Itt is in the final announcement where Kagandahang Flores made the most inroads, as they evened out with Aces & Queens as they split the winners evenly with four each.  Even the runners-up are split with one for each camp.

2ND RUNNER-UP: BINIBINING 40 – Kristel Guelos [KF].  I should’ve paid more atention to this lady and included her in my list.  Little did I know she would sparkle during he finals, showcasing her trim, buffed figure with aplomb and looking tastefully polished with her lacy white gown.  TV host Gretchen Ho asked her this question:  “Hidilyn Diaz, Olympic silver medalist, exemplifies the physical strength of the Filipina. What kind of strength as a Filipina can you show to the universe?”  Kristel gave this brilliant answer:  “As a medical practitioner and as a Binibining Pilipinas candidate, I can show the universe the dedication and passion I am having right now. And that is what I can share to others to become an influence of goodwill and to motivate others to become the better, the best version of themselves.”  As Sirene choked, Jehza underwhelmed, and Christa’s face too plain to be granted a placement in this circle, this lady surged through and earned her place in this lofty firmament.

1ST RUNNER-UP: BINIBINING 32 – Charmaine Elima [A&Q].  I think the powers-that-be and the judges were not as into her as several pageant fans and pundits (like myself) were. I think in BPCi’s and the judges’ perspective, she’s only in contention for the lesser titles, not the two “premier” ones.  Anyway, she seemed on-track for one during the Top 25 as she brought her smoldering dusky sexiness to the forefront in swimsuit and looked drop-dead glamorous with her dramatic one-shoulder white gown.  She was asked by actor Paulo Avelino this question:  “What is your view on cursing or pagmumura?”  Charmaine’s answer went like this:  “My view about cursing is something that we should avoid. It is something that other people can hear from the older ones. The things that children should not hear because the children follows what the older people says.  So for me, my view about cursing is something that we should avoid in our everyday lives so instead of cursing – that’s negativity – we should be more focused about positivity and promote and embrace life as we should…”  It’s a remarkable improvement from the caliber of her answer four years ago, but I have a feeling the judges deemed her answer not as strong as she slightly over-elaborated when she could’ve kept it simple.  That can be easily fine-tuned and calibrated by her camp.  Conceivably she can give two more tries, though it is intriguing if she decides to join next year as there is a possibility that a divine being (more on her later) will be part of the fray and serve as a major obstacle in her path.

BB. PILIPINAS – GLOBE:  BINIBINING 18 – Nelda Ibe [KF].  She’s hyped as a shoo-in for a title–the question was which one of the “lesser” titles she’ll end up with.  I have a feeling the judges and the powers-that-be pegged her for as high as Intercontinental or Grand International.  However, she was pegged down a few notches after she answered TV newscaster and news radio DJ Ted Failon this topical question:  “Death penalty has been a big issue concerning the Philippines in the recent months. Are you for or against death penalty?”  Here is Nelda’s answer:  “Well, I believe that we should not condemn life.  We are sinner but then, we have to give importance to the life that God has given us. So, my stand is, I am against of it. Because we should celebrate what God has given us, and that is life.”  There is good substance to that answer, but if you notice it is peppered with obvious grammatical lapses, and to the eyes of the judges, this made her answer sound less impressive and she was pegged down to the Globe title instead.  Nevertheless, I’m optimistic this lady will deliver a strong showing in Albania, perhaps even probably winning like Ann Colis two years ago.

