It’s very fitting that my eldest paternal first cousin Paolo chose to celebrate his 40th birthday here in our Lolo’s hometown. I never got to meet my paternal grandfather (he died before I was born; same as my maternal grandfather), but from the stories I heard, well, let’s just say he led quite a prominent life here – even if he wasn’t necessarily Palaweño in origin. Consequently, this is also where my father and his siblings spent some of their formative years.
As for me, this marks my second visit to the island since 2003. I didn’t really get to see much back then, since I was only saling kitkit in my mom’s environmental trip. This visit, however, should be quite eventful, not really for me, but for some of my visiting relatives from California and Perth, who haven’t seen this country in decades.
And it looks like Paolo planned quite an itinerary. We’re going on city tour in a couple of hours. So, later!
Iconic child star and Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney has died at 93, leaving behind a tremendous legacy yet to be matched by any other performer. The diminutive actor was known for his not-so-diminutive body of work, which includes hundreds of films and shorts.
Here’s a clip of his Oscar-nominated turn in Babes in Arms, where he starred with the ill-fated Judy Garland:
Oh, and who remembers this bit from The Simpsons?
Rooney is the second legendary child star to pass away within the last couple of months: Shirley Temple boarded the Good Ship Lollipop towards the Great Beyond last February.
Having shed my general thoughts on this year’s production, let me now share my insights on the results. More or less, they fell within expectations. 4 out of my Top 5 picks ended up with crowns and the only one I missed was part of my Top 10 anyway. All in all, 11 out of the Top 15 were in my predictions list, with some surprises tossed in between.
UNLIKELY THANK YOU GIRLS. The first cut always sets us up for the first set of shockers. Pageant fans know this very well. This year, that axe fell prematurely on three candidates initially perceived to be major contenders. There was considerable buzz over Bb#9 Joy Antonette Diaz, whose resemblance to her aunt Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz was uncanny. Despite being one of this batch’s most eloquent speakers, the incoming law student was left in the ice. With her non-placement, we are left with this unsettling implication: Can the Gloria Diaz mould still succeed in this day and age?
Bb#15 Kimverlyn Suiza made a huge sacrifice by relinquishing her Miss Earth-Air title for a shot at BBP, but despite looking radiant during the evening gown competition with her swan neck and Audrey Hepburn-esque up-do, she was also shut out.
The most shocking exclusion, however, would have to be Bb.#17 Diana Arevalo. The two-time (2009 and 2011) semifinalist had already been working as a welcome ambassadress in a hotel in Macau, and came back home for a third and, presumably, final shot at a title. Fans were optimistic that the 25-year-old would secure her best placement yet, but alas, she didn’t even make the first cut. One might attribute this to her underwhelming styling during the pageant night, but I still believe that she deserved to at least place.
Coincidentally, when the non-placers were called back onstage for the crowning moment, those three mentioned women stood front and center. Was it a silent protest on the stage director’s part? One can only digress.
THE LITTLEST MANALO. Among the candidates who made it instead, it was Nichole Manalo (Bb#23) whom I initially pegged most likely to crash the party. Lo and behold. She did prove that she could make it through her own merits apart from her pageant pedigree. The main highlight of her interview portion wasn’t her response, but rather, the cutaways to her AteBianca‘s frantic applauses.
DARK HORSES. Joana Romero (Bb#3), though initially not a favorite, looked her best that night and delivered when it mattered. Same goes for Kenneth Santiago (Bb#20), whose strong performance in evening gown probably gave her the edge over Joy Gangan (Bb#30) as the statuesque-girl-most-likely. She, however, earns the Merry Joy Respicio Award for citing shoes as the biggest thing she will sacrifice during her Q & A.
