At the Press Presentation (image courtesy of Jhosh Redriguez Photography).

BINIBINING 11 – Maria Andrea “Aya” Abesamis.  This lady has pedigree as she’s the daughter of Miss Universe 1984 3rd runner-up Desiree Verdadero, and it has been reported that this lady hold heavy sway with the powers-that-be that she could be the main obstacle to the fans’ dreams of seeing the Divine Miss Gray clinch the premier title of Miss Universe Philippines.  Like her mother, she’s not of the conventionally pretty sort, but she has proven to have strong stage presence and is one of the top names in the local fashion runway scene.  Some have raised some concerns about her communication skills though so far from what I have seen she acquitted herself well.  She will actually be a good fit for Miss Universe, but we know many pageant fans would grumble about that outcome and would prefer her to take other titles at stake instead, like perhaps Supranational or Intercontinental (though I placed her as my choice for International in a poll on Global Beauties, it turns out at age 26 she’s over the age limit; I’ll still include a theoretical rating for her and other candidates who are past the age limit anyway).  U – 9.5, I – 9, S – 10, GI – 9, IC – 9.5, G – 10.

BINIBINING 12 – Janette Sturm.  She has those mestiza features that we Filipinos prize as beautiful, though she isn’t really projecting much charisma, and although well-spoken, some would note a little tentativeness in her speech.  Still she’s an overall worthwhile contender.  MU – 7.5, I – 7.5, S – 8, GI – 7.5, IC – 7, G – 7.

BINIBINING 13 – Kristie Rose Cequeña.  She made the Top 25 last year and hopes to improve on that showing.  She does build on her surprise strong finish last year, but I don’t foresee her making further to the Top 15.  U – 7, I – 6, S – 7, GI – 7, IC – 7, G – 7.

BINIBINING 14 – Samantha Bernardo.  She made the Top 13 back at Miss World Philippines 2013, and is making a splash in the talent competition again with her dancing skills.  So far she looks poised to be a Top 25/Top 15 contender, and hope she learns the lessons of her interview flub in her previous stint so she could make a better impact in Q&A this time.  U – 8, I – 8, S – 8, GI – 8, IC – 8, G – 8.

BINIBINING 15 – Juliana Kapeundl.  Her pretty face and her communication skills are her strongest assets–would they be anough to earn her a repeat placement in the Top 15, considering that many observed her figure is not as trim and toned as other contenders in this year’s batch?  U – 8.5, I – 8.5, S – 8, GI – 7.5, IC – 8, G – 8.

BINIBINING 16 – Annalita Vizcarra.  She does have the trim figure and exotic features that made her a model.  But as a beauty queen?  Despite those physical attributes, her beauty is of the unconventional sort that only those with an extremely exotic bent may appreciate, and her interviews as I see is far from perfect.  U – 6.5, I – 5.5, S – 7, GI – 6.5, IC – 7, G – 7.

BINIBINIGN 17 – Ma. Athisa Manalo.  She is garnering rising buzz as she has an undeniable mestiza prettiness that is highly prized in these shores, along with a very likeable charm.  Looks like a Top 15 shoo-in with a possible play for the winners’ circle. U – 9, I – 9.5, S – 10, GI – 9.5, IC – 9.5, G – 10

BINIBINING 18 – Rosantonette Mendoza.  We have to salute her for her inspirational weight loss story, and she’s acquitting herself very well here, proving she has the shape to keep up with the trim contenders out there.  She’s not really one of the standout faces out there, but she’s a worthwhile contender.  U – 7.5, I – 7, S – 7, GI – 7, IC – 7, G – 7.

BINIBINING 19 – Michele Gumabao.  Her father is 1970s-80s heartthrob Dennis Roldan (real name Mitchell Gumabao)*1 so there is no doubt his good looks passed on to her.  She has made a name for herself as a varsity volleyball player for De La Salle University, and with her athletic figure and 5’9″ stature, she has made a big impact in this realm.  Many are buzzing she is poised to garner a title and although I didn’t include her in my predictions, she’s a shoo-in for the winners’ circle and could make a play for one of the titles.  U – 9.5, I – 9.5, S – 9.5, GI – 9, IC – 10, G – 10.

*1  I remember him vividly for two things–first, he’s my first sight of an adult male butt on TV as they once aired a Nora Aunor movie featuring him as a brain-damaged man late at night around the mid-1980s.  Then I actually met him personally about 25 years ago when Daryl Hall and John Oates performed at the Araneta Coliseum–I was with a college friend and he brought a couple of female acquaintances and Dennis came forward to converse with the girls about going to an after-party or a night at the club.  We didn’t take up on his offer–I’ll leave it at that.

BINIBINING 20 – Catriona Gray.  This divine being heeded the fans’ clamor for vindication and decided to enter the Bb. Pilipinas fray, and showcasing that she has learned a few things being earthbound with us mere mortals.  But has she found enough grounding to stave off criticisms that she registers as “scripted”?  Well, we know the flak she received from the reigning Bb. Pilipinas-International Mariel de Leon and though Catriona’s fans made like Beyonce‘s infamous Beyhive and launched a social media war against her.  But we all know the Divine Miss Gray is a classy lady and she took that criticism in stride and will take that into consideration (because to be honest, that was the factor that caused Julia Morley and company to have reservations granting her the Miss World crown two years ago).  Still, this diligent divinity is leaving no stone unturned and is doing the work like the rest of the candidates to compete for one of the titles.

