BINIBINING 11:  POLANGUI, ALBAY – Sherry Ann Tormes.  Here’s another one who placed in the Top 25 last year.  However, she doesn’t seem to be styled right as all I could notice is her nose.  Her prospects of improving last year’s showing would depend on the right styling.  U – 7.5; I – 7; S – 7; IC – 7; GI – 7; G – 7.5

BINIBINING 12:  TALISAY, CEBU – Gazini Granados.  She’s one of the buzzed about favorites to make the winners’ circle, if not be a title holder.  She does seem to have strong qualities, especially how she was able to effectlvely deflect the politically-charged phrase “moving on” into a context that is more general and personal at the same time.  She looks like a Top 15 shoo-in, at the very least.  U – 8.5; I – 8.5; S – 8; IC – 8.5; GI – 8.5; G – 8.5.

BINIBINING 13:  PASIG CITY – Maria Andrea “Aya” Abesamis.  Yes, she has pedigree as she’s the daughter of Miss Universe 1984 3rd runner-up Desiree Verdadero.  But even now, it’s obvious communication skills are not her strongest suit, so making a play for the Miss Universe title seems a pipe dream.  She finished in the Top 15 last year, and at least she seems a shoo-in to finish at that level.  But making beyond that remains a big question.  U – 8.5; I – 8.5; S – 9; IC – 9; GI – 8.5; G – 9.

BINIBINING 14:  LAGUNA – Leren Mae Bautista.  Back in 2015, she got one of the top titles in Mutya ng Pilipinas and won the Malaysian-based Tourism Queen of the Year International.  With that achievement already in her belt, could she make a play for one of the titles, if not the plum one?  Yes it is possible, and I respect she expressed herself well when tacking the “Build, Build, Build” topic in the free speak round–but I object that her points are actually the opposite of what is actually going on as the projects are reportedly benefitting the Chinese people and not the Filipinos.  U – 9; I – 9; S – 9; IC – 9; GI – 9; G – 9.

BINIBINING 15:  SORSOGON – Maria Isabela Galeria.  She’s generally a solid contender in all aspects, and can make a serious play for the Top 15.  U – 8.5; I – 8.5; S – 8.5; IC – 8.5; GI – 8.5; G – 9.

BINIBINING 16:  CATANDUANES – Denise Omorog.  Her features are very much the native sort, and for most pageant fans and pundits, she’s not treated as a serious contender.  However, she is one of the big standouts in the free speak round, in my opinion, with her impressively focused take on the subject “Darna”.  Now, like NEGROS ORIENTAL, will her strong interview skills be enough for her to make a play for the Top 25 and beyond?  U – 7.5; I – 6; S – 7; IC – 7; GI – 6.5; G – 7.

BINIBINING 17:  BATAAN – Bea Patricia Magtanong.  She’s garnering buzz as one of the most likely to clinch the Miss Universe Philippines title, as she exudes abundant polish and charisma in her appearances.  She is also well-spoken, even if there are more impressive speakers out there.  She seems to be one of the most “complete packages” in this year’s batch thus far.  U – 9.5; I – 9.5; S – 9.5; IC – 9.5; GI – 9.5; G – 10.

BINIBINING 18:  MASBATE – Hannah Arnold.  With her height and half-Australian heritage, many (including myself) presumed she could become Catriona’s successor to represent us at Miss Universe.  But her luster dimmed a bit and the free speak round created a “pageant patty” impression of her as her answer is a tad too generic.  Still, a play for one of the titles remain in sight.  U – 9; I – 9.5; S – 9.5; IC – 9.5; GI – 9.5; G – 9.

BINIBINING 19:  MANDAUE:  Ilene De Vera.  Like LAGUNA, her winning a title at Mutya ng Pilipinas helped her notch a strong showing in an international pageant–in this case, 4th runner-up at Miss Asia Pacific International 2017.  She didn’t quite nail her free speak segment but I agree with her stance of being against political dynasties–she just need to organize her thoughts better.  I still see her as a Top 15 shoo-in with a possible play for the winners’ circle.  U – 9; I – 9; S – 9.5; IC – 9; GI – 9; G – 9.