SEMI-FINAL SHOCKER. Zahara Soriano‘s (Bb#16) placement proved to be the most surprising. The 20-year-old Rochelle Barrameda dead-ringer was below virtually everybody’s pre-pageant radar and her fumbling semi-final interview left fans even more perplexed. Overheard: “Baka sa kanya napunta yung scores na dapat kay #15 at #17!” (In reference to her placement over eliminated favorites Suiza and Arevalo)
JUSTIFIABLE. On the other extreme, Julian Aurine Flores (Bb#1), Mae Liezel Ramos (#9), and Emma Mary Tiglao (#14) gave exceptional performances and sealed their semi-final placements, as expected.
PIA’S PAIN. The exclusions of Diana, Joy, and Kimverlyn from the Top 15 notwithstanding, the evening’s most devastating upset would be Pia Wurtzbach’s (Bb#8) failure to earn a crown.
Majority of fans attribute this controversial loss to judge Sen. Sonny Angara, more specifically, his decision to conduct Pia’s interview in Filipino. Yes, it’s only polite for to respond in the language used in addressing you, but it’s also unwise to alienate non-speakers of the language (in this case, the foreign judges) from the discourse – something which Pia realized too late, as she scrambled for a last-minute, watered-down English translation of her response.
It broke my heart seeing her compatriots from the Golden Batch crown other girls, as she stood applauding in the background, but kudos to her for handling it with grace.
For now, we can only ponder: Is fate simply patterning her journey after MJ Lastimosa’s? Can she finally clinch the crown if she gave a third try? Or is she really done with pageants, as hinted in her Instagram post? Only time will tell.
The words “determination” and “vindication” echoed across the Twitterverse last night, as Mary Jean “MJ” Lastimosa bagged the highly-coveted Miss Universe Philippines title at the 51st Bb. Pilipinas Pageant held in Smart Araneta Coliseum. This is hardly the culmination of a journey for the 26-year-old North Cotabato native, who already saw action in this pageant twice before. She will now undergo heavy training in preparation for Miss Universe2014, which will be held later this year in a yet-to-be-confirmed venue.
Save for a few shockers , this year’s results were more or less within the realms of expectation. All five winners were touted as crown favorites at one point or the other. The other new titleholders are:
Bb. Pilipinas-International: Mary Anne Bianca Guidotti (Bb#22)Bb. Pilipinas-Intercontinental: Kris Tiffany Janson (Bb#13) Bb. Pilipinas-Supranational: Yvethe Marie Santiago (Bb#35) Bb. Pilipinas-Tourism: Parul Shah (Bb#4)
Rounding up the circle of winners are Laura Lehmann (Bb#11), who finished 1st Runner-Up, and Hannah Ruth Sison (Bb#27), who finished 2nd Runner-Up.
Completing the Top 15 were Pia Wurtzbach (Bb#8), Emma Tiglao (Bb#14), Mae Liezel Ramos (Bb#19), Julian Aurine Flores (Bb#1), Nichole Marie Manalo (Bb#23), Johanna Romero (Bb#3), Kenneth Santiago (Bb#20), and Zahara Soriano (Bb#16).
It was my second time to watch the pageant live. The first was last year’s celebrated Golden batch, which yielded our country’s best international results in recent history: 2 winners, 1 Top 5 finish, and 1 Top 10 semi-finalist. Surely, expectations for this year were high, and fortunately, they did carry on with that momentum. From the strong roster of candidates and magnificent stage to the colorful production numbers and fiesta-themed swimsuit portion, this year’s pageant was an eye-popping visual feast.
Adding even more prestige to the proceedings was the presence of reigning Miss Universe Gabriela Isler in the judging panel. There was an initial rumor that her trip here together with MUO President Paula Shugart would lead to an 11th hour announcement of our country as this year’s Miss Universe host country, but it turned out to be just that: a rumor, instigated by fans who hoped that our 20-year hosting chain would continue this year (The Philippines hosted MU in 1974 and 1994, if you may recall). Nonetheless, that didn’t make the Venezuelan beauty queen’s visit any less fruitful. Prior to pageant night, her 4-day itinerary included a press conference and a visit to Yolanda-ravaged Coron. The icing on the cake for Pinoy pageant fans (including myself) was when “Molly” shared the stage with two other reigning international titleholders, Miss International Bea Rose Santiago and Miss Supranational Mutya Datul, during the crowning moment.