BB. PILIPINAS – INTERCONTINENTAL:  BINIBINING 31 – Katarina Sonja Rodriguez [A&Q].  I think the powers-that-be and many pageant fans and pundits found her a bittt of a loose cannon and pegged that the best she’ll fare is a runner-up finish at most.  But little did they estimate that she can deliver onstage, especially casting a dreamy spell in her jewel blue gown with elaborate pleated fan-like details at the skirt area.  She also evoked Miss International 1986 semifinalist Alice Dixson in her 1980s-1880s moviestar heyday.  But her shining moment was in the Q&A, when she was asked by Brazilian ambassador Rodrigo do Amaral Souza this question:  “What is your definition of a winner?”  Katarina’s superb answer goes like this:  “My definition of a winner is somebody who understands that winning isn’t just because of the real way, it’s because of the responsibility that comes along when you win and how you execute the job after you win. I think a winner is somebody who knows how to inspire others, who is kind, and brave, and so ever curious.”  For me, this is arguably the best answer of the night, though the ones who ranked above her also delivered top-caliber answers, and with that she arguably bumped off Charmaine Elima and Jehza Huela from a title and pushed Nelda Ibe down a notch or two.  She also garnered a sponsor’s prize by winning Miss Philippine Airlines.

Alice Dixson’s iconic “I Can Feel It” Palmolive commercial

Two days after winning this title, there was this controversy disclosed first by CNN Philippines (from a BPCI source) that Katarina was planning to relinquish her title, though the motivation was undisclosed.  I caused a major alarm amng pageant netizens but a day later the dust seemed o settle and Katarina chose to keep her crown.  I’m relieved she didn’t step down, now I just hope she stays motivated when she competes at Miss Intercontinental which is reportedly scheduled again in Sri Lanka this October.  Sure perhaps the odds are stacked against her as Sri Lanka might again be the continental queen for Asia, but still, duplicating Jennifer Hammond’s finish is a great achievement enough.  I also have one suggestion, too:  Recentt pictures show her parting her hair in the middle and pulling itt back in a severe bun–please lose the look, ifyou ask me as I think it is unflattering and makes her look like Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.  Sure Frida Kahlo is a highly esteemed artist, but her looks are no the sort that the pageant world appreciates.

Katarina’s Preview magazine photo (L) and Frida Kahlo (R)

BB. PILIPINAS – GRAND INTERNATIONAL:  BINIBINING 39 – Elizabeth Clenci ]KF].  Little did I realize that it is not only Sirene Sutton who is channeling the Ruais sisters’ hauteur vibe–this lady does, too, and she also evokes a bit of Miss Grand International 2015 2nd runner-up Parul Shah.  Many expected her to finish only as far as a semifinalist, not garner a title, but her stellar performance in the Top 25 round with that spellbinding white Grecian-style gown (designed by Project Runway Philippines finalist Jaz Cerezo) made people realize she can conceivably clinch a title.  She sealed the deal with her sterling answer to judge Ted Failon’s topical question: “If you are caught in a heavy, terribly frustrating traffic, what are the best ways to make your time productive?”  Elizabeth responded with “If I’m caught in traffic, what I usually do is read or I sleep, ‘coz time is of essence so I feel like when you’re stuck in traffic, you really need to make use of your time. So, I read or I sleep or I talk on the phone with a loved one.”  I’m optimistic she’ll finish strong in Vienam this October–no guarantee she’ll duplicate or exceed Nicole Cordoves‘ 1st runner-up finish, but she’ll make our country proud.

BB. PILIPINAS – SUPRANATIONAL:  BINIBINING 22 – Chanel Olive Thomas [A&Q].  She garnered two special awards:  Miss Friendship and Best in National Costume.  With her spontaneously bubbly personality on exhibit all throughout, her Miss Friendship win was well-deserved.  She earned her National Costume win by having a standout costume that bucked the terno trend as it is more Muslim princess style and she showcased it with aplomb.  She is not really regarded as a conventional beauty, but even with that caveat it turns out she’s a perfect fit for Supranational as this pageant’s grand production tend ttto require girls to be lively and vibrant and tthis girl possesses that quality in spades.   For instance, in the evening gown round, she noticeably tripped, bu she compensated for it by being brightly cheerful and carrying on as it nothing happened.   Sure, Chanel’s sterling communication skills apparently wouldn’t be showcased in this pageant’s final night, but there is an interview round conducted prior to the pageantt final, and just like Canada’s Siera Bearchell two years ago, this lady can ace it (yes, pun partly intended).  She was asked by Nandy Villar this question:  “Many countries have already legalized same-sex marriage. Do you think the Philippines should follow? Why or why not?”  Chanel first responded by candidly revealing her conservative convictions:  “As a Christian, I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.”  But then she pointed out her compassion by adding, “HOWEVER, I do believe that everyone, every single person in the world deserves to be with whoever they want. And if they want to get married, that is fine.”  i respect her views and I’m glad she’s the sort of Christian who is inclusive instead of shunning other people because they have a different lifestyle that her faith may not approve of.  I’m rooting for her to perhaps go beyond the Top 20/25 finishes of her three most recent predecessors and att least advance a level further, at least.  I’m optmimistic she can pull this off.