BINIBINING 20:  LEGAZPI CITY – Julia Saubier.  She’s not one of the prettiest in this batch, but she is one of the tallest candidates at 5’11”, and she gave an impressive message in the free speak round when she associated “Keto Diet” with self-esteem and that we should not focus on what we weigh but on how healthy we feel overall.  U – 8.5; I – 8; S – 8; IC – 8; GI – 8.5; G – 8.



This year’s Binibining Pilipinas featured one new innovation–the candidates are not simply identified by numbers but by a town, city, province or region that they would represent.  This has been commonly practiced in other national pageants, but it’s the first time we apply this identifier in this pageant.  And I have to say, it’s a welcome innovation.  As also disclosed in the Road to the Crown preview, it seems the Top 25 would be selected based on four competitions:  the swimsuit competition conducted immediately after the Press Presentation, a closed-door interview round, the National Costume competition, and a Free Speak round where the candidates would express their thoughts on a selected topic within 30 seconds.  As is customary I will be presenting a rating based on their “fit” in making inroads for the respective international pageants they would be competing in.

BINIBINING 1:  MALABON – Jessica Marasigan.  She has great English diction and she seems to have a good polish, so she can be a likely contender for the Top 25.  U – 8; I – 8; S – 8; IC – 8; GI – 8; G – 8.

BINIBINING 2:  PANGASINAN – Denielle Magno.  Her features are of a native sort that would’ve given her more serious inroads about over a decade ago, but it’s an uphill battle in this day and age.  U – 7.5; I – 6.5; S – 7; IC – 7.5; GI – 7; G – 7.5

BINIBINING 3:  MUNTINLUPA – Martina Turner Diaz.  She has one of the most gorgeous faces in this year’s competition, with mestiza features highly prized in these shores.  However, the free speak round revealed weakness in her interview skills.  Will her great looks help her still make the cut?  U – 7.5; I – 7.5; S – 8.5; IC – 8; GI – 7.5; G – 8.

BINIBINING 4:  ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY – Malka Shaver.  She’s another mestiza type, with quirky features and good English diction.  Unfortunately that good diction is not enough for her to ace the free speak round as she ended up with a pageant-patty-sounding response.  U – 7.5; I – 8; S – 8; IC – 8; GI – 8; G – 8.

BINIBINING 5:  ILOILO CITY – Sigrid Flores.  She made the Top 25 last year, and she seems solid lookswise.  But I’m not won over by her answer in the free speak round as she expounds on couture vs RTW, but I have to hand it to her to spin it to emphasize that it’s the cause you espouse that is more important than the outfit you wear.  U – 7.5; I – 7.5; S – 7.5; IC – 7.5; GI – 7.5; G – 7.5.

BINIBINING 6:  DAVAO DEL SUR – Jane Darren Genobisa.  She comes from the Tagabawa tribe, so it’s obvious that her features are very native.  Her sort of looks are not really prized in these shores, though there are Westerners who would consider them “exotically appealing”.  Her communication skills are simple and not really that remarkable, so I’m not that bullish on her Top 25 prospects.  U – 7; I – 6; S – 7; IC – 7; GI – 6; G – 7.

BINIBINING 7:  RIZAL – Honey Grace Cartasano.  She doesn’t have the diction of MALABON or ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, but she expressed her ideas well in the free speak round, so with her good mestiza features she can make a play for the Top 15 and beyond.  U – 8.5; I – 8; S – 9; IC – 9; GI – 8.5; G – 9.

BINIBINING 8:  DUMAGUETE – Joahnna Saad.  Yes, the spelling of her name is that way and it’s not a typo.  Lookswise, some might find her a bit on the plain side and her figure a tad too skinny, but she acquitted herself well in the free speak round.  But will her wits be enough for her to make it to the Top 25?  U – 7; I – 6; S – 6.5; IC – 7; GI – 7; G – 7.

BINIBINING 9:  NEGRO ORIENTAL – Melba Macasaet.  See DUMAGUETE, but with a more “native” face and healthier figure.  U – 7; I – 6; S – 6.5; IC – 7; GI – 7; G – 7.

BINIBINING 10:  MARIKINA – Marianne Marquez.  She has great mestiza looks, but it’s unfortunate she was not able to organize her thoughts together during the free speak round.  She’s caught in a similar situation with MUNTINLUPA–will her looks be enough for her to make serious inroads to the Top 25 and beyond?  U – 7.5; I – 7.5; S – 8.5; IC – 8; GI – 7.5; G – 8.