The pageant was generally fast-paced, but not without its share of lulls. Look, it isn’t hard to fathom why they flew in Russian pop star Emin as musical guest, despite being a relative stranger to Philippine shores. His wife’s family, after all, was instrumental in bringing last year’s Miss Universe pageant to Moscow, hence his now-strongly established ties with the MUO. Obviously, he was part of Shugart’s contingent. But while his post-evening gown serenade was adequate, his second performance had “filler” written all over it.
Fortunately, Anne Curtis and Xian Lim did a decent job as hosts. Same goes for former queens Venus Raj (stunning with short hair), Shamcey Supsup, and Janine Tugonon as co-hosts.They all managed to manoeuver through the lulls smoothly without steering the attention away from the candidates. Even Anne’s impromptu reprise of Heart‘s Alonebecame an entertaining distraction during the deliberation gap.
Anyway, I know a lot of fans are extremely elated over MJ’s victory right now. It was a crowning moment 4 years in the making; her rampaging emotions were palpable when her name was announced. I shall elaborate my take on the results in a separate entry. For now, it’s back to the daily grind for me. Later!
In a few hours, I’ll be making my way to Araneta to watch the coronation night of Bb. Pilipinas 2014, so I might as well cram my pre-thoughts.Looking at the front-runners of this year’s line-up, it almostfeels like the pageant pundit’s equivalent to Survivor: Fans VS. Favorites. On one corner, we have two exquisitely stunning newcomers who lived up to their favoritism as the competition progressed. And on the other corner, we have heavy favorites from past editions yearning at a shot at redemption. I’m almost certain that at least four of the alluded beauties will walk away with a crown. But which title goes to whom is everybody’s guess at this point. So without further ado, here is my wishlist:
THE FRONT-RUNNERS. From L to R: #35, #8, #13, #25, #4
BB. PILIPINAS-UNIVERSE #35 – Yvethe Marie Santiago
Though a Bb. Pilipinas first-timer, Yvethe is actually no stranger to the international stage. She represented our country in World Miss University 2009, where she won Best in Costume. Now, she is looking more competitive than ever – with her impeccable catwalk and striking facial features, among other worthy qualities. If they’re looking for somebody who has a shot at ending our 41-year Miss Universe drought, this Bicolana stunner can put up a good fight.
BB. PILIPINAS-INTERNATIONAL #8 – Pia Wurtzbach
Her official portrait may be underwhelming, but her subsequent appearances proved that she’s still a force to be reckoned with. This former Star Magictalent will deliver when it matters and she will claim the crowning moment that once eluded her.
BB. PILIPINAS-SUPRANATIONAL #13 – Kris Tiffany Janson
In my reckoning, this former Miss Cebu possesses the most beautiful face in this year’s batch. She looked enchanting in her National Costume – no wonder she bagged that award – and I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins Miss Photogenic as well. Her exquisite Asian beauty should make her a surefire frontrunner in either Miss International or Miss Supranational.
BB. PILIPINAS-INTERCONTINENTAL #25 – Mary Jean Lastimosa
Clearly, she still has the competitive edge and clearly, she wants this. I just have this gnawing feeling that sending her to Miss Universe at this pointwill only subject us to Maricar Balagtas* flashbacks. I think her prospects are now much brighter at the Intercontinental (or even Supranational) stage. Either way, it’s high time they gave this three-peater her due.
* NOTE: The highly-regarded candidate who won Bb. Pilipinas-Universe after her third try, only to end up clapping in Miss Universe 2004.
