I’ll be out of the country this weekend and I’ll likely have no internet access on the days surrounding the pageant (If I do, hooray, then). So, I’m locking in my predictions early. There were definitely some major shake-ups from the initial short list I posted a couple of months ago and it’s not just because of the pre-pageant activities, mind you. I’m referring to the rather unceremonious pillorying and subsequent disqualification of Janelle Olaffson (Original Bb.#1) and Kim Ross de los Santos (Original Bb. #20). Both Binibinis were expunged from the roster for allegedly participating in racy past photo shoots. The latter case was particularly shocking. The general public touted Kim Ross as the odds-on favorite – she’s the tallest in the group, she’s gorgeous, and to sum it up: she appeared to be the most poised to compete at a stratified international level at that point. And it’s rather frustrating that all appeals to bolster her cause wound up fruitless. I no longer wish to join the debate bandwagon over what defines or what doesn’t define “racy”, but I do sense a lack of due process. As much as I want to continue lauding the organization for the stellar achievements of last year’s batch, this turn of events does strike me as a surprising step backward.
Of course, the show still must go on and, fortunately, there are still some worthy stunners in this lot. Six crowns are up for grabs this year and whoever wins will have big shoes to fill – for patently obvious reasons. So, here are my picks:
MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES 2016: #28 – Nichole Marie Manalo
I was originally pegging her for Miss International, to 1) follow her aunt Nini Ramos‘ footsteps (Tita competed in 1968) and 2) complete the cycle of having three Manalo sisters compete in each of the three original major international pageants. But then, I learned that Nichole is already past the aforementioned pageant’s age limit. Plus, there’s the disqualification of my original Universe pick. I must say I’m impressed by her transformation. Gone is the meek pageant betty we first saw in 2014; the Littlest Manalo is back and in heavy contention for a crown. She is now more competitive than ever and if she continues projecting the way she is now, she might surpass her Ate Bianca‘s 2009 Miss Universe performance, or, dare I say it, possibly even her Ate Kate‘s 2002 Miss World placement.
BB. PILIPINAS-INTERNATIONAL: #31 – Kylie Verzosa
Many of us believed that this pre-school teacher from Baguio deserved better than her mere Top 15 placement last year. But then, given the trend followed by Pia, MJ et al, the organization is likely grooming her. It’s great to see Kylie taking a another shot and she does possess the soft Pan-Asian features that Miss International judges tend to adore. On a side note, I somehow see her foraying into a local showbiz career once all this is over.
BB. PILIPINAS-SUPRANATIONAL: #11 – Nicole Cordovez
She’s a last minute frontrunner, if there ever was one. She works for the Department of Finance. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a government employee working the international pageant stage?
BB. PILIPINAS-INTERCONTINENTAL: #36 – Maria Gigante
Buzz for this Cebuana MJ Lastimosa + Yaya Dub dead ringer seemingly diminished over the past weeks. Still, I feel her chances at clinching a title are still, well, gigantic. The past two Intercontinental titleholders finished 2nd runner-up and 1st runner-up, respectively. If she wins this title, she’ll be faced with the pressure of ascending one notch higher (thus, capturing the country’s first Intercontinental crown in the process).
BB. PILIPINAS-GRAND INTERNATIONAL: #29 – Maria Mika Maxine Medina
Contractual restraints barred this showbiz personality from competing two years ago, so it’s comforting to see her finally in the race – and as a heavy favorite at that. Given the momentum she enjoyed over the past weeks, she will likely clinch a title.
BB. PILIPINAS-GLOBE: #27 – Dindi Joy Pajares
This flight attendant from Bataan missed the cut by very little in Miss Philippines Earth 2011, a pageant maligned for its scattershot, reality show-inspired elimination methods. It seems she’s finally en route to vindication. She possesses the most radiant smile among this roster.
1ST RUNNER-UP: #3 – Angela Lauren Fernando
The Doctor is in…my list, that is. She clinched the Eco-Tourism title in Miss Philippines Earth 2010 and managed to earn a medical degree within the six years that followed. I think another lofty feat awaits her.
#2ND RUNNER-UP: #39 – Sissel Ria Rabajante
“Sissel” earned the distinction of having competed against eventual Miss World 2013 Megan Young and eventual Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach in their respective local pageants. Of course, we also first saw her in action in Bb. Pilipinas 2013 before all that. She was frustratingly unplaced in all those pageants and she entered this year’s race as a last-minute replacement. I’m not sure what to make of that last bit of information, but I’m still including her in my list because she deserves the break. I hope her being assigned a higher candidate number bolsters her chances.
TOP 15 POSSIBILITIES
(In numerical order)
#6 – Candy del Castillo
I find this young educator from Bulacan a bit underrated. If she earns a placement, it won’t surprise me as much.
#7 – Angelique Celine de Leon
She was a “support player” when she first competed in 2014. Now, she’s frequently being mentioned as a possibility. Although she still comes across as raw on occasion, her makeover is cumulatively doing her favors. Angeligue’s prospects have drastically increased.
#13 – Joanna Louise Eden
I’m rooting for this International Studies major from DLSU to enter the semi-finals as the token kolehiyala.
#14 – Paula Rich Bartolome
She unsuccessfully competed both last year and in Miss World Philippines 2012, which was aired by my former employer. I know for a fact that she’s a good singer, so I wonder why she didn’t make a splash in the Talent round. But if her National Costume nod is any indication, it seems she’s finally getting noticed.
#15 – Kristine Angeli Estoque
I stand by what I said about this Biology graduate from Davao: I think among the former Miss World Philippines semi-finalists competing in this batch, she is the likeliest to replicate (or possibly even surpass) her placement. Her international upbringing can make for interesting interview fodder.
#21 – Jessica Gonzales
With Kim Ross’ ouster, this chess champion is now the tallest delegate in this batch at 5’10. But with or without her towering highly-regarded counterpart, her chances have always been strong.
#22 – Apriel Smith
This statuesque Tourism graduate from Cebu looks like Parul Shah albeit with stronger features. She benefits from her mixed lineage and impressive projection skills. A strong interview can bring forth a runner-up or crown upset.