The 2018 batch of Binibining Pilipinas winners had set a high standard that is actually tough for subsequent successors to follow, even if there were some unexpected outcomes that befell some of the winners.

For starters, many expected Bb. Pilipinas Globe winner Michele Gumabao to at least nail the Top Five of the Albanian-run pageant, as she is perceived to possess very strong qualities that could have brought her in that path, or even a win.  So it was a mild let-down that she fell short of the Top Five–I can only speculate she missed the winners’ circle by very little and perhaps it’s just that the judges at hand were in a “quirkier” mood.  Then came Miss Grand International.  Our representative to that pageant, Eva Patalinjug, seemed on the path to make the Top 20, especially with her polished stage presence and renowned gift of gab.  However, Nawat seemed to penalize her severely for her evening gown trip in the preliminary competition, leading to a shut-out that outraged several Filipino pageant fans and led to an ongoing acrimony between Nawat and the Philippine internet pageant fandom.

Falling short: Bb. Pilipinas Globe Michele Gumabao and Bb. Pilipinas Grand International Eva Patalinjug

But prospects turned much brighter from hereon.  In Miss International, we came close to winning by garnering 1st runner-up thanks to the consistently sterling performance of Ma. Ahtisa Manalo.

Miss International 2018 1st runner-up Ma. Ahtisa Manalo

Though in Miss Supranational, a Top 10 finish by Jehza Huelar is actually a satisfactory, almost laudable finish, there is an interesting twist that a Binibining Pilipinas alumni garnered runner-up honors:  Bb. Pilipinas Tourism 2012 Katrina Jayne Dimaranan sported the United States sash in this pageant and became first runner-up.  It’s vindication for the fact that Katrina didn’t get the opportunity to see action in an international pageant during her reign (due to circumstances beyond her control).

Miss Suprnational 2018 Top 10 placer Jehza Huelar
Miss Supranational 2018 1st runner-up Katrina Jayne Dimaranan

But of course, the best results came at the end of this year’s pageant cycle.  Much has already been said about Catriona Gray garnering our fourth Miss Universe crown, but we also made a breakthrough with Miss Intercontinental, as in an event held in our shores and attracting a record number of 83 contestants, we finally snagged our first ever Miss Intercontinental title (after several close calls from Kris Tiffany Janson, Christie Lynn McGarry and Katarina Rodriguez) with Karen Gallman.  It’s coincidental that on top of both Miss Universe and Miss Intercontinental attracting their highest rosters ever, the winners are renowned for their gifts of gab, there is also the fact that they both share Australian lineages.

Miss Intercontinental 2018 Karen Gallman
Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray

Now, back to Catriona’s victory–soon after her win, there was an announcement about former Ilocos Sur governor Luis “Chavit” Singson being granted the Miss Universe Philippines franchise, which seemed to cast an unexpected dark pall over the thunderous expected rejoicing over Catriona’s triumph.  For starters, what will happen with the Binibining Pilipinas Charties, Inc. (BPCI)?  Remember that back in 1964 this was built on the foundation Miss Universe franchise*1.  A cloud of uncertainty circled for a few months, with BPCI chairperson Stella Marquez-Araneta maintaining that the Miss Universe franchise is still with them.  The cloud cleared up somewhat as it looks like the newly established Miss Universe Philippines and BPCI will be staging this pageant as a partnership–it’s unclear if this is a one-time arrangement or a more permanent one, but at least Filipino fans can heave a sigh of relief and the usual fiesta surrounding the conduct of this premiere pageant institution will continue…for now.

*1 Yes, even if Colombian-born Stella Marquez-Araneta is renowned as the first ever Miss International before helming this organization from inception, this organization only managed to secure the Miss International franchise a year later–which explains why our first Miss International Gemma Cruz is never recognized as a Binibining Pilipinas winner though she was on-hand to crown her successor from this franchise.  Gemma Cruz and Miss Universe 1963 3rd runner-up Lalaine Bennett, were crowned under this organization’s precursor, the Miss Philippines pageant.

Whose franchise is it? Top: Chavit Singson with Catriona Gray; Bottom: Catriona Gray flanked by Jorge Araneta and Stella Marquez-Araneta

Now, how does this year’s batch of Binibinis size up compared to the lofty standards set by the reigning queens?  Read on…