BB. PILIPINAS-TOURISM #4 – Parul Shah
While the Number Four is believed to be a bad omen for Bb. Pilipinas contestants, I think this returning stunner can break that curse. I’m still clueless about her prospects if she gets sent to Miss Tourism Queen International. Heck, we’re not even sure if that pageant will still push through. I just find her dusky, exotic beauty worthy of competing an at international level.
RUNNERS-UP/POSSIBLE UPSETS From L to R: #22, #17, #15, #14, #19
#22 – Mary Anne Bianca Guidotti – Her ability to speak Portuguese could be an advantage, granted she gets sent to Miss Universe, which will reportedly be held in Brazil this year. The chances of this trilingual first-timer usurping one of the crowns is high. If not, they’ll probably push her to join again in subsequent years. #17 – Diana Arevalo – Just like MJ Lastimosa, this is also Diana’s third try in this pageant, having previously placed both in 2009 and 2011. She has a good chance of sustaining that streak, and even securing her highest placement. #15 – Kimverlyn Suiza – The prospects of last year’s Miss Earth-Air may not be as stellar in this pageant, but she is still worthy of securing a semi-final placement, at the very least. #14 – Emma Mary Tiglao – Ditto for this doe-eyed Mutya ng Pilipinas 2012 1st Runner-Up. #19 – Mae Liezel Ramos – She was a clapper in Miss World Philippines 2011, but she has blossomed into a stunning contender since then. I think a semi-final finish is within reach, and ,depending on how the Q & A would transpire, might even secure a runner-up finish.
TOP 15-WORTHY From L to R: #1, #27, #9, #11, #30
#1- Julian Aurine Flores – Her exquisite Asian features make her another semi-final shoo-in on my watch. #27 – Hannah Ruth Sison – This college instructor made a positive impression in last year’s Golden batch, but was sadly shut out of the Top 15. It looks like she can place this time around. #9 – Joy Antonette Diaz – Her resemblance to her aunt Gloria Diaz is almost uncanny. So uncanny, that it’s almost as if the teen Gloria Diaz time-traveled to our era to compete again. Apart from that impressive pedigree, this incoming law student also possesses excellent communication skills that can help her go further. #11 – Laura Victoria Lehmann – Here is another articulate stunner to keep an eye on. #30- Joy Marie Gangan – She comes from the same province as the reigning Miss Supranational Mutya Datul. Her excellent posture and polished presence are also hard to miss.
From L to R: #23, #7, #38, #24, #18
#23 – Nichole Marie Manalo – Well, now it looks likethe Manalos really are on track to becoming this pageant’s equivalent to Macau‘s Pedruco Sisters*. I’m placing Nichole outside my Top 15 only because I have other favorites, but I’m not discounting the possibility of a semi-final finish (or even a crowning shocker). * NOTE: The Pedrucos are 4 sisters from Macau who represented the former Portuguese colony in Miss World in 1989, 1993, 1995, and 1996, respectively. That record has yet to be broken. #7 – Aiza Faeldonia – Pageant boards bombarded this Sultan Kudarat belle with hype during the pre-screening stages, but she was inexplicably shut out of the initial roster. Luckily, she is back in the game and making the right impression. A semi-final finish is still conceivable. #38 – Janine Asanion – She comes across as a duskier version of that more iconic Janine who finished 1st runner-up in Miss Universe 2012. #24 – Ednornance Agustin - She probably possesses the most seductive pair of eyes among this year’s candidates. This subtle dead-ringer to Ara Arida should not be counted out. #18 – Ellore Noelle Punzalan – Her pleasing personality was probably accountable for her surprising semi-final finish last year. Whether or not she will sustain that streak remains to be seen.
