks like this year Aces & Queens  will loosen its stranglehold and there is room for more entries from camp Kagandahang Flores, with Rachel Peters and Nelda Ibe likely to garner titles.  The race for the coveted Miss Universe Philippines title seems to now be a three-way race among Mariel de Leon, Rachel Peters, and Charmaine Elima, with others possibly usurping their path.  It is a pretty wide open race and there might be surprises ahead.  As Bette Davis would put it as Margo Channing in All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”



The likeliest frontrunners: Mariel de Leon (L), Rachel Peters (C), and Charmaine Elima (R)


BINIBINING 21: Jamaica Ambal.  What is it with the two tallest girls in this year’s contest with their less-than-typical names?  I have a feeling her parents named her after another 1980s mellow country-pop song, this time the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band‘s 1979 hit “An American Dream*2, whose chorus goes “I dream Jamaica in the moonlight…”–again another hit still getting regular rotation in mellow radio stations in our shores.  I actually like her a lot and am wondering why buzz is muted.  She has a great exotic appeal with her statuesque 5’11” height, lovely face, and dusky complexion.  She also seems solid in interviews, too, so I think she can be a stealth choice to shake up the roster of perceived favorites.

*2 It featured uncredited backing vocals from Linda Ronstadt, and spawned a local parody hit by Fred Panopio called “Turistang Bilmoko” [“Shopaholic Tourist”], about a beleaguered guy complaining about his shopaholic tourist girlfriend (“bilmoko” is a corruption of the Filipino phrase “bili mo ako” or “buy me (something)”).

U – 9, I – 8.5, S – 9.5, GI – 9, IC – 9.5, G – 9.5

BINIBINING 22: Chanel Olive Thomas.  To counter the hype towards Sirene Sutton, Aces & Queens has this bright, articulate, half-Australian lady, who ended up Miss Philippines Earth – Air behind eventual Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong.  She shares similar Eurasian features like Sirene, albeit hers a bit more angular and doesn’t project an aristocratic hauteur vibe but more intelligent girl-next-door.  She seems to show fire onstage like the dramatic presentation she gave her gold-and-orange Muslim princess costume.  She can pip Sirene at the finish line and garner a title.

U – 9, I – 9, S – 8.5, GI – 9, IC – 8.5, G – 9

BINIBINING 23: Arah Salientes.  She made the Top 12 in last year’s Miss World Philippines and is a strong communicator.  But I don’t know if that would be enough for her to advance amidst this competitive group of ladies.  She’s not a conventional beauty but as I said, she has some strong qualities that made her worthy of belonging here.

U – 7, I – 6.5, S – 6.5, GI – 7, IC – 6.5, G – 6.5

BINIBINING 24: Dindi Joy Pajares.  She’s already a known quantity in this pageant as she successfully made the Top 15 last year.  She still has her buffed figure and strong communication skills going for her, and prospects are bullish she’ll improve on her previous showing.

U – 8.5, I – 8, S – 8, GI – 8.5, IC – 8, G – 8

BINIBINING 25: Clarice Marion Villareal.  She is a good looking candidate, though she has not been receivingg much buzz.  In a less competitive year she can become a semifinalist contender, but perhaps in a year or so with more training she can generate charisma and become a serious contender.

U – 7.5, I – 7.5, S – 7.5, GI – 7.5, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5

BINIBINING 26: Ruffa Nava.  I’m glad she filled out her slender frame after her Miss World Philippines 2014 stint.  Her rise-from-poverty story won her many admirers, and she delivered couture glam in her black-to-red terno.  Still, during the object/image/word association challenge, she flunked so her interview skills may be suspect.  Will her overall presence be enough for her to make the cut?

U – 7.5, I – 7, S – 7, GI – 8, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5

BINIBINING 27: Beatrice Valente.  She already has international pageant experience as she represented Italy at Miss Earth three years ago.  To her credit, she improved on that stint.  Still, it is an uphill battle for her to advance.

