After the Fast-Track winners were called out (all four of whom ended up in the winners’ circle so I’ll discuss them later), the rest of the 11 ladies who made up the 15 semifinalists were announced.  Just like in the 65th edition of Miss Universe and last year’s Miss World, as they were called out there immediately was a chat with the host–KC generally would ask a casual question, though it doesn’t always sound that casual and still was a bit structured.  Still, this turns out to be a factor that determines who would advance further into the finals.

CANDIDATE 22 – Chelsea Anne Manalo.  Her dark complexion alone would make her a standout, but it is also complimented by her pretty features.  I mentioned she has the potential to become a “Black Megan”, though during this night her charisma wasn’t turned up to that level–she kept it simple, and that’s enough for her to make the Top 15.  She was asked by KC how important is a first impression to her.  Now, unfortunately she was saddled with nerves, and her answer was a slightly tangential, talking about how one talks to another person, if that person approaches the other with positivity, that is how important a first impression is to her.  There might be a bit of work needed before she fulfills her potential as “Black Megan”, but her presence in this hallowed group is very welcome and is a great message about embracing diversity.

CANDIDATE 12 – Henna Kaizelle “KC” Cajandig.  She was at her best during the coronation night, looking appropriately fierce in swimsuit and dreamily sexy in her white evening gown.  KC asked her what she liked most about herself.  She kept it short and simple–“What I liked most about myself is I am true to myself.  What you see is what you get.  Thank you.”  It’s actually a good answer, but with everyone else delivering stronger answers, making it this far is achievement enough.

CANDIDATE 11 – Gabriela Madarieta Ortega.  I think it was the preliminary interview that gave her the edge as if we based it solely on her performance on coronation night, she would likely miss the cut because of her thick swimsuit figure (unless the judges were in a Siera Bearchell mood, which I doubt).  Her red satin gown and her Castillian presence were what helped her overcome any objections about her figure.  KC asked her what her typical day is like.  She gave an honest, spontaneous answer, relaying about doing a 10-minute run in the morning, eating a big breakfast, going off to work, and meeting with friends after work.  It’s very refreshing, but perhaps a tad too matter-of-fact that is why this was as far as she could go (and yes, no longer in contention for the Reina Hispanoamerica title as other pageant pundits would hype).

CANDIDATE 27 – Ella Eiveren Lubag.  She has those lovely Asian features that do make an impression, and with sleek impeccable styling there is no question she deserved making the cut.  She especially looked splendid in her lacy blue evening gown.  KC asked her about the first person she told after she was selected as one of the 35 candidates.  She answered her father, who was there for her from the screening and she expressed how grateful he was for his presence and mentioned how she looked up to him as a role model.  It was a solid answer delivered with poise, but I think what was missing was at least one specific detail on what makes her father a role model, because if she added that detail, she might have advanced further to the Top 10.

CANDIDATE 33 – Noelle Uy-Tuazon.  She was also styled right and looked elegant in her canary yellow sheath gown.  She was asked by KC about what makes her angry.  She actually gave a strong answer about her being normally patient but would be upset if a person is dishonest and disloyal, as “it’s difficult to have a great relationship if people are not honest with each other, you know?” and that it’s important for human beings to be in the same page.  I have a feeling she was docked a bit by the judges for taking millisecond pauses to gather her thoughts together, but I think she gave a well-delivered, spontaneous, and sincere answer.

After a segment paying tribute to Julia Morley, the Top 15 were whittled down to a Top Ten, and they are subject to a final interview conducted by Miss World 2013 Megan Young.  She’s her lovely gracious self, giving compliments to every lady in the Top 10 before having them select a question from the bowl and Megan reading the question to them.

CANDIDATE 28 – Sheila Marie Reyes.  Pulling her hair back and with the right styling and makeup, her beauty was put in the best light and she exceeded most people’s expectations and ended up making it all the way to the Top Ten.  KC asked her about the most recent random act of kindness that she had done.  Sheila talked about their visit at Jose Reyes Medical Center and meeting a child patient named Jenna and how she is praying for her healing from her excruciating pain as she found this child to be beautiful from inside and out.  For the Top 10 question-and-answer round, her question was: “You were given a one way ticket to embark on a great adventure. Where would that be?”  Her answer:  “I want to go to Jerusalem. I’m a believer of the Bible and I wanna go to a place that is in the Bible. I am a woman a faith and if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, we can achieve everything, conquer everything even our fears.”  I have a feeling she is devoutly religious–not to take it against her for having that conviction, but these days, being devoutly religious tend to be associated with hate, discrimination and closed mindedness (like Miss Universe 1999 1st runner-up Miriam Quiambao‘s statements as of late) and this is why I have to put her in the bottom of the Top Ten.  But I do hope she’s not that sort of Christian.

