Each one of the candidates who made the Top 15 have at least one standout quality that made them advance from the Top 25, even if it is at the expense of the likes of Ena Velasco and (for some pageant fans) Sherry Ann Tormes.   Still, in my opinion, one of them should have taken the place of one semifinalist, and she is…

BINIBINING 21 – Anjame Magbitang.  Yes, she’s the tallest in this batch, she has a trim figure, and her native feature may have some appeal, but to be honest, I found her silver-grey long-sleeved embroidered evening gown a tad too busy that I found it a bit surprising she bumped Ena out of a Top 15 slot.   Her response in the final Q&A didn’t help matters to justify her placement in this hallowed group.  She was asked by ABS-CBN’s Chief Technology Officer Martin Lopez “When is the right time to listen and when is the right time to speak?”.  Her response:  “It’s time to listen if you respect the people who will talk and then you will try to speak after the people who talk to you speak because there must be…The best version…”  It was a disorganized answer and for me, way weaker than the lady who ended up not being able to answer a question and hence caused a brief media storm…

BINIBINING 35 – Sandra Lemonon.  Actually, she’s otherwise a great communicator, and she’s a polyglot who can speak four languages fluently and can comprehend at least a couple more, and because of this many pageant fans felt her Fourth Princess finish at Miss World Philippines was probably a fluke and she could vindicate herself in this pageant.  She seemed on her way as she made a great impression in her simple fuchsia satin gown  But it seems during the moments that count, she was caught in a situation that prevented her from articulating the best that she could have.  It happened in Miss World Philippines two years ago that led her to be demoted from an expected First Princess finish to Fourth, and now she was shut out from a potential place in the winner’s circle with the question handed to her by Megawide Construction Chairman Edgar Saavedra: “What are your insights on the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program?”  Because she has not studied regarding this aspect of current events, this is her answer:  “Actually, I studied so much for this Q&A, but suddenly that’s something that I really don’t know much about. But, at least I’m here trying to answer a good question. Thank you!”  As co-host Pia Wurtzbach noted, her honesty is refreshing and that is why I find her non-answer stronger than Anjame’s messy, disorganized answer.  If I were in her situation, what would I have done?  I was thinking one of two approaches–first, I would indeed go the honest route and acknowledge I have no knowledge about that project but I would ask the judge to give me a brief background of what that program, “Could you please give me a brief description of what the program is about?”  and share the first thing that comes to her mind based from what the judge relayed to her.  The other approach is assuming she has an idea or an opinion what good governance is all about, she can take this approach:  “I would stand behind any government program that would bring long-term benefits to the Filipino people, just as long as that project is properly implemented and no corruption is involved.”  It’s optional to add something about that it also doesn’t impose too much from the taxpaying public, but I’m sure you get the idea.  Or if she really has no stance about what her idea of a good government is, her honest response would suffice.  Yes, it cost her a slot in the winners’ circle, and yes pageant netizens would turn her answer into a meme, but I think the public in general respected her response and viewed it positively.  It’s way better than to be a subject of ridicule like what happened to Jeanie Anderson back in 2001 and Janina San Miguel in 2008.

BINIBINING 15 – Juliana Kapeundl.  I thought her thick figure would be a big obstacle for her to advance tto the Top 15, but I think there is heavy premium on facial beauty, which she possesses in spades that is why the judges overlooked her less-than-pageant-standards figure.  She was asked by news anchor Ces Oreña-Drilon this topical question: “Misogyny or bias against women has been very prevalent lately. How should this be addressed?”  Juliana gave this thoughtful answer:  “I think this should be addressed by empowering women. We women, we have to think that we are not just women. We don’t need labels. As mother, daughter, sister, we have our own individuality and we have to use it to our advantage and let our strengths shine. So, as women, we have to empower our co-women an equality with men in the future. Thank you.”  It’s an answer full of substance, albeit delivered in a slightly monotone manner, that along with her swimsuit figure, made me rank her here instead of higher.

BINIBINING 24 – Edjelyn Joy Gamboa.  She exudes glamour and charisma all througghout, especially in her sexy yet elegant white low-cut white evening gown.  She was asked by Ateneo volleyball star Alyssa Valdez this question:  “If inner beauty is emphasized in beauty pageants, then why are there physical requirements upon joining it?”  Edjelyn’s answer:  “Okay, honestly speaking, there’s no requirement, there’s no beauty requirement in a competition like this. Everyone is accepted as long as you have a good heart, as long as you are confident with your looks, and then you’ll be a part of Binibining Pilipinas. Thank you.