U – 6.5, I – 6, S – 6.5, GI – 6.5, IC – 6.5, G – 6.5

BINIBINING 28: Juliana Kapeundi.  This comely half-Austrian lass is another possible sleeper usurper, as she can parlay her pretty face and trim figure and upset the prevailing order of things as I find her a strong communicator.  She shone in the word association challenge as she picked the word “Brave” and eloquently talked about the resiliency of the Filipinos.  With the right packaging, she can shine and possibly make the royal court (and maybe even garner a title).

U – 9, I – 9.5, S – 9, GI – 9, IC – 9.5, G – 9.5

BINIBINING 29: Karla May Manongsong.  Her purple terno with peacock headdress has a dramatic flair that it’s shortlisted as among the 10 best national costumes this year.  Though I don’t respond that much to her looks, I think she is a worthwhile contender as I find her trim enough and a strong communicator and there are likely others who would dig her.

U – 8, I – 7.5, S – 8, GI – 8, IC – 8, G – 8

BINIBINING 30: Mae Liezel Ramos.  She made the Top 15 three years ago in this pageant.  She is still in strong fighting form here, so making the cut again is a possibility.

U – 8, I – 8, S – 8, GI – 8, IC – 8, G – 8



BINIBINING 11: Kimberly Pajares.  It’s interesting to see  sisters competing against each other in the same pageant, and both this pair of flight-attendant sisters are pageant veterans.  This lady made the Top 13 at Miss World Philippines three years ago.  She could also be in contention to make the final cut here, but well besides having the challenge to stand out against a formidable group of candidates, her sister is the one generating heavier buzz.  Still, she’s a worthwhile contender with a sleeper possibility of making the cut.

U – 7.5, I – 7, S – 7.5, GI – 7.5, IC – 7.5, G – 7

BINIBINING 12: Angelique Celine de Leon.  She delivers on sexy, dusky appeal, and she is consistently strong that it is surprising she has yet to make the final cut in her two previous forays in 2014 and last year.  She is taking an “inspirational” tack this time, positioning herself as a weight-loss victor for losing about 50-60 pounds from four years ago.  My only concern is that in the object/image/word association challenge, she doesn’t say anything more in-depth besides that.  Still I’m rooting for her to make it “third time’s the charm”.  Her sexy, voluptuous frame may work in most pageants, but I have a feeling Miss Grand International’s chief proponent Nawat may deem her a tad too voluptuous for his standards so he might mark her down severely.

U – 9, I – 9, S – 9.5, GI – 8, IC – 9, G – 9.

BINIBINING 13: Sirene Sutton.  She exudes the aristocratic hauteur of the Ruais sisters Gwendoline (Miss World 2011 1st runner-up) and Gwenaelle (Miss Earth Philippines-Fire 2010), though with enough softness in her features to qualify as conventionally pretty.  There are many pageant fans and pundits who label her as a front-runner for one of the titles, but there are others who say she tends to fade and be reticent as the days wore on.  Me, I think if she’s at peak when it counts, she could pull a major upset from the perceived favorites.

U – 9, I – 9, S – 9, GI – 9, IC – 8.5, G – 9

The Ruais sisters: Miss World 2011 1st runner-up Gwendoline Ruais (L) and Miss Philippines Earth – Fire 2010 Gwennaelle Ruais (R)

BINIBINING 14: Sarah Jireh Asido.  She is never going to be deemed as conventionally pretty, but she is polished and solid all throughout.  Still, just like her foray in this pageant three years ago and in Miss Philippines-Earth four years ago, she is unlikely to advance.

U – 7.5, I – 6.5, S – 7, GI – 7, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5

BINIBINING 15: Maria Angelica de Leon.  Scion from the illustrious De Leon acting dynasty (with Christopher de Leon as her father and Pinky de Leon as her aunt–she looks like a deadringer for the latter) this lady is hyped as a front-runner for one of the plum titles.  I and several other pageant fans and pundits may quibble about her strong jawline and her thick-for-pageant-standards figure, but still her strong wit means she could not be denied.  She can be an intriguing proposition for Miss Universe–it would be interesting to see how her journey would be, if her frame stays as is and end up as the 66th Miss Universe’s equivalent of last year’s Siera Bearchell of Canada, or can trainer John Graciano Cuay work his magic and transform her body into Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach‘s winning form.  If it’s the former, she may get away with it in Miss Universe, but other pageants may be less forgiving–especially Miss Grand International with Nawat firmly at the helm.

