Bittersweet Redemption: Thoughts on Bb. Pilipinas 2014, Part 1

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 Universe 2014, which will be held later this year in a yet-to-be-confirmed venue.

From L to R: 2nd Runner-Up Hannah Ruth Sison (#Bb27), Bb. Pilipinas-Tourism Parul Shah (Bb#4), Bb. Pilipinas-Intercontinental Kris Tiffany Janson (Bb#13), BB. PILIPINAS-UNIVERSE Mary Jean Lastimosa (Bb#25), Bb. Pilipinas-International Bianca Guidotti (Bb#22), Bb. Pilipinas-Supranational Yvethe Marie Santiago (Bb. #35), and 1st Runner-Up Laura Lehmann (Bb.#11)
MJ flanked by her extended royal court

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).

The stage: a magnificent sight to behold
The stage: A magnificent sight to beholdI

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.

Candidates sashaying during the upbeat opening number
Candidates sashaying during the upbeat opening number

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

Queen Molly flanked by her "boss" Paula Shugart and Madame Stella Araneta
Queen Molly flanked by her “boss” Paula Shugart and BPCI chairperson Madame Stella Marquez-Araneta

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.

Russian pop star Emin serenading the delegates after their evening gown parade
Russian pop star Emin serenading the delegates after their evening gown parade

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 Alone became an entertaining distraction during the deliberation gap.

Anne and Xian perking up the proceedings
Anne and Xian perking up the proceedings
Special commentators Shamcey Supsup and Venus Raj
Special commentators Shamcey Supsup and Venus Raj

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!


My Bb. Pilipinas 2014 Wish List

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 almost feels 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:

Photo Credit: Bb. Pilipinas
Photo Credit: Bb. Pilipinas



From L to R: #35, #8, #13, #25, #4

#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.

#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 Magic talent will deliver when it matters and she will claim the crowning moment that once eluded her.


#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.

#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 point will 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

#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.

Photo Credit: Bb. Pilipinas
Photo Credit: Bb. Pilipinas

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.

Photo Credit: Bb. Pilipinas
Photo Credit: Bb. Pilipinas


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.


Photo Credit: Bb. Pilipinas
Photo Credit: Bb. Pilipinas

From L to R: #23, #7, #38, #24, #18

#23 – Nichole Marie Manalo – Well, now it looks like the 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 GuerraLovi 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 LeonShamcey Supsup Version 3.0 (Version 2.0, Angel Villafuerte of Bicol, competed last year)

My Oscar Wishlist, Part 2: The Big Leagues

Here’s how I think the major awards will play out: frozen_letitgo copy

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest and Celestine
The Wind Rises
Frozen might 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 middling Brave last year was any indication, expect Disney to leave the other nominees in the ice. PICK: Frozen 

American HustleEric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Blue JasmineWoody Allen
Dallas Buyers ClubCraig Borten and Melisa Wallack
HerSpike Jonze  
NebraskaBob Nelson 
Expect American 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 

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 

jared_dallas copyBEST 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 

lupita_12 copy

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

matt_dallas copy 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 

cate_blue copyBEST 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

gravity-alfonso-cuaron-george-clooney-set-imageBEST 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 ScorseseMcQueen, 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 

12years copy

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

American Hustle might be omnipresent in all four acting categories, and Gravity could 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

My Oscar 2014 Wishlist, Part 1: The Technicals

It’s that time of the year once again. In less than 24 hours, golden naked men will be handed out to esteemed people for their cinematic achievements during the previous year.

I’m talking about the  Academy Awards, of course.

I’m not exactly doing cartwheels over Ellen DeGeneres hosting the ceremony once again. Not yet, at least. Her first stint in 2007 had its bright spots, but her talk show schtick could barely sustain three hours. Then again, it’s a common birth pain most fledgeling Oscar hosts go through. Many fall, few are forgiven. (Franco *Cough*; McFarlane, *Cough, Cough*). Let’s see what she’ll have up her sleeve this second time around.