The key common denominator for the Top 15 are polished presentation and styling (especially in evening gown), way above the rest of the Top 25.  For those keeping camp count, there was seven Aces & Queens, six Kagandahang Flores, and two independents who advanced to the question-and-answer round.

BINIBINING 13 – Sirene Sutton [Indep.].  She seemed on-track to make the royal courtt during the Top 25 competition, as her touted stage presentation skills were in full effect here, delivering fierceness in swimsuit and deploying the Riyo Mori Gucci Flash wearing her pleated violet halter-top evening gown.  But then came the question-and-answer round and the brain-freeze witnessed around the world took place.  She was asked by CNN Philippines anchor Mitzi Borromeo this question:  “Is it right for parents to demand support from children in exchange for raising them?”  Sirene hesitated, then asked the judge to ask her question again, then tried to answer by saying “Yes”, and then took her answer back and said “No” and the 30-second clock ran out.   Sirene’s supportters would like to say this unfortunate inciden occurred as Sirene was so affected by the question due to her being raised by a single parent, and I sympathize with her.  Still hope if Sirene still wants to pursue pageantry, she can find a camp to finettune her interview skills and learn to overcome her nerves.  How would I have answered thsi question?  Here’s one way to approach it:  “I believe parents bringing children to this world and raising them is an act of love, and if parents truly love their kids, it is understood that love doesn’t ask anything in return that is why I don’t think children should be obligated to their parents.  Children can express their gratitude and pay their parents back if hey want to out of their free will but this shouldn’t be an obligation.”

BINIBINING 17 – Camille Manalo [Indep.].  Her athletic background as a gold medalist in taekwondo at the Southeast Asian Games may help judges overlook that her figure is not necessarily up to pageant standards and was given a free pass in the swimsuit round.  She sealed the deal in the Top 15 with her polished white evening gown.  Bur the Road o the Crown TV special shows she has some weakness in the interview department, and tthis is evident when she was asked by Mitzi Borromeo this question:  “A high percentage of students are being bullied in schools everyday. What is your message to the bullies and their parents?”  This is Camille’s reply:  “My message to the bullied students is no matter what you came from, from being bullied, just stand up, prove to them that they’re wrong and then no matter what happen to you, prove to them that you can stand up on your own. Give them your best shot. And that’s all.”  It wasn’t a bad answer per se, but doesn’t really have as much depth as the other answers, hence I have to peg her as the second weakest answer in this group.

BINIBINING 16 – Larah Grace Lacap [KF].  She has good looks and a polished presence that garnered her fans, and she indeed delivered on finals night, showcashin a trim figure in swimsuit and looking polished in an embroidered dark purple satin gown.  In the Q&A, she was asked by ABS-CBN marketing head Nandy Villar “The making of a beauty queen is about transformations. What are the most significant transformations you have gone through in your pursuit to become a beauty queen?  Larah delivered this well-composed and sincere response:  “The most significant change I’ve had before joining Binibining Pilipinas is I’m more motivated in what I wanted to do and I am more physically fit than before because I know that what I wanted to do will make me a better person.

