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)

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