Miss Universe Philippines 2021 Candidate Review, Part 1


NEGROS ORIENTAL – Grace Charmaine Vendiola. Her Occidental counterpart may have garnered more challenge votes, but this former flight attendant is undoubtably her island’s best bet. She has an engaging personality with stage-worthy fierceness to spare, but her nervous Preliminary Interview might have hurt her prospects. Whatever the case, it’s great to finally see a Negrense go this far in this contest. 

CAGAYAN DE ORO – Vincy Vacalares. This teacher already qualified last year, but her journey was cut short after testing positive with COVID-19. Well, it’s nice to see her perseverance duly rewarded and, obviously, she’s enjoying her second wind. But much as her Preliminary Interview was an improvement from her Top 50 Interview, her chances of making the next cut remain uncertain. 

ANTIQUE – Noelyn Rose Campos. It’s already given she’s more competitive than her predecessor. And looking at her gawky varsity photos, this student athlete went through quite a glow-up. But while she aced both swimsuit and evening gown, she didn’t connect as strongly in her Preliminary Interview. That might spell the difference between placing and clapping in this well-culled roster. 

SAN JUAN CITY – Rousanne Marie “Ayn” Bernos. This influencer had the most to gain from the removal of the height requirement. It’s also an amusing paradox how she brands herself as someone outside the archetype but dazzles when she does conform to the look. Right now, it remains to be seen if the judges will reward her in the same way Miss Universe rewarded Australia’s Maria Thattil. One thing’s for sure, though: she talked sense in Preliminary Interview. Fan Vote’s another possible ticket. 

MANDALUYONG CITY – Maria Corazon “Corrine” Abalos. Yes, she’s from that Abalos clan. She’s the daughter of MMDA Chairperson Benhur Abalos and incumbent City Mayor Menchie Abalos. But besides being of political blood, she has another legacy to uphold: her mother competed in Bb. Pilipinas 1981 as Carmencita Aguilar. Well, she does exude the qualities to substantiate the hype, and as far as apples not falling for from trees go, she displayed conviction in her Preliminary Interview. She may not be universally favored at the moment, but she can conceivably usurp a Top Five slot. And, side note alert: she’s Kris Aquino’s personal pick. 

ALBAY – Janela Joy Cuaton. It’s interesting to see both Mutya ng Pilipinas 2015 winners in the mix. One managed to score a Bb. Pilipinas title recently, while this interior designer tried her luck in Miss World Philippines 2017. The reticence that cost her a title four years ago might have resurfaced in her Preliminary Interview. The good news: It won’t likely cost her a placement, as she was smizing hot in other categories. She only needs to rally harder in interview rounds to be in stronger contention. 

ILOILO CITY – Kheshapornam Ramachandran. This half-Malaysian basketball player is another Mutya ng Pilipinas titleholder – this time, from the class of 2018, along with last year’s 3rd Runner-Up, Pauline Amelinckx. She’s a fascinating case of how a gamine can morph into a goddess when dolled up, and the short hair surely works wonders. While her preliminary gown may have been the closest we had to a fashion risk, it was a poignant nod at her mixed ethnicity.

PARAÑAQUE CITY – Maria Ingrid Teresita Santamaria. This corporate professional is of prolific lineage, as she’s the daughter of former PBA player Joey Santamaria, model Crispy Laurel, and National Artist Ingrid Santamaria. She may not be as heavily favored as her predecessor, but she carries herself with an undeniable air of elegance and sophistication. That much is reflected in her interviews. And after that impressive preliminary performance, she might as well sustain her city’s placement streak. 

MANILA – Izabella Jasmine Umali. No doubt, pageantry runs in her genes. She’s the daughter of former Mutya ng Pilipinas runner-up Mary Jane Umali and our country’s first ever Manhunt International placer, Vincent Pinto. It’s like she’s “built” to win, and her beauty is bound to impress on any global stage. The only thing hindering her from frontrunner status at the moment is her subdued Preliminary Interview. Conviction is a must in this high-stakes tilt, and we can only hope she inspires more when it counts. 

PANGASINAN – Maureen Christa Wroblewitz. Of course, we all know her claim to fame was being the first Pinay winner of Asia’s Next Top Model. Inevitably, that will always ignite the argument that models aren’t necessarily beauty queens (or vice versa). On the upside, there will always be exceptions. She sure came close to debunking that after her rock-solid preliminary performance. Factor in her compelling Preliminary Interview and it seems we have another frontrunner. 

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