CANDIDATE 6 – Jona Ili Sweett.  She was always considered one of the big favorites and touted a potential member of the winners’ circle.  She delivered on her status as one of the favorites in both swimsuit and gown, looking particularly elegant in her peach organza gown with floral applique.  When called out to the Top 15, she was asked by KC what for her is the best part of being a Miss World Philippines candidate.  She gave a very proper and correct answer, talking about being an influence in other people’s live and giving something back to the community, as “it doesn’t take much to give something back to society.”  For her Top 10 question, she was asked:  “Would you compete in miss world Philippines if there was no prizes at stake?”  Jona gave another “correct” answer:  “I believe I would still compete because that is not why I am here. The reason I gave up everything I had in Australia is because I want to be a woman of change. I want to be different. I want to conquer the world, and spread unity among Filipinos.” This question could probably be considered a “no-win” question because however well you would answer it, there will always be doubt cast upon the one who answers if she really was sincere in her sentiments.  Still, a commendable effort.

CANDIDATE 14 – Cristina Marie Coloma.   I viewed her as an underdog, but it turns out she already has polish and sparkle within her that she was on-track to potentially pulling off an upset.  She was on-point in swimsuit, and created a splash in evening gown with that white scalloped gown adorned with huge bow that could’ve been too over-the-top but instead turned out to be a fashion risk that paid dividends.  Megan declared that the bow “gave (her) life”.  Anyway, for the Top 15 round, KC asked her who/what inspired to join Miss World Philippines?  Cristina answered that besides her parents, it was the people of Northern Samar, where she won a provincial crown, and how making it to this pageant was six years in the making.   For her Top Ten question, she was asked, “What’s your take on dating apps and websites? Do you think these will lead to successful relationships?”  She gave this refreshingly open-minded answer:  “I actually have no problems with dating apps because, as the saying goes: We find love in unexpected places. And if the two people who meet in these dating apps or websites are willing to make the relationship work, then the relationship will be very successful.”  In any other year, an answer of this caliber is a guarantee shoo-in for the winner’s circle but with so many exemplary communicators this year, there are some that had to be unfortunately shut out.  If she decides to pursue other national pageants in the future (like, say, Binibining Pilipinas), I can say her future looks very bright as she already has the goods at this point, and with the right mix of opportunities she could emerge as a major titleholder one of these days.

CANDIDATE 26 – Janela Joy Cuaton.  In all respects she deserved all the crown hype though the competition turned out to be a bit more tighter than one expected during coronation night.  But signs that a crown is not guaranteed for her began with her gown appearance–as intricately designed as her applique laden mint-green gown was, the gown doesn’t seem to make that maximum impact that one expects from a potential winner.  I wouldn’t pan it the way it was viewed negatively in a Rappler review, but I agree it didn’t present her at her best as it should.  She did very strongly when called out last in the Top 15 and asked by KC about the best gift she received in life.  She mentioned her talent, and she savvily promoted her advocacy “Fashion Meets Passion” which she founded at age 15, as she mentioned her talent allowed her to “give love and hope to a lot of people, especially in Masbate.”  For her Top 10 question, it went: “What advice can you give to vicitms of cyberbullying.”  Janela’s answer went thusly:  “I would tell them to know yourself first. Know your worth, because once you know your worth, people who judge you cannot bring you down. And also believe in the people around you, especially your family because they are the ones who are true to you. People on social media, they don’t know you. They saw your photo and they judge you. But the people around you who tell you, you’re beautiful. They are the people who matter.”  It was a strong answer, but the issue here is that five out of six members of the winners’ circle delivered superb, more memorable answers, and the one whose answer Janela potentially outranked possesses a very important quality that kept her secure in the winner’s circle.  I’m glad Janela’s legion of fans seem to be gracious in defeat though of course they are now clamoring for her to take the Binibining Pilipinas plunge.  Let’s see how that will unfold…