The general key characteristic of the ladies who made it in the winners’ circle is consistently strong communication skills.  Even the “weakest” communicator in this group  gave strong answers, and that person had certain extraordinary qualities that guaranteed her a crown.  Without further ado, let’s salute them starting with…

2ND RUNNER-UP:  CANDIDATE 24 – Zara Carbonell.  Her making the cut was mainly because of her outgoing personality, superb interview skills, and celebrity pedigree, as otherwise if we base it on the way she looked onstage in swimsuit and evening gown, she’s just a worthwhile contender.  But this format works very well in her favor, as her superb communication skills came shining in the forefront.  When called to the Top 15, she was asked by KC about her life goals.  Her answer: “My life goal is actually to be able to put together a mentoring school regarding awareness of leadership and self-assurance.  This has been my advocacy because I have seen how important it is to have a very intact self-identity in order to go through what you have to go through in life.”  Her lofty and noble answer no doubt propelled her to the Top 10, where she was asked “How do beauty pageants contribute to humanity?”  Her brilliant answer:  “Beauty pageants go far beyond crown and title. It’s the process of being in the pageant that transforms all these young women. And it’s empowering to know that as you transform the yourself, you transform the world as you know it, because you choose to be the best version of yourself.

1ST RUNNER-UP:  CANDIDATE 3 – Glyssa Perez.  She was always regarded as a winners’ circle possibility.  She did deliver onstage in swimsuit and gown as she was faultless in both rounds.  She won the Sports fast-track, which comes with a Miss Fila sponsor’s prize with it.  After being called as the Sports fast-track champion, she was asked by KC about how she maintains the “best you” when tired.  She expounded that the key is staying grounded and how her family helped her know her roots and where she came from, and that’s how she stayed grounded.  For the Top 10 Q&A, her question was “All your life your parents have taught you school work to lessons in life. But what have you taught your parents?”  She gave a great answer thusly:  “Living from a different country from the Philippines, one thing I’ve taught my parents is trust. I’m the only girl in the family with three brothers, you can imagine how protective they are. Trust is what I’ve taught them because they allowed me to move to another country, because I’m so passionate about serving the community.”  Her answer hit all the right notes–the personal touch and also fitting the pageant’s emphasis on charity and public service.  It’s possible she could’ve gotten the fourth crown at stake, if it weren’t for the eloquence of…

Images sourced from raulgatal.blogspot.com

MISS MULTINATIONAL PHILIPPINES:  CANDIDATE 35 – Sophia Señoron. No one has predicted her landing in the winners’ circle, and neither does this 17-year old teenager expect this outcome too.  But her spunk and her San-Beda-Debate-Team-honed eloquence made her a major wildcard, and in the end, upset the order of things.  When called to the Top 15, KC asked her about her biggest worry in life (which he infused with a self-deprecating joke about his baldness).  Her answer:  “I think the biggest worry in my life is not being able to fulfill my dream and that is to be able to spread kindness and to be able to spread happiness on my daily life–so I think that’s what worries me the most because I want to be a sunshine in the world frame.”  For the Top 10 Q&A her question was, “What would you advise a 7-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a beauty queen?”  She gave this sage advice:  “I think at a young age, we start our aspirations of what we want to be in life. That’s something I’ve experienced being 17 years old and making it this far. I would tell the girl not to make the pageant her goal but to make what she wants to do with the pageant her destination.”  It’s wonderful that she has this mature insight even at her young age, as most people her age don’t think in the longer term but would usually think of things in the short-term, like many falling into a trap that entering and winning a pageant is a be-all and end-all–she seems aware that is not really the case, but can use the pageant to help further her true ambitions, whatever that may be.  That brilliant answer was the key why not only she made it to the winner’s circle, but garnered a crown.  I’m glad I didn’t hear Janela Cuaton fans rising up in arms against her (or any of the other eventual titleholders) for taking away what is deemed as Janela’s rightful spot in this circle.  They can’t hold it against her for answering this brilliantly, nor for the other three titleholders for earning their titles fair and square.

Evening gown photo courtesy of Rappler

MISS ECO PHILIPPINES:  CANDIDATE 32 – Anne Hathaway-Curtis Cynthia Thomalla.  First, a pronunciation lesson:  her father is German, so “Thomalla” is not pronounced with the “ll” like a “ly”*3 sound but just a straightforward “l” sound (it rhymes with Eurovision 2016 winner from Ukraine, Jamala).  Also take note that you don’t encounter Spanish words or names with a “Th” spelling–to make the soft “th” sound, Spaniards typically would use the letter “C” or “Z” (though Latin Americans would pronounce these like an “S”, and make fun of Spaniards for seemingly having a lisp).

*3 Though in Latin America, the “ll” now starts to sound either like a “y” or a “sh” or “zh”.

Her beauty and charisma were too undeniable for the judges to overlook, and thusly not only did she garner special awards as Miss Photogenic, Best in Long Gown, and Miss Blue Water Spa, she also won the Top Model fast-track.  Though Nick Verreos didn’t have a high regard for her winning gown, I found her white lacy number elegant and she was impeccably styled in it, and that is why she’s deserving of the honor.  After winning the fast-track, she was asked by KC if she would rather be different or would she rather fit in.  She kept her answer straight and simple, even if she momentarily gathered her thoughts to process the term “fit in”:  “I believe that everyone is different, everyone is unique, everyone has their own pasts and stories in life, so I believe I am different and I believe everyone else here is different.”  For the Top Ten round, Megan asked her, “What do you think is the most important social issue facing our generation?”  Her answer was:  “The one social issue that our generation is facing today is the use of social media. A lot of people have been using social media irresponsibly that is causing a lot of conflict and misunderstanding. So I encourage everyone to use social media responsibly to show the world, to spread love and understanding and respect, not just posting for fun. Be mindful of what you post and thank you for that question.”  It’s a good answer, though there is a side of me that thinks that social media is not really the biggest issue, and the answer reminded me a bit of Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach‘s classic Bb. Pilipinas 2015 answer.  For me, this is probably the 7th or 8th best answer in the Top 10 Q&A, but the thing is, Cynthia is the most gorgeous candidate in this year’s batch so she is guaranteed a crown as long as she doesn’t have a Janina San Miguel moment.  Yes, Cynthia is not always the most confident communicator, but she does give out thoughtful answers, and that is good enough to earn a title.  It is likely all she needs to do now is to brush up on what is happening to our environment and she will shine when she competes in her pageant in Alexandria, Egypt early next year.