#2 – Mary Ainjely Manalo – photogenic, underrated #5 – Hanna Mariz de la Guerra – Lovi Poe dead-ringer #10 – Shauna Indira Salina Curran – Radio DJ, excellent communication skills #28 – Carla Janina Lizardo – former Mutya ng Pilipinas titleholder, former Miss World Philippines semi-finalist, excellent communication skills #31 – Angelique Celine De Leon – Shamcey Supsup Version 3.0 (Version 2.0, Angel Villafuerte of Bicol, competed last year)
Here’s how I think the major awards will play out:
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM The Croods Despicable Me 2 Ernest and Celestine Frozen The Wind Rises Frozenmight not necessarily be the best bet here, especially with Miyazaki in the mix, but don’t forget, the most popular nominee usually prevails in this category. And if the victory of the middlingBrave last year was any indication, expect Disney to leave the other nominees in the ice. PICK: Frozen
BEST WRITING – ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY American Hustle – Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell Blue Jasmine – Woody Allen Dallas Buyers Club – Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack Her – Spike Jonze Nebraska – Bob Nelson
ExpectAmerican Hustle to put up a good fight since it’s up for 10 statuettes (same with Gravity). Lest we also forget, Woody Allen almost always triumphs in the writing categories. However, the edge is on Spike Jonze‘s painful and poignant maiden screenplay about a futuristic love affair since it already triumphed in the Golden Globes and Writers’ Guild Awards. PICK: Her
BEST WRITING – ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Before Midnight – Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke Captain Phillips – Billy Ray Philomena – Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope 12 Years a Slave – John Ridley The Wolf of Wall Street – Terence Winter
Much as it’s tempting to root for Before Midnight in its sole nomination, the statuette will likely go to John Ridley’s powerful script about an unjustly enslaved man’s quest for freedom. PICK: 12 Years a Slave
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips Bradley Cooper – American Hustle Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club It’s refreshing to see comedy staples Cooper and Hill getting their respective second nods for dramatic efforts. It’s also great to see Fassbender get vindicated for his Shame snub. Also, welcome to the party, Barkhad Abdi! However, they are all distant runners-up to Jared Leto‘s magnificent portrayal of an AIDS-stricken transvestite. PICK: Jared Leto
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave Julia Roberts – August: Osage County June Squibb – Nebraska
Frankly, the odds would’ve still been on J.Law‘s favor if she didn’t already win Best Actress last year. Lupita Nyong’o, however, brought raw and explosive power into her debut role as an embattled slave. PICK: Lupita Nyong’o
BEST ACTOR Christian Bale – American Hustle Bruce Dern – Nebraska Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club Look, I badly want Leo to finally first Oscar as much as you do, but anyone who’s seen Dallas Buyers Club will attest to the sheer depth of Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal of an AIDS-stricken douche. PICK: Matthew McConaughey
BEST ACTRESS Amy Adams – American Hustle Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine Sandra Bullock – Gravity Judi Dench – Philomena Meryl Streep – August: Osage County We’ve seen Cate ham it up as an elf and Bob Dylan. She’s even brought home a statuette 10 years ago for her Katharine Hepburn impersonation. But it’s her tour-de-force turn as a modern-day Blanche Dubois that hits home.She deserves this, really. PICK: Cate Blanchett
BEST DIRECTOR David O. Russell – American Hustle Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity Alexander Payne – Nebraska Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street Pundits are hinting upsets by Scorsese, McQueen, and Russell (2nd nomination in 2 years; 1 nominee in every acting category. Not bad!), but it’s Alfonso Cuaron‘s impeccable vision that has everybody raving. If he wins, he will make history as the first Hispanic director to be honored in this category, and rightfully so. PICK: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
BEST PICTURE American Hustle Captain Phillips Dallas Buyers Club Gravity Her Nebraska Philomena 12 Years a Slave The Wolf of Wall Street
American Hustlemight be omnipresent in all four acting categories, and Gravitycould very well sweep the technical awards, but Steve McQueen‘s immensely evocative saga about a free man unjustly sold into slavery still stands a hefty chance at pulling a welcome surprise – regardless of how many other trophies it wins. Also, it’s time to give Brad Pitt an Oscar (Albeit as producer). PICK: 12 Years a Slave