From the beginning, the two ladies who ended up with the “premier” titles were the big favorites from the get-go.  It was a matter of who gets what.

BB. PILIPINAS – INTERNATIONAL: BINIBINING 15 – Maria Angelica “Mariel” de Leon [A&Q].  Pia Wurtzbach’s 2015 winning Binibining Pilipinas stint and Canada’s Siera Bearchell at Miss Universe paved the way for a curvy, fleshy figure like this lady to make major inroads.  She garnered two special awards, winning Miss Cream Silk and Best in Long Gown.  It’s well deserved as she’s a  sexy hourglass vision in her figure hugging maroon satin gown–think that sexy cartoon character Jessica Rabbit.  She was asked by Pizza “Hut Philippine franchise COO Phil Reed   “What activity that is male-oriented that you can equally do as well if not better than males?”  Mariel’s answer goes like this:  “Well I think I can box better than males. I believe I can do everything better than males because it isn’t about gender at all. It’s about your abilities, your strength, your weaknesses and your confidence within yourself. With that, you can achieve anything.”  It’s a great, playful answer and it sealed the deal for her.

Mariel’s communication skills will serve her well in the cultural speech round in Miss International.  But this privilege is only accorded to the semifinalists, so the challenge is to secure a slot and avoid the fate of Bianca Guidotti baof ck in 2014.  If Mariel is accorded the Universe title, she would have had leeway to choose to stick to the shape she’s currently in or be subject to the Pia Wurtzbach-style bootcamp.  But in Miss International, the predominantly Japanese judges would appreciate either only keab buffed physiques or slender model frames, neither are Mariel’s innate body type.  So it is imperative trainer John Cuay apply Pia’s program so Mariel can secure a slot in the semifinals, as once she opens her mouth and speak, she can go far.  Otherwise, she would have to include a whole host of corsets in her wardrobe, a la Miss International 2000 2nd Runner-Up Svetlana Goreva of Russia.

Miss International 2000 2nd runner-up Svetlana Goreva

MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES:  BINIBINING 19 – Rachel Peters [KF}.  It is unquestionable that this lady has been one of this year’s frontrunners from the get-go.  She has been channeling Miss Universe 2011 3rd runner-up Shamcey Supsup and kept up her “A” game all throughout.  She delivered twirls and dervishes for both swimsuit and especially evening gown–she deployed a Dayana Dervish in her orange evening gown and made maximum impact.  She also earned a well-earned Best in Swimsuit award, along with Jag Denim Queen and Face of Binibini (Miss Photogenic).  She also nailed the final Q&A, asked by EU ambassador Franz Jessen this question:  “This week, the Philippines hosted the ASEAN Summit. If you were invited to speak, what would have been your message to the leaders?”  Rachel’s sterling answer goes like this:  “I believe one of the biggest problems that our country is facing today is divisiveness in politics, in religion and also in culture. And I believe that it is something that is the same across the world. And that is something I would want to address. I believe that when people can learn to tolerate each other’s differences and respect each other’s opinions, then we will just be a stronger nation and world.

Performing the Dayana Dervish

I learned after the pageant that Rachel’s Shamcey vibe was not developed by design by KF as they concentrated their resources to a couple of other candidates.  It turns out Rachel employed some outside resources for her training, like her interview drills are with the help of her boyfriend, Camarines Sur governor Migs Villafuerte.  She got the Shamcey vibe via osmosis and that is as far as I can say about that.  She is a great fit for this pageant, but also for International, but the powers-that-be prevaild and she got this title.  I don’t see anything major Rachel needs to do to make an impact in Miss Universe–her only challenge now is to secure our first ever 2nd runner-up finsih in this pageant.

Why am I not wishing for an overall win for Rachel?  This is because the Araneta Coliseum was graced by a divine presence that night:  Miss World 2016 3rd runner-up Catriona Gray.  Her presence made many speculate she’s observing the proceedings as she is considering joining the fray after relinquishing her Miss World Philippines title in September.  I know many pageant fans want vindication for Catriona’s unjust 4th place finish at Miss World, and she could be poised for victory in either Miss International or Universe.  I’m all for it as long as Catriona really wants this.   There is still great risk, though, as even as Catriona has the qualities to win either Universe or International, victury is never guaranteed.

Divine being at Atraneta: Catriona Gray in the audience

This year’s batch of queens provide great promise of another strong finish for us in 2017.  But me and other Pinoy pageant fans are waiting in bated breath for 2018, as we will find out if Catriona decides to descend back to earth and grace us with her presence (nd bring forth more laurels of glory for our country.  But for now, congratulations to all the winners and best of luck in their respective pageant missions!