I know it’s almost every Filipino pageant fans’ dream that she garners the plum Miss Universe Philippines title this Sunday, and for many, anything less is a disappointment.  This, even if she was granted a title in any of those other international pageants she would be considered THE frontrunner to beat (yes, even Supranational–we all tend to assume Catriona is too serene and placid, but I did get glimpses of her bubbly girlishness in a few unguarded moments during the Miss World Philippines coronation party, and you know Supranational is about bubbliness).  It’s a big risk she’s taking and we hope that risk pays off, even with compelling persuasion from certain influential circles that we can go safe as she’s a sure thing in any other title, anyway.  U – 10, I – 10, S – 10, GI – 10, IC – 10, G – 10.



As hinted in my review of last year’s Binibining Pilipinas, the big story for this edition is the presence of Miss World 2016 4th placer Catriona Gray in this batch, to the delight of Filipino pageant fans hungering for vindication over her perceived “unjust” finish at Miss World.  But one has to note that pageant fans should never be presumptive that participating is already a guarantee of a win–nothing in this world is 100% guaranteed.  For starters also in the fray is the daughter of Miss Universe 1984 3rd runner-up Desiree Verdadero, Maria Andrea “Aya” Abesamis, and there was heavy talk of how much Desiree holds sway with the powers-that-be.  There are also some buzzed about possible usurpers garnering buzz, too, though

From the screening: Catriona Gray (L) and Aya Abesamis (R)

One wonderful development this year is that unlike in previous editions, there are no withdrawals and disqualifications that took place this year.  There were rumors of withdrawal threats from some lesser-regarded candidates griping about the excessive attention towards the perceived favorites, but thank goodness all prevailed and stayed on.  Now, as is my wont, I will be rating these ladies’ prospects of making waves in the international titles at stake, with the following legend:  U – Universe; I – International; S – Supranational; GI – Grand International; IC – Intercontinental; and G – Globe.  Without further ado let’s begin with…

BINIBINING 1 – Vickie Lee Rushton.  There is some talk that she can be a possible player in the winner’s circle (when I refer to this, I’m referring to runners-up and above), especially since she won the plum prize of Mutya ng Pilipinas seven years ago.  She does have great looks and solid communication skills. She also has a human-interest angle with a blind mom and a brother inflicted with Down’s syndrome.  She is a good communicator who could come up with great ideas, albeit imperfect as shown in the 30-second word/object-association challenge.  U – 8.5, I – 8.5, GI – 8.5, S – 8.5, IC – 8.5, G – 8.5.

BINIBINING 2 – Kathrine Ventura.  She doesn’t fit my notion of conventional beauty but she is attractive and has an outgoing vibe.  A worthwhile contender.  U – 7.5, I – 7.5, S – 8, GI – 7.5, IC – 7.5, G – 8

BINIBINING 3 – Murielle Orais.  Her experience winning Miss Philippines-Water seven years ago serves her well here, even if there are taller and prettier contenders generating stronger buzz.  Another worthwhile contender.  U – 7.5, I – 7.5, S – 8, GI – 7.5, IC – 7.5, G – 8

BINIBINING 4 – Ana Patricia Asturias.  She is one of the strongest communicators in this bunch, and she made a splash with her white Muslim-inspired pantsuit costume with hijab.  It’s no surprise it was shortlisted as one of the ten best.  She seems to have an inside track for the Top 15 (improving on her Top 25 standing last year).  U – 8.5, I – 8.5, S – 8.5, GI – 8.5, IC – 8.5, G – 8.5

BINIBINING 5 – Rose Marie Murphy.  She’s attractive with a trim figure.  She’s not quite making much impact but she’s a worthwhile contender.  U – 7.5, I – 7.5, S – 7.5, GI – 7.5, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5.

BINIBINING 6 – Janice Roman.  Her ace is her gift of gab, since she’s a TV host and an English teacher.  Her native features are not necessarily the sort appreciated here, but she can make serious inroads for Westerners with exotic tastes.  U – 7, I – 6, S -7, GI – 6.5, IC – 7, G – 7.

BINIBINING 7 – Sigrid Grace Flores.  She has an interesting human interest story being a missionary and living on the train tracks at age 13.  Her features are the sort of “native appealing” that works well here and in the international arena.  She also acquitted herself very well in the object-or-word-association challenge.  U – 7.5, I – 7, S – 7.5, GI – 7.5, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5.

BINIBINING 8 – Marie Sherry Tormes.  She’s not conventionally pretty but she has a trim figure and is a good communicator.  Will this be enough for her to advance further?  U – 7, I – 6.5, S – 6.5, GI – 6.5, IC – 6.5, G – 6.5.

BINIBINING 9 – Agatha Lei Romero.  She has a trim-enough figure and a native attractiveness to her.  Another worthwhile contender.  U – 7.5, I – 7, S – 7.5, GI – 7.5, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5.

BINIBINING 10 – Kayesha Chua.  She has appealing Oriental features, a slim, slender figure, and strong communication skills to make her a Top 15 possibility.  U – 7.5, I – 7.5, S – 7.5, GI – 7.5, IC – 7.5, G – 7.5.