The Final Five do have compelling qualities that made them worthy of belonging here, and yes, based on Top Ten speeches, four out of five of them gave the strongest Top Ten speeches besides bringing up the glamour in their evening gowns. The final question asked to all of them is: “If you have to issue a law to punish criminals of war and violence, how would you punish these people and why?”
4TH RUNNER-UP: CZECH REPUBLIC – Nikola Uhlirová. I was distracted by her slightly over-the-top presentation during the preliminary conpetition that I underrated her as a “Bubbling Under” choice instead of a top contender. But she possesses this ingenue charm that gets her high marks with Nawat and the judges, which is why even with a Top 10 speech that is relatively generic compared to the speeches delivered by Indonesia and Vietnam, she was given preference: “Violence is the one thing in this world we don’t really need, and the world would be a better place if there were peace than war, gangs, druggies, and tyrants. I think I’m a powerful, hardworking, independent person with a strong mind, and I would like to promote message of ‘Stop the War and Violence’ around the world. Life is not a competition. We should enjoy this life with people who we love. Miss Grand International must show she’s not only beautiful but she has also a beautiful soul, and I know I can also inspire other people and give them hope. As for children, I want to see happy children because in the world full of negativity, violence, and destructions [sic], it is difficult to see all amazing things around us.” For the final question, her answer went like this: “I guess I cannot punish these people, but… together we can do it, together we can stop the war and violence. Together.” This vague declamation is clearly the weakest of the lot so her finish is totally justified.
3RD RUNNER-UP: PUERTO RICO – Brenda Azaria Jimenez. She is even more polished here than in her Miss Universe stint in Manila last January, and with that she made a smashing impression and with her strong communication skills, went as far as the Top Five. This is what she delivered for the Top 10 speech: “War. Three letters that have impact to overpower beauty of life. In these days, the war having dominance of power, the importance of implementing respect on the harshness of being the victors. Today, I speak not only for the war of guns, I speak for the war we can face in our daily lives. With the voice of my people that had passed huge adversity–Hurricane Maria went into my country with a fight–like in a war, we have people scared, afraid, devastated, without a home to live in. We may be scared, we may fall, but nothing will break us if we are together. With this voice I stand here with strength, making my people a promise that nothing will break us–behind all that suffering, I stand here with side of my sister-queen sisters [sic] to make a statement of difference, courage, and love, to wake up everyday thanking God for giving me the strength to make the fear disappear and become the troop of life [sic]. Together, we can fight for freedom, fight for love, fight for our children, fight for who we are. This is me calling you for us to rebuild our world in peace. Let’s make a better world with our hands together and stop the war and violence.” For the final question, her answer is: “The law I will create is by obligation they will have to do charity work, work for the society for I am an ambassador for ‘Stop the War and Violence’ and I will not punish these people with more violence. So with one person we could make changes so those people are gonna work for the society to make a new one and a better one.”
2ND RUNNER-UP: PHILIPPINES – Elizabeth Durado Clenci. I have to say prior to the finals that I thought the charisma of her fellow pageant ga-ga- Southeast Asian rivals from Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam could edge her out of the Top Five, even if she has a distinctively impeccable sense of style. But it turns out she has a couple of major aces that ultimately made her the top performing Southeast Asian–intelligence and superb gift of gab (peppered by that lovely Australian accent). Just marvel at her superbly composed Top 10 speech: “Peace. A topic far more significant than any other and one that holds dearly to my heart. We all know the horrors of war and the many that fight it, I question why there are so few willing to fight for peace. Today I stand knowing it is my responsibility to fight for peace and to strive for peace in this world, through love, compassion, understanding and education. Tonight I stand here with all of these women behind me, spreading a message of peace. I’m here to remind you all, as a Philippine peace ambassador, that this is your responsibility, too. This is our responsibility–today, tomorrow, and for the generations to come.” For the final question, she began with this opening: “They say a nation is not judged by the criminals and the crimes that they commit, but how the nation punishes them.” She then continued, “If I were to create a low, it would be in line with jailment [sic] is to implement rehabilitation, mental rehabilitation, because character is such a complex phenomenon that we cannot judge a character based on the crimes they had commit. If we punish somebody as equally as the crime they have commited, then what does that say about us? So I would implement mental rehabilitation.” A brief case of nerves to gather her thoughts probably weakened an otherwise great answer, but there is still cleverness to behold–she seems to be addressing the current debate about our government’s drug war, but instead of directly denouncing it like what Mariel de Leon did, she gave her position and posed a question that we Filipinos (especially those 16 million people who voted our current president in) ought to ponder. I’m totally with Elizabeth on this.
