The new Miss World Philippines Organization pulled out all the stops to ensure this year’s national pageant (the first year under their primary management*1) would be a smashing success. Besides continuing with its broadcast partnership with GMA 7, it was staged at a grand fashion in the SM Mall of Asia arena with three LED screens as backdrops and two catwalks on the stage. They also have a huge judging panel of 19 people, with some big-name local celebrities like Miss World 1993 2nd runner-up Ruffa Gutierrez, actor Diether Ocampo, news broadcaster Vicki Morales, TV host Willie Revillame, fashion designer Randy Ortiz, and international male model Paolo Roldan. On top of that, they also have the Miss World owner Julia Morley and her team, along with the reigning Miss World Stephanie del Valle from Puerto Rico and her runners-up and Continental Queens. There was time allotted to pay tribute to these guests on the program–more on that later.
*1 Though this is Arnold Vegafria‘s first year as national director, he arguably was the chief operator of the franchise under Cory Quirino‘s leadership. General Manager Mark Bessie Besana, meanwhile, had a significant hand in preparing the previous six Miss World Philippines winners when he was a member of Aces & Queens.
The opening number was modern, bright, and peppy, with the 35 candidates dressed in gold lamé minidresses dancing and striking pierce poses to Meghan Trainor‘s song “Woman Up!“. There is of course the peppy individual contestant introductions, and then not only were the hosts introduced but also the six previous Miss World Philippines (MWP) winner under Cory Quirino’s regime. There is a nice scripted spiel distributed amongst the hosts and the previous winners that gave a welcome touch of ceremonial formality to an otherwise peppy sequence.
The main hosts for the evening were GMA 7 mainstays Carla Abellana, Iya Villania, and KC Montero. All are honed professionals who have extensive hosting experience so no one can really fault with their hosting. The press and the public though, raved about Carla’s styling and elegant presence, that she almost could be mistaken for a contestant for this pageant and even become a crown contender. However, take note she’s no longer eligible as she’s 31 years old.
It’s a welcome treat not only to see the former MWP winners given significant spotlight, they were also given roles in the telecast. Besides the outgoing winner Catriona Gray handing over her crown, four of the former winners were paired off to deliver spiels prior to the presentation of candidates in the swimsuit and evening gown segments. MWP 2012 Quenerich Rehman and MWP 2015 Hillarie Parungao were tasked to open the swimsuit segment, while MWP 2011 Gwendoline Ruais and MWP 2014 Valerie Weigmann opened the evening gown segment. And of course Miss World 2013 Megan Young was the one who handled the Top 10 interview round. All did well, albeit a few hints of imperfection here and there (like Megan stumbling pronouncing the word “social” in one of the questions she asked), but it makes them refreshingly human.
There seemed to be only one entertainment segment during the telecast, the singing of the new Miss World Philippines theme by veteran Filipino R&B singers Jay-R and Kris Lawrence. Both the previous theme (“Beauty of the Philippines”) and this one are your typical sentimental ballads, but for most folks (including myself), the previous theme seems to sound smoother and better–the previous one was already schmaltzy as it was, and this theme just pile on the schmaltz further that as competently sung by these singers, I just can’t quite connect with the song, and piling on lyrics that explicitly states “Beauty with a purpose” just gives the feeling they’re trying to hammer down the point too hard. I respect the choice, but I have to be honest that I’m not that into it, and this for me is the lowlight of the program.
Not shown on the telecast was that there are a host of singers who performed in between the segments. Teejay Marquez sang (or mimed) his sweet mellow hit song “Di Magbabago [Never Change]“, Gabri Panlilio hashed out a version of that jazz chestnut made most famous by Nina Simone, “Feeling Good“, and Gledie Laroco belted out Jennifer Rush ‘s oft-covered ballad*2 “Power of Love” . Then there’s superstar artist Christian Bautista who sang two songs, “Kapit [Hold On]” and that Jose Mari Chan 1987 mega-smash chestnut “Beautiful Girl“. Well our nation has been renowned for musical talent so it’s not surprising that they had a moment (even if it’s not televised).
*2 Most prominently Celine Dion who made it a US number one hit in 1995 and whose version is probably the one most Filipinos would remembe.)
Prior to the competition proper, the visiting visiting reigning Continental Queens were presented onstage. For me it’s great seeing 1st runner-up and Miss World – Caribbean Yaritza Reyes from Dominican Republic, 2nd runner-up and Miss World – Asia Natasha Mannuela from Indonesia, Miss World – Africa (and 5th runner-up) Evelyn Njambi from Kenya, Miss World – Americas Audra Mari from the United States, and Miss World – Oceania Madeline Cowe from Australia being given their due. However, there is also a side of me that was holding in bated breath due to the foul sentiment of Filipino pageant netizens still stewing over last year’s results, but fortunately the audience at the SM Mall of Asia Arena were cordial and gave them a warm (albeit less hearty) round of applause. Glad the audience at the arena had common sense to present our country as still hospitable towards visiting guests.
After the evening gown segment and awarding of special awards, there was also a segment where MWPO National Direct Arnold Vegafria presented a plaque of appreciation to Miss World Chairperson Julia Morley for spearheading the Beauty with a Purpose projects worldwide. Julia was, as expected, very gracious, and I like the fact that the memorable part of her speech was focusing on the current project being handled by this franchise, helping the Tuloy Foundation spearheaded by Fr. Rocky Evangelista, which help streetchildren get educated to have better lives.