U – 9.5, I – 9, S – 8, GI – 6.5, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5

Pinky de Leon in her 1970s heyday
Which direction will Mariel head towards? Siera Bearchell (L) or Pia Wurtzbach (R)

BINIBINING 16: Larah Grace Lacap.  She’s another less-conventionally pretty lass who does have strong qualities like a buffed figure going for her, and she is a solid communicator to boot.

U – 7.5, I – 7, S – 7.5, GI – 7, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5

BINIBINING 17: Maria Camille Manalo.  She won a gold medal for taekwondo at the Southeast Asian Games.  That explains her very trim figure.  She’s hyped as having an inside track to the finals because of her background and her figure, and the fact she made the National Costume Top Ten.  But during the object/image/word challenge, she was one of the few who failed.  Did her favored status fell because of this debacle, or it’s just a blip and she recovers and passes muster in interview when it counts?

U – 8, I – 8, S – 8.5, GI – 8.5, IC – 8.5, G – 8.5

BINIBINING 18: Nelda Ibe.  She seems on-track for a strong finish in this pageant, as she looks like one of those with an inside track to the finals.  She has an attractive “native” look, a trim figure, proven stage skills, and solid communication skills going for her, along with pageant experience having been second princess at Miss Philippines World 2014.  Now the question remains if she would garner a title–it is highly possible and it’s still conceivable she can pull off an upset for the plummier titles.

U – 9.5, I – 9, S – 8.5, GI – 9, IC – 9, G – 9.5

BINIBINING 19: Rachel Louise Peters.  Interestingly, she competed along with Nelda at Miss World Philippines 2014 and ended up as 4th princess.  She was highly favored to possibly usurp Valerie Weigman‘s path to the crown, but a momentary lapse in thought cost her a higher ranking.  An officemate of mine who attended the Press Presentation reported that it seems she has the eye of the powers-that-be like Stella Araneta.  She does seem to be making the biggest splash so far, and she seems to be acing all elements at this point.  Emphasizing the more native aspects of her features and channeling Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup seems to bolster her status as the possible “chosen one”.  And considering she belongs to the Kagandahang Flores camp, it could be an invasion of an Aces & Queens stranglehold–but not if Mariel, Maine or Jehza can help it, and of course I have a soft spot for Aces & Queens as I have a fond history with them.  Still, at this point she seems the prohibitive front-runner.

U – 9.5, I – 9.5, S – 9, GI – 9, IC – 9.5, G – 9.

Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup (photo courtesy of Fadil Berisha for the Miss Universe Organization)

BINIBINING 20: Christagale Borja.  I have a feeling her parents named her as such as their favorite song was the 1985 Crystal Gayle ballad “A Long and Lasting Love“*1.  Arguably I find her face the plainest of this lot, but she has been parlaying her height, her buffed figure, strong communication skills, and her polished presence to her advantage.  She was shortlisted in National Costume with her warrior-princess outfit.  Some pageant pundits are picking her as a likely semifinalist, but I’m not as bullish with her prospects, though I concede she’s a strong performer.

*1 “A Long and Lasting Love” is clearly Crystal Gayle’s most popular hit in our shores, continuously a staple in mellow radio stations to this day.  But many of us Filipinos will probably also recall her duet with Eddie Rabbitt, 1983’s “You and I”, another semi-staple in our mellow radio stattions.  Her most popular hit in the US, however, is the 1977 chestnut Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue“, which peaked at No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100–not as popular here as the other two songs I mentioned but still there are Filipinos who might know this song.

U – 8, I – 6.5, S – 7, GI – 7, IC – 7.5, G – 7