BINIBINING 26 – Wynonah Van Joy Buot.  She’s one of the sleeper choices who was deemed as possessing an inside track into the Top 15 and beyond as the pageant activities wore on.  She delivered on the hype on finals night as she looked lovely in her sexy form-fitting red sequined gown.  For the Q&A, she was asked by actor Gerald Anderson, “Name one great Filipino artist you truly admire and why?”  Wynonah cited a celebrity, as follows:  “One great Filipino artist I truly admire would probably be Toni Gonzaga. Although she’s a celebrity and we have a stereotype when it comes to celebrities, I truly admire her because she follows a certain path when it comes to her life. She actually has a successful career, a complete family, and she did these all together by following her parents. And that’s one important thing that we millennials must learn. You will never fail in life when you follow your parents. Thank you!”  It might seem a shallow choice, but she justified her answer very well.

BINIBINING 3 – Murielle Orais.  There are pageant fans who loved how she registered in her formal photos, that many have included her as one of the likeliest to make the winners’ circle.  She was proven to be polished all throughout, especially making a great impression in her white sweetheart-necklined evening gown, and she got a special award as Miss Philippine Airlines.  She was asked by Martin Lopez this question:  “This year marks the graduation of the first-ever batch of K-to-12 students. What is your message to them?”  This is Muriel’s message:  “My message to the students is that you have to focus on your studies, because their parents are very working hard for their education. I believe that education will give them knowledge and experience and it will give them a better future. Thank you.”  I suppose with other delivering more remarkable answers, she fell a bit short to make the winners’ circle.  Still, spare a thought for…

BINIBINING 11 – Maria Andrea “Aya” Abesamis.  Her unimpeachable stage chops served her well and many assumed she’s a lock for the winners’ circle unless she made a big flub in her Q&A.  So how did her Q&A go?  She was asked by Novotel Hotel General Manager Mike Brown this topical question:  “Boracay has its hazardous environmental situation. What is your view on this issue?”  Aya answered this way:  “My view on this issue is that it’s a big matter right now. We need to conserve our natural habitat and our isles as a Filipino and a Filipina. Because we live there. We live in the country. There are locals there and we’re supposed to take care of it. Thank you.”  It’s actually a solid answer, albeit generic and that was probably the factor why she was pegged down by the judges.  Apparently her pedigree as he daughter of Miss Universe 1984 3rd runner-up Desiree Verdadero-Abesamis didn’t hold sway.  I suppose hints that she’s not as favored as perceived manifested when she failed to garner a single special award.  I have to say though I think she’s worthy, her being shut out of the winners’ circle is fully justified.

Now, let’s discuss the Winners’ Circle.  These ladies, by all accounts, earned their standings with strong charismatic presences and strong answers in the Q&A.  Let’s meet them starting with:

2ND RUNNER-UP:  BINIBINING 14 – Samantha Mae Bernardo.  She garnered a special award as Manila Bulletin Readers’ Choice, but her biggest splahs was in evening gown as she astounds in her orange gown with elegant cape.  It was the second-best evening gown performance of the night (let’s just say the winner of this category truly earned her award in this aspect).  She also gave a brilliant answer to the question actor Gerald Anderson posed to her, thusly:  “What do you think is the biggest misconception about beauty pageant contestants?”  Her answer:  “I think the biggest concept, misconception in beauty pageants today is that we’re just beautiful. But we are not. We are confidently beautiful. We’re compassionate and we’re very competent. We are in a year wherein we have surpassed odds about women. And we continue to prove ourselves in a society. We can be at home, raising a family, or an office having a career. Or just like me here, joining pageants, celebrating our femininity. Thank you!”  I totally agree with her answer.  Now, why didn’t she rank higher and win one of the crowns?  I suppose it’s simply that the judges found the ladies who ranked higher than her much prettier, that is why this is as far as she could go.

1ST RUNNER-UP:  BINIBINING 1 – Vickie Marie Rushton.  This Mutya ng Pilipinas 2011 winner has the mestiza prettiness highly prized in these shores, and she was able to parlay that and made a major splash.  I may be more impressed with Samantha Mae Bernardo’s gown, but I can understand that the judges respond to her prettiness better.  I think that prettiness helped her also outrank Samantha as she gave a pretty basic answer in the Q&A.  She was asked by basketball star Thirdy Ravena this topical question:  “Do you believe hazing and fraternities has its own good? Why and why not?”  She responded: “I believe that any violence is no good, because one person alone can stand up for herself or himself. And as a Bb. Pilipinas, I can be that influence to spread the word that violence is not acceptable. Thank you”  It’s a good answer and she did take a stand against violence and made it an advocacy, but I just wish she expounded on it a little bit.  Still, her eventual standing is well-deserved.