BINIBINING 34 – Gabriela Ortega [A&Q].  It dawned on me hat she resembles actress (and Bb. Pilipinas – Universe 1967) Pilar Pilapil, and this is probably key to her appeal.  I think the presence of Mariel de Leon worked to her benefit as judges appreciate her thicker-than-typical-pageant-standers frame.  She seems to deliver as a mold-breaker as she also generated strong compliments in the evening gown round in her purple halter-top gown with a loosely-held bun.  It’s a presence that I can describe as European.  That European mindset and manner of answering is evident when she was asked by the chairman of the board of judges, PLDT EVP Eric Alberto this question: “What fear do you have that you would like to conquer, and why?”  Gabriela responded brilliantly with “The fear that I have that I would like to conquer is the fear to fail. That’s something that is happening to me in this journey because I receive so much love from my relatives, it was so overwhelming. And I thought, ‘Oh if I’m going to fail, what’s going to happen?’ But then I thought, what you have to do is embrace the people that love you because they accept your failures and your achievements in life and here I am in the Top 15.”  If it weren’t for the fact that she’s now 26, I would recommend she goes for Miss World Philippines, as her kind of perspective and persona would be better appreciated there.

Pilar Pilapil in her 1970s heyday

BINIBINING 10 – Jehza Huelar [A&Q].  It was expected that this 2nd runner-up from last year’s pageant would improve her standing this year.  She seems to be on-track duringg the Top 25 rounds as she has one of the trimmest figures around and she pulls off her orb-laden halter-style silver gown with aplomb.  But I think what cost her a slot in the winner’s circle was her otherwise solid answer to Eric Alberto’s question, “What is the role of a beauty queen in a country that lacks unity?”  Jehza actually gave this great answer on paper: “I think that the role of a beauty queen is not just winning the crown but also to become the voice of the people. I believe that I can use my voice to the people who have affected by the war in my city and to those who are affected by the earthquake in Mindanao. So I will use my voice to become the influence, the influential voice to the other people and it would unite our Filipinos.”  However her message was delivered with a hint of nerves and tentativeness that that probably left a weaker impression than expected.  There are pageantt fans and pundits who observed that perhaps she received that infamous trajectory experienced by MJ Lastimosa and Pia Wurtzbach, finishing as runner-up in the first try, finishing out of the winners’ circle in the second and finally clinching the crown in the third.  Unlike Pia and MJ whose final try was made at the maximum then-eligible age of 26, conceivably Jehza can make four more attempts as she’s only 22.  We’ll see if she chooses to try again and get that trajectory going.

BINIBINING 28 – Juliana Kapeundi [A&Q].  She garnered the People’s Choice award, though if you ask me she deserves to make the cut with her inherent merits like her beauty, communication skills, and slender figure.  I suppose some might debate if it weren’t for the popular vote, would she make the cut or would someone like, say Ruffa Nava would have taken her place?  I think that debate would rage on for ages.  Whatever the case I have a very high regard for her and she didn’t disappoint at all.  She was asked by ABS-CBN TV host Gretchen Ho this question:  “The Philippines has become a powerhouse in the pageant world. What do you think are the main reasons that made this possible?”  Juliana gave this well-composed answer:  “I think the main reason that the Philippines became the powerhouse of pageants is because of resilience. Like our previous beauty queens, even though they failed on the first time in joining Binibining Pilipinas, they tried second and third time, they emerged victorious not only in our country, but in the whole universe.”  I so adore the fact this half-Austrian loves promoting the qualities we Filipinos possess, and her answer is a nice shout-out to Pia Wurtzbach’s pageant journey.  I so wish she made the royal court, but, well, I have to respect the judges’preferences.

BINIBINING 20 – Christagale Borja [KF].  She garnered a special award as Manila Bulletin Reader’s Choice winner.  I have to hand it to her that she knows how to use her strengths like her height and catwalk skills to her advantage.  I’m not actually fond of her midnightt blue lacy gown bu she wore it well and got away with it.  She actually gave a crown-worthy answer to actor Paulo Avelino’s question “What kind of day would describe the best day in your life?”  Christa’s passionate answer went like this: “It will definitely be this day. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been challenged mentally, physically, and emotionally. I moved from Great Britain back to the Philippines, left my stable job, my career, and this is what I’m fighting for and this is the best day of my life.”  I’s a brilliant answer that touches on the sacrifices she took to get to this point.  I bet the reason she missed the winners’circle is her face–hers is an unconventional sort of beauty and I think the judges (like myself) understandably did not dig it.  Still, props for her and her sterling performance.