REINA HISPANOAMERICANA FILIPINAS:  CANDIDATE 9 – Teresita Ssen “Wynwin” Marquez.  She won two fast-track awards, Beach Beauty (which comes with a Miss Bench sponsor’s prize) and Talent.  Her talent was a dance performance with backup dancers that evoked those grand production numbers staged by her mother, Alma Moreno, in her 1980s weekly variety show Loveli-Ness.  KC asked her about the sacrifices that she made for this pageant.  Wynwin spoke about not having enough time for her family as their busy schedules straddle the two different worlds of showbiz and politics, but she learned so much from this pageant that she will always cherish forever.  For her Top 10 Q&A, her question was, “How can you convince the judges that you are worthy of becoming miss world Philippines 2017?”  She gave this persuasive answer:  “I live a life of substance and meaning and that is through service. I uphold social awareness and treasure empathy. I am here ready to give my whole self and to give a win win situation to the organization. I will continue to make beautiful life with determine and passion for my advocacy as well.”  Her answer was memorable because there was a subtle playful pun on her well-known nickname, and that helped her clinch this title.  Some might worry if her relatively short 5’6″ height might be a hindrance in Reina Hispanoamericana–I don’t really think so because I see her figure has those “Precious Lara Quigaman” proportions and that could serve her well in Bolivia and overcome any height objections.  Learning some Spanish and positive aspects about our history with Spain (yeah, I know most of us view those years very negatively, but we all know there are several cultural influences still ingrained in our collective psyche) along with staying focused and on-point will serve her well in this milieu.

MISS WORLD PHILIPPINES:  CANDIDATE 15 – Laura Victoria Lehmann.  Prior to the pageant proceedings, she was deemed the “chosen one”.  There were many pundits who felt that during pageant activities she held a bit back (which was why she wasn’t shortlisted in Beach Beauty even with an enviable figure) and felt that winning the plum title is far from guaranteed and Cynthia, Janela, and Wynwin have a strong shot at it.  But it turns out Laura strategized well and know to best focus her energies on coronation night.  And on coronation night she indeed brought the sparkle, and her solid red satin evening gown made maximum impact as it bucked the trend towards sequins and embroidery.  It’s a given that the Q&A rounds are in her wheelhouse, especially with her experience as a courtside reporter for the UAAP for her (and my) alma mater, Ateneo.  So after her multimedia fast-track win, KC asked her how important the internet is to her.  She brightly and confidently replied, “Well, I think the internet has its pros and cons–I know that especially today it’s been spreading a lot of negativity, but I think at the end of the day it’s a positive tool  and we can use the internet and social media for social good.”  Clinching the deal was being asked a challenging pageant question thusly: “There are people who believe pageants don’t provide the opportunity to empower women. What would you say to them?”  Here’s her brilliant reply: “To anyone who doesn’t believe in pageants, I would ask them to take a look at the girls tonight because we have lawyers, architects, women of substance who are here not only because of what they look like but because of what’s in their hearts, what’s in their mind, and because what they’ve brought forth beauty with a purpose. they’re helping represent the Philippines and become the best version of the Filipina and for me that’s something only to celebrate.

Observing her features more closely, I’ve noticed she resembles a previous Miss World finalist from our country, our 2002 representative Katherine Manalo.  I’ve noticed that both Kate and Laura have elements in their names that imply winning–“Victoria” contains the root word “victor” which is synonymous to “winner”, and Kate’s surname literally means “to win” in Filipino/Tagalog.  I am optimistic at Laura’s prospects for the upcoming Miss World pageant–she has the wits and spunk to charm the judges, and I think that even with the ongoing disillusionment over Catriona Gray‘s non-win last year, there are enough Filipino supporters who would help Laura garner a third consecutive Multimedia win for our country.

Kate Manalo at Miss World 2002

Another twist of kismet is also observed when you put her side-by-side with her Miss Universe Philippines counterpart, Rachel Peters.  First, obviously they are products of a European father and a Filipina mother.  Second, three years ago, Rachel competed in Miss World Philippines and Laura at Binibining Pilipinas–both of them ended up as runners-up in their respective contests (Rachel 4th, Laura 1st).  Three years later, they switched pageant franchises and ended up as the top winners.  And it’s nice to see that they don’t let the rivalry between franchises to get between their friendship, since as it turns out they have been circulating in the same social circles since they were kids–as shown on one of Laura’s posts on Instagram of the two of them attending the same birthday party.

Miss Universe Philippines 2017 Rachel Peters and Miss World Philippines 2017 Laura Lehmann at a Bench event.

I have to say a great kudos to the Miss World Philippines Organization for delivering a wonderfully competitive and well produced pageant this year.  Hope they can continue with this momentum and sustain the prestige that this title entails.



All images courtesy of Miss World Philippines Organization unless otherwise indicated.

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