MISTER WORLD 2019: AT THE HOMESTRETCH — PROLOGUE

Image courtesy of Norman Tinio for normannorman.com

Mister World is typically a bit frustrating from a reliability standpoint as it is never held on an annual basis, and although it is typically assumed to be biennial, there are some irregular intervals like a three-year gap from 2000-2003, then stretched to four years from 2003-2007 and another three years from 2007-2010, and now, from the previous edition from 2016 to this year in 2019.  And even that, the date moved a couple of times, from January, then to June, until finally locking a date in August.  But once that date was locked in, the choice of having my country host this pageant proved to be providential, as the contestants were given a lavish reception and extensive coverage filled with a whole flurry of activities everyday.  There are even a few out-of-town trips to the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, and Zambales thrown in, to boot.  I’ll discuss a bit more about them below.  Despite murmurs from a thinly-veiled blind item by a pageant gossip site of disorganization, my take is that previous editions were more chaotic, and this organization has almost always been run more like a cottage industry than what most people’s notion of a professional organization would be..

 

The activities were kicked off with a press presentation.  Besides the contestants looking dapper in smart casual (or formal) outfits of their own choosing, what struck me most was Julia Morley‘s address, as she touches on openness and diversity, especially as she quipped that a quality of a “desirable” man is a man who “stands by his man or woman”, making an inclusive statement for the LGBTQ+community.  Also, they also touched on that a desirable man is also a man with a great generous heart, unafraid of expressing emotions.  As it turns out, this year’s batch of contestants prove to fit that directive pretty well.

Since Miss World 2017, Julia has been promoting Father Rocky’s Tuloy Foundation and raising funds for his cause.  It proved to be an early emotional highlight for the contestants and observers alike.

LEBANON (Jean-Paul Bitar) hugs a kid during a visit to Father Rocky’s Tuloy Foundation

Meanwhile, the Sports and Extreme Sports challenges had some interesting twists based on who made the shortlist.  It turns out buffed physiques is not always a good indicator of who would shine in this event.  LUXEMBOURG (Owen Hawel), not necessarily renowned for his physique, figured in the Top Eight of the Sports challenge, and slender NETHERLANDS (Ashley Peternella) proved his mettle making the shortlist in both Sports and Extreme Sports, upending other stereotypes in the process (more on that when I discuss about him).

Who would’ve thought that LUXEMBOURG (R, with MALTA and KOREA) would be Top Eight in sports?
…Or NETHERLANDS figuring in the shortlist in both Sports and Extreme Sports?

Besides the Extreme Sports challenge in Laguna, there are a couple of trips to an eco-agricultural farm in Batangas and fun at the beach in Zambales.

PUERTO RICO (Jose Cotto) with a bounty in the Manohan Agri Farm in Batangas
At Isla de Potipot in Zambales

This time there is a full-fledged Top Model event staged, and the final surprise is that despite Julia Morley’s recent directive to avoid staging swimwear competitions, the Top Model event had the 25 shortlisted contestants model Bench underwear.  I suppose Bench is such a major sponsor for this pageant that Julia allowed them to have their way and relax the no-swimwear directive.

The five Top Model finalists: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (Alejandro Martinez), ENGLAND (Jack Heslewood), VENEZUELA (Jorge Nunez), PHILIPPINES (JB Saliba), and MEXICO (Brian Faugier)

The contestants also got media exposure appearing on national TV in a couple of variety shows.  First was at the Sunday variety show, Sunday Pinasaya and then some gameshow fun at the daily noontime variety institution, Eat Bulaga.

At Sunday Pinasaya
ST. MAARTEN, PHILIPPINES, AUSTRIA, IRELAND, UNITED STATES, and RUSSIA at Eat Bulaga

Speaking of style, normally you would observe most contestants sticking to a single, consistent look.  But in various events, it’s fun to observe ARGENTINA (Leonardo Diaz) and SPAIN (Daniel Torres) playing a bit with their looks, with their facial hair in particular.  They both arrived with scruff intact, and in the middle of the proceedings, chose to then shave all their facial hair off, then grew them back again.

From scruffy… (image courtesy of Adam Genato for Sash Factor)
…to clean saven…
…and back to scruff again. (images courtesy of Andy Cayna for Sash Factor)

This year’s pageant attracted 72 contestants–surprisingly this is not a record, as it fell two behind the record set in 2010 when it was held in Korea.  There were two confirmed contestants who actually submitted introduction videos, but somehow failed to make it in the end, and it seems for both cases, the franchise holder is to blame as they failed to secure travel arrangements to Manila.  So sad to miss BOLIVIA (Christian Daniel Turan) and ETHIOPIA (Tewolde Bekele) as alongside six other countries that also supposedly confirmed participation, they could’ve brought forth the roster record that befits the grandness of this year’s edition.

 

Needless to say, this is shaping to be a Mister World pageant for the ages, and most likely to be its grandest edition yet.  Do the caliber of contestants befit the grandiosity?  Read on…

Image courtesy of Joy Arguil for Fab Philippines

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