The search for Pia Wurtzbach‘s successor is on! And for obvious reasons, so is the pressure. And, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about the Bb. Pilipinas screening process, that is to never take the initial roster as final!
Every year, there’s always that one candidate (fine, sometimes even more) who is abruptly ejected from the line-up for one reason or the other. So, unless the official candidate portraits are released, nothing is really set in stone. This year, the axe fell prematurely on five aspirants, namely Daziella Gange, Marlann Lopez, Tatiana Maher, Aniger Wiji Cruz, and Loren Artajos. According to reports, another closed door evaluation took place just days after the first announcement and they fell short of the minimum height requirement (5’5). Why this wasn’t determined earlier on during screening, we’ll never know. Hopefully, this won’t discourage them from joining other local pageants.
The early ousters paved the way for a few callbacks, among them being – surprise, surprise – Ria Rabajante. Pageant fans remember her from her frustrating non-placements in 2013 and 2015 (OK, add Miss World Philippines 2013). I’m not yet sure if adding “Sissel” to her monicker will bolster her prospects, but one thing’s for certain: she deserves to be finally be given a break (Please?).
Other returnees from the previous batch include Jeslyn Santos, Paula Rich Bartolome, and Kylie Verzosa, who hopes to outdo her Top 15 placement last year. Also given another shot are Kimberley Mae Penchon and Maxine Medina. Both withdrew from past editions due to conflicting contractual obligations. It’s nice to see them back in the mix.
Favorites from past editions are also marking their return. From 2014, we have Angelique Celine de Leon, Leonalyn de la Cruz, and Nichole Marie Manalo, who’ll stop at nothing in following her sisters’ footsteps. And then, there’s also Mariella Castillo, who is no longer the teen ingenue we saw 6 years ago. I’m not sure how she’ll fare this time around. But with proper styling, she can easily outdo her semifinal placement from 2010.
Veterans from other local pageants are also trying their luck. From Miss Philippines Earth, we have Christianne Ramos and Dindi Joy Pajares from 2011, and Angela Lauren Fernando, who was a runner-up back in 2010. Hoping to improve on their Miss World Philippines showings are Kristine Angeli Estoque, Jennyline Carla Malipaya, Anjellica Lopez, and Jennifer Hammond. For now, I see Estoque as the likeliest to place. Rounding up this year’s cross-overs are Mutya ng Pilipinas alumae Vina Openiano, Alexandra Faith Garcia, and Priscilla Kimberley de la Cruz.
Of course, let’s not forget the newcomers. Early standouts include Nicole Cordovez (a former Miss Chinatown) and two Cebuanas: Apriel Smith, who appears to be of African-American lineage and Maria Gigante, who looks like a cross between MJ Lastimosa and Yaya Dub. The heavy favorite at this point, however, appears to be Kim Ross de los Santos. Apart from being the tallest delegate (5’10) among the lot, her look also seems to be the most international pageant-ready. She’s my top bet for now.
With all that taken into account, here’s my initial Top 6:
That’s it for my initial impressions. Expect shake-ups when the pageant starts. For now, check out the complete roster at the official Bb. Pilipinas website!