The competition format for the coronation night is similar to the competition format made in Binibining Pilipinas for over the past five decades (with the exception of this year as they made an initial cut from 40 to 25)–all candidates parade onstage in swimsuit and evening gown before making any further cuts. We could not really fault this organization for using the template of another national pageant as this is a format that makes best sense for this market, on top of the fact that multiple titles are on offer this year.
For the swimsuit round, all candidates parade in one-piece purple swimsuits as the latest dance hits play. This year’s swimsuit playlist include “Feels” by Calvin Harris featuring Katy Perry, Pharell and Big Sean, “Shooting Stars” by Decco featuring Mapei, “Hey Mama“ by Jonas Blue featuring William Singe and two others.
They also employed modern music for the evening gown round, but instead of just hearing the original hit recordings, instrumental versions of that song was played instead. The segment opened to the international hit “Symphony” by Clean Bandit featuring Zara Larsson, followed by two other dance tracks whose name escape me as of this writing.
After each of these segments sponsors’ prizes and special awards were announced. Most of them went to the key favorites going into this coronation night, but there was one who neither figured in the fast-track shortlists nor made the final cut who garnered a special award. She is…
MISS ZALORA PEOPLE’S CHOICE: CANDIDATE 13 – Kathryn Jade Cudiamat. This sponsor’s award was driven by online votes–I suppose she has a significant amount of supporters who crowded the Zalora portal and voted repeatedly and hence she garnered this honor. Just like several of this year’s candidates, she has the looks and polish to be worthy of notice, and if this was a previous edition, would’ve made the final cut. But with the standards ratcheted to a higher level, even as she delivered a solid performance in swimsuit and gown, and most likely acquitted herself well in preliminary interview, she probably missed the cut by very little.
After the aforementioned two rounds and the awarding of special awards, there was the announcement of the Fast-Track winners. Just like in Miss World, the ladies who made the shortlist gather at the center of the stage and the winner amongst those in the shortlist would then be announced. The difference is in Miss World, there typically would be a segment recapping the aforementioned fast-track event, so there is context on why the ones who are at the center part of the stage. Unfortunately, there is no pre-taped segment playing in this pageant, so the announcement ended up rather dry–hopefully they can improve on this in future editions. Though I would like to pay tribute to all non-finalists, I will focus on those who at least had the honor of making centerstage but missing the cut:
CANDIDATE 1 – Shawntel Cruz. If we based it solely on her performance onstage on coronation night, I would’ve pegged her as one of two who came closest to making the final cut. Sure her figure was thick, but so were Zara Carbonell and Gabriela Ortega, but she was sparkling and polished, and I liked her white gown with sexy slit and chiffon drap over her left shoulder. She of course made inroads in Sports and Talent.
CANDIDATE 2 – Veronica Villones. Her performance of note was in sports. I have to note that her pink gown was one of the weakest in the bunch in my opinion, mainly because of the extremely distracting humongous tail/train on her backside–it drew a lot of attention, but not in a flattering way.
CANDIDATE 4 – Rose Flores. In many photos this Multimedia short-lister may register as a tad angular, but she looked great onstage, and her smoky makeup complimented her wonderfully. But in an extremely competitive environment such as this, making the shortlist in one of the fast-tracks and compliments for her performance during coronation is enough achievement for her.
CANDIDATE 5 – Kaycie Lyn Fajardo. If we based it solely on looks during the coronation night, this Talent short-lister was on-point, especially looking resplendent in her elegant pink gown. But the judges have their eyes on a few others, and there is not enough room for this otherwise strong contender to make the final cut.
CANDIDATE 8 – Nikki Deveza. She’s another case of a semifinalist-worthy contender competing for extremely limited slots in a crowded field. It didn’t help matters that her pink sequined gown is a bit washed out and made her blend in instead of stand out. She made the shortlist in one fast-track event, Sports.
CANDIDATE 10 – Leidda Babasanta. She made the shortlist in the Multimedia fast-track, but obviously as solid as she is and even with a lacy maroon gown that has a bit of drama on it, it’s not enough for her to make it further.
CANDIDATE 16 – Ethel Abellanosa. If it weren’t for making the shortlist in Sports, she is not considered to be in contention for the finals, though to her credit she’s a solid performer.
CANDIDATE 19 – Joanna Marie Rabe. She also made the Sports shortlist. Her angular features are a bit of an acquired taste, but she’s undoubtedly polished, and I like that she broke from the shiny/lacy trend by wearing a peach one-shouldered number.
CANDIDATE 20 – Trizha Ocampo. I thought this Multimedia short-lister’s resemblance to Miss Universe Philippines 2014 MJ Lastimosa and that low-cut V-neck white lace gown would giver her a heads up over the competition, but she fell a tad short. Still there’s nothing to really fault about her performance–it’s simply that there are too few slots to accommodate for standouts like her.
CANDIDATE 31 – Jeanyfer Ozbot. I thought her figuring in the Beach Beauty and Talent fast-tracks and her human interest story would help her make serious inroads into the finals, but it turns out she lacked the right sparkle when it counted. It didn’t help that her busy nude-colored gown with those distracting feathers and off-putting appliques and unflattering bustline was arguably the worst gown of the entire batch.
COMING UP: THE TOP 15