I’ve only seen 6 out of the 9 Best Picture nominees as of this writing; scheduling constraints reduced my annual Pre-Awards Marathon into a Perceived Frontrunners Marathon. But, my guess is that it’s a tight race between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, with American Hustle and Dallas Buyers Club as the possible usurpers.  Here’s a detailed rundown of how I think (or wish) everything will transpire in the 86th ceremony:

“Happy” – Despicable Me 2 – Pharrell Williams
“Let It Go” – Frozen – Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song” – Her – Karen Orzolek and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – U2
Much as I’m sentimentally rooting for Karen O, it will probably be a toss-up between the Golden Globe-awarded Ordinary Love and the inescapable (and viral)  Let it Go. The immense popularity of the latter may or may not help. So if it wins, it would probably be by a snowflake.
PICK: Let it Go from Frozen

The Book Thief – John Williams
Gravity – Steven Price
Her – William Butler and Owen Pallett
Philomena – Alexandre Displat
Saving Mr. Banks – Thomas Newman
The presence of heavyweights Williams and Displat cannot be discounted, but I have this gnawing feeling the voters will opt for a fresher sound this year. I’m looking at you, Arcade Fire.

All is Lost – Steve Boedekker and Richard Hymns
Captain Phillips – Olive Tarney
Gravity – Glenn Freemantle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Brent Burge and Chris Ward
Lone Survivor – Wylie Stateman
The two interchangeable Sound categories will probably be a lock between the two Best Picture nominees in the mix.
PICK: Gravity or Captain Phillips

Captain Philips – Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro
Gravity – Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Chris Munro
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick, Tony Johnson
Inside Llewyn Davis – Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff, Peter F. Kurland
Lone Survivor – Andy Koyama, Beau Borders, David Brownlow
PICK: Gravity or Captain Phillips (See above)


American Hustle – Judy Becker
Gravity – Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin, and Joane Woollard
The Great Gatsby – Catherin Martin, Beverly Dunn
Her – K.K. Barrett, Gene Serdena
12 Years a Slave – Adam Stockhausen, Alice Baker
The sets of the nominated period films are as accurate as they can be, but it’s fresh to see a futuristic film that doesn’t go visually overboard. I’m with you here, Barrett and Serdena.

Dallas Buyers Club – Adruitha Lee, Robin Matthews
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa – Stephen Prouty
The Lone Ranger – Joel Harlow, Gloria Pasqua-Casny
There I was thinking that American Hustle would have a fighting chance in this category. But given this roster, props should go to the transformations of McConaughey and Leto.
PICK: Dallas Buyers Club


American Hustle – Michael Wilkinson
The Grandmaster – William Chang Suk Ping
The Great Gatsby – Catherine Martin
The Invisible Woman – Michael O’Connor
12 Years a Slave – Patricia Norris
While Hustle and Gatsby might pull off a surprise victories in this category, I think Ms. Norris still has the ultimate edge.
PICK: 12 Years a Slave


The Grandmaster – Philippe Le Sourd
Gravity – Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis – Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska – Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners – Roger Deakins
Purists may quibble over Gravity being largely shot in CGI (same case as Life of Pi last year). But then again, it took a considerable amount of lighting technique to match the actors with their digitally-added backdrops. Achieving that seamlessness is no easy feat.
PICK: Gravity

American Hustle – Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten
Captain Phillips – Christopher Rouse
Dallas Buyers Club – John Mac McMurphy, Martin Pensa
Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger
12 Years a Slave – Joe Walker
The sleek, fast-paced cuts made me feel like I was watching Goodfellas Lite at certain points but they still succinctly captured the film’s rambunctious spirit.
PICK: American Hustle  

Gravity – Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, Eric Reynolds
Iron Man 3 – Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, Dan Sudick
The Lone Ranger – Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams, John Frazier
Star Trek Into Darkness – Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossman, Burt Dalton

You know what, just read about how Gravity was filmed. That film is just stunning beyond words.

PICK: Gravity


“Azul” being the operative word

photo 2

No, this isn’t a lost outtake from The Healing, that Chito Roño horror flick with a not-so-discreet penchant for color coordination. This azure explosion happened last night during the opening of SKK Mobile‘s Metropoint Pasay branch, and Ritz Azul was their celebrity guest. Gotta give this girl props for keeping her radiant disposition intact amidst the horrible payday traffic. Amidst the hustle and bustle of EDSA-Taft, at that.

Anyway, the brand name may not ring a bell at this point, but I bet it will soon enough. SKK is deeply committed in its goal “to reach out and provide quality and affordable accessories and mobile phones“.

Learn more about them here.