In general the Top 25 earned their way to this hallowed group, battling out an extremely competitive batch this year that included shut-outs like Dindi Pajares and Angelique de Leon.  Even here, we can see the Kagandahang Flores camp roaring back to life, boasting 11 ladies in the Top 25 while Aces & Queens  still has the slight majority with 12, and two occupied by independents.  Without further ado, let’s proceed with…

BINIBINING 27 – Beatrice Valente [KF].  For most pageant fans and pundits, this lady is the big headscratcher, as her facial features are among the plainest in this year’s otherwise comely batch and her figure is not that toned.  Sure her pageant experience (like representing Italy at Miss Earth) gave her an edge in interview, many fans would still question–seriously is she really better than Dindi or Angelique?

BINIBINING 33 – Kristie Rose Cequeña [KF].  She was outside of my radar but I’m not mad at all at her inclusion as she does have an attractive face and solid communication skills.  But I do quibble that her figure is not that up to snuff to the rest of the Top 25 and she’s styled matronly in her purple evening gown.

BINIBINING 37 – Sammie Anne Legazpi [KF].  She’s another one who was just outside my radar (though I thought she was worthwhile) as she has good looks and a buffed figure.  However she is hampered by the matronly styling during the evening gown competition as she sported a busy, heavily embroidered purple gown.  With a bettter gown she could’ve made better inroads.

BINIBINING 9 – Vanessa Saliba [A&Q].  I would’ve ranked this Filipina-Lebanese higher because of her good looks if ittt weren’t for the fact that tthere was some rawness in her overall presentation.  If she still wants to pursue this arena, she does have ample time to develop and compete in subsequent editions as she’s only 21 years old–which means she can conceivably attempt five more times before being aged out.

BINIBINING 6 – Maria Benjieleen Nama [KF].  Having watched Road to the Crown and saw her other interview videos, I know that was her ticket to make this hallowed group.  She may be a non-entity in tthe swimsuit round, but she looked lovely and properly styled in her green sequined evening gown.

BINIBINING 38 – Ana Patricia Asturias [A&Q].  It’s not a surprise she made the cut as she has good looks, a trim figure, and a polished presentation.  It’s simply that other ladies made a more stellar impact.

BINIBINING 1 – Dane Felisse Marasigan [A&Q].  I pegged her as a sleeper possibility for the Top 15.  She seemed o be on-track with her trim figure and gorgeous face,   But she was prevented from advancing to the Top 15 by her yellow bustier gown–I hate the extra fabric at the bust, and I feel the gown is poorly constructed.  At least she has the consolation of winning the talent award with her decent job tackling Celine Dion‘s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now–albeit imperfect, she managed to hit almost all the notes so she’s rewarded as singing any Celine Dion song has an inherently high degree of difficulty.

BINIBINING 7 – Jennyline Carla Malpaya [A&Q].  She does have stage flair and a buffed figure going for her.  Unfortunately, just like Dane Felisse, she’s saddled with a weak yellow gown–though there is a little drama with the shoulder fabric, the front embroidery is just too busy for comfort and that was the obstacle preventing her from advancing to the Top 15.

BINIBINING 2 – Arienne Louise Calingo [A&Q].  She’s generally polished enough though  a little short in the charisma department.  But with an extra polish and an extra dose of charisma, she could be a major threat in a year or two as she is aces in the interview department (pun slightly intended).

BINIBINING 26 – Ruffa Nava [KF].  I wonder if the preliminary impression carried over to the finals, as Ruffa was a polished presence in boh swimsuit and evening gown rounds, showcasing an improved healthier trim figure in swimsuit and delivering some drama in her floral pink gown.  I said that because though she has a great rise-from-rags human interest story, her interview skills are known to be below par from the rest.  Or maybe if indeed the preliminary scores were ttossed and reset, maybe the panel of judges simply ttook a better liking to those who made the Top 15.