1ST RUNNER-UP: VENEZUELA – Tulia Aleman. Her Ly Jonaitis-style glamour is way undeniable that it’s a cinch she’ll make the Top Five. She made a smashing impact in the new gown she sported, a white gown with dramatic sleeves and black lace embroidery. It helps that Miss Grand International 2014 from Cuba, Lees Garcia, is around as she served as the de facto translator for the judges, both onstage during the final Q&A, and off-camera and off-mic after Tulia delivered her Top 10 speech in Spanish. After transcribing her Spanish speech the best that I could and running the raw transcription to Google Translate, this is what I think her Top 10 message was: “Today, we live in difficult situations where countries are at war and bringing forth poverty and hunger. Where children are exploited and their rights are violated. Where the tolerance to the diversity of gender, skin color, religion, even languages are for naught. Unfortunately my country is not exempt from these realities. On the day I was crowned Miss Grand Venezuela that same day violence fell upon and took away the life of someone I loved dearly, my father. That moment of pain I had to choose between two paths: cry and seek revenge, or forgive, have faith and love? I decided the latter and face my tears. I will smile and make other people smile. It is in the essence of living and being human to live with education, values and feelings. And the world should unite together as one in peace.” My jaw dropped when applying the translation tool it turns out she had relayed a personal tragedy and how she decided to bring forth living in hope despite what happened. Here is her answer to the final question: “I am a person that believes in God. I believe that the law of God is the most important one. But the way that I will stop the war is by implementing love, respect, and values.” Lees did an excellent translation that got the essence of her answer across, but she missed out on the word “misericordia” in the first sentence which means mercy, and “niños” in her last sentence which means she wants to instill love, respect, and values for the children. Her answer does have a great message of mercy and compassion, but peraps it’s a tad too soft especially when justice is needed to be served, and that is why instead of winning, her 1st runner-up finish is justified.
MISS GRAND INTERNATIONAL 2017: PERU – Maria Jose Lora. Yes, her features may register unflattering angles from time to time, but her charisma, and that trim, buffed, and sexy figure are too undeniable, and she clinched the deal with her sexy form-fitting nude sheath gown. She also has a great command of English and gives strong messages, too. For instance, her Top 10 speech: “Peace is indeed the most important topic in the world. Unfortunately, it is not the most talked-about. I am here today to raise my voice on behalf of all of those people that cannot be heard. For every child crying, wondering why their little brother or sister is not around anymore, for every parent that has gone through the hardest thing that a parent can go through–bury their child–why is it so difficult for humankind to live in peace? Tolerance, compassion, and respect should be the key foundations on how we live our lives. President JFK once said, ‘Our time in this world is limited. We must use it wisely to transform what we wish to transform.’ If I have the honor to be Miss Grand International, I will use my voice to spread the message of peace, and strive to reach all the powerful minds in our world that instead of using their power to create they use it to destroy. If people can learn how to hate, we must teach them how to love.” In my opinion only Philippines delivered a better Top 10 speech as there is a tad too much drama in tis speech. For the final question, her answer went like this: “If I have to issue a law tat punishes people that make the war and violence, I will take them to the refugee camps so they can feel the pain, the suffering, the devastation the families g0 through because of war and violence. I will take them for a certain amount of time to live in refugee camps–that would be my law for the people that create war and violence.” What clinched the deal is she at least offered an option that is actionable and has an element that justice is needed to be served, though admittedly it is naive that many criminals would respond to lessons in empathy and compassion, but it’s the strongest of the five.
All-in-all, Miss Grand International redeemed itself this year and delivered a polished pageant. Yes, the world peace sentimentality can be too overwrought, but well, nothing’s going to be perfect anyway. Let’s see if Nawat can keep up with this standard (or of course, improve upon it) and if a few years down the line, they would open up to more diverse notions of beauty.