Well done, batch 2016!

The year 2016 was another sterling year for the Bb. Pilipinas franchise of pageants, with a Miss International win, a 1st runner-up finish in Miss Grand International, a 4th place finish in Miss Globe and Miss Universe, and Top 15 finishes in Miss Supranational and Miss Intercontinental.  But the cycle of selecting a fresh set of winners to fly our flag in those international pageants is underway, and again a whole bevy of up-and-comers and veterans have a go at it to achieve the dream.  Is this year’s batch up to it?  Also, another question would be if Aces & Queens will continue its domination in this pageant, or would Kagandahang Flores rise up and thwart Aces’ dominance?

About 90 ladies went on the grueling screening process to produce the 40 official candidates.  One of those who fell on the wayside was Miss Earth-Air 2012, Stefany Stefanowitz.  Despite her experience, the screening panel perhaps didn’t think she is strong enough to pass muster–and considering she was a polarizing choice when she competed at Miss Earth, there are certain circles who would definitely agree to that.

Missed the cut: Miss Earth-Air 2012 Stefanie Stefanowitz (image courtesy of Noli Berioso for OPMB Worldwide)

There is also this dubious tradition that after the official candidates are selected, one or more would then either withdraw or be disqualified, leading to a replacement coming in.  This year is no exception, and this year’s unfortunate lady is…

ORIGINAL BINIBINING 36: Mae Lanie Chan.  She is an attractive Oriental looker, who may not be deemed a major favorite but looks to make a solid impression.  Her withdrawal prior to the press presentation was low-key, and no publicity about the grounds for her disqualification.  Some have mentioned something like conflicts related to her modeling contract, and others mentioned pictures too provocative for Binibini standards (which are too unnecessarily stringent in my book) but unlike what happened to both Kim Ross delos Santos and Janelle Olafsson, whatever those alleged pictures were were not circulated around.

This year’s Bb. Pilipinas candidates seems to provide something for everyone’s tastes.  For me it’s a diverse mix of pretty mestizas, fetching native lookers, unconventional beauties, and bright overachievers.  As is my tradition, I will rate them with the suitability of tthem making the final cut in the international pageants at stake–U for Universe, I for International, S for Supranational, GI for Grand International, IC for Intercontinental, and G for Globe.  Without further ado, let’s proceed with…

BINIBINING 1: Dane Felisse Marasigan.  She is a good-looking, articulate girl next door.  She makes a solid impression and is a worthwhile sleeper choice for the finals.

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

BINIBINING 2:  Arienne Louise Calingo.  Cory Quirino, after relinquishing the Miss World Philippines franchise, gave her blessing to Catriona Gray to pursue Bb. Pilipinas if she wants to.  But the one who took up on that directive was Catriona’s Miss World Philippines 1st runner-up.  This near-deadringer to Miss World 2003 Top Five finalist Mafae Yunon has intelligence, facility with foreign languages, and a gift of gab as her strongest qualities.  But whether she has the polish and charisma to keep up with the other candidates?  Well, that remains an open question and a Top 15 slot is far from secure though stronger emphasis on interview this year could work in her favor.

U – 8.5, I – 8, S – 7.5, GI – 8.5, IC – 8.5, G – 8

Mafae Yunon at Miss World 2003 (image courtesy of Sohu)

BINIBINING 3: Maria Gail Tobes.  She is good looking and a worthy candidate, but she is kinda saddled with “short-girl” proportions, which isn’t highly prized in pageant circles.  Belonging in this hallowed group is achievement enough for her.

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

BINIBINING 4: Jessica Ramirez.  There is a “Dalagang Filipina” vibe that I get with her, and there are people who would find that refreshing.  She unfortunately flunked the 30-second object/image/word association challenge on the Road to the Crown TV special, but hopefully she recovers in the interview rounds that count.

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

BINIBINING 5: Joselle Mariano.  In real-world terms she can be considered a babe, and lookswise she is worthy of belonging in this group.  But she doesn’t have much buzz at this point, so it’s an uphill battle for her too make the final cut.

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

BINIBINING 6: Benjieleen Nama.  I don’t consider her conventionally pretty, but she has an ace up her sleeve with her strong interview skills.  I guess it helps that she has media experience as a host of a cockfighting show in IBC-13, so it may serve her prospects well in this pageant.  I also thought she was one of the strongest performers in the 30-second object/image/word association challenge, when she picked up a guitar and explained how music helps her express what she may have difficulty expressing in words.

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

BINIBINING 7: Jennyline Carla Malpaya.  She is one of the ten national costume finalists with her fringed white terno.  She also has surprisingly one of the trimmest figures in this batch, so even if many are not really buzzing about her as a crown contender, she could conceivably be in the running for the Best in Swimsuit award.

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

BINIBINING 8: Leitz Camyll Ang.  She has this Chinese-mestiza combo that can appeal to some people, and she has a slender frame that can potentially make an impact if she wears couture fashions.  She also surprisingly impressed in the Q&A challenge, as she picked up a feathered boa and talked about her advocacy for animal rights.

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

BINIBINING 9: Vanessa Saliba.  She has a pretty face, thanks to her half-Lebanese heritage and her features definitely appeal in this market.  But again, like in her 2014 stint, she is a worthwhile contender, but it’s a challenger for her to make the final cut.

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

BINIBINING 10: Jehza Mae Huelar.  After her 2nd runner-up finish last year, she stepped up her game this year and looks poised to snag a title.  In fact, she’s channeling the reigning Miss International Kylie Versoza, making one think she could be Kylie’s Mini-Me.  This might not bode well for her snagging the plum International title as I don’t think that pageant encourages clones.  She can be a promising prospect for Universe, but there are stronger prospects for that title out there.  So it will be interesting which title she’ll end up with.

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

Miss International 2016 Kylie Versoza


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