Miss Universe Philippines 2023 Candidate Round-Up, Part 3 (Palawan to Zambales)

PALAWAN – Louise Joy Gallardo. This model missed the National Costume competition in Leyte but is, thankfully, still very much in the game. While not a heavy frontrunner, she’s this year’s most competitive MIMAROPA bet and was among the Preliminary Evening Gown standouts. 

PAMPANGA – Mary Angelique Manto. As a content creator and one-time courtside reporter, she already has the capacity to draw an audience. What makes this foray more exciting is her surprising amount of charisma and stage chops. Chances are, she’s already a lock for the winners’ circle. And, after those 3 sponsor awards, she might capture a title as well. 

PARAÑAQUE – Clarielle Dacanay. Quezon City and Benguet may have enjoyed early spotlight, but this mom has the most striking presence. As the lone short-haired beauty, she also has the best modeling chops in the bunch. True, such skills don’t always guarantee pageant success, but she definitely had her preliminary standout moments.   

PASIG – Kali Navea-Huff. Being a former Q and A coach implies that she can easily top Preliminary Interview. That might as well be her placement ticket, despite several other standouts. To a degree, she’s this year’s Ayn Bernos. It’s impossible to deny her charm and eloquence.    

QUEZON CITY – Mary Eileen Gonzales. Besides being the only mom in the roster to have previous pageant experience, she was also once an actress. That experience is undoubtedly her main ace and she was even shortlisted for the Miss Hello Glow sponsor award last March. She shouldn’t rest on her laurels, though, as her fellow moms are gaining momentum. 

QUEZON PROVINCE – Lesly Joy Sim. While this multi-hyphenate from Macalelon was initially perceived to be an underdog, she showed great eloquence in her Personality Interview challenge and made the Top Five of the Photoshoot Challenge. She’s not to be counted out just yet. 

 SORSOGON – Rein Hillary Carrascal. In 2018, this ramp model entered the 50th Mutya ng Pilipinas pageant as the lone Bicolana. While she wasn’t a frontrunner back then, she performed impressively enough to sneak into the Top 25. Five years later, she enters this race as a last-minute entry and, with perennial placer Albay sadly sitting out, she’s once again taking one for Team Bicol. Don’t rule out a déjà vu just yet: she’s been projecting strongly and she also nails her interview responses. 

SOUTHERN LEYTE – Kimberly Escartin. Her interviews tend to be stiff, but she’s a solid contender with placement-worthy qualities. Plus, let’s not disregard the fact that her island hosted the National Costume competition where she placed Third. The powers-that-be still might rule in her favor.  

SURIGAO DEL NORTE – Hyra Desiree Betito. Just like Michelle Dee, this soon-to-be stepmom also advocates for autism awareness as her fiancé’s son was diagnosed with the condition. She’s another underrated contender, but had a slight fumble in her Preliminary Interview after a strong start. While she regained enough composure to complete her responses, a breakthrough feels a little less certain. 

TAGUIG – Nikki Justine Breedveld. Since the contest’s inception, this is the only NCR city to place in all previous editions and, thus, bears as much sash weight as Cebu City. This lawyer and lupus warrior has the looks, wit, and cute Dutch accent to boot, but there might be a need to protect the streak. 

TIAONG, QUEZON – Christiana Afia Yeboah. This half-Ghanian engineer was a close shot in 2021, though it’s unclear why she chose not to represent Valenzuela in this go-round. Much as it feels like a missed opportunity for her city of residence, props to her for finally earning her due – and giving a strong impression at that.  

ZAMBALES – Christine Juliane “CJ” Opiaza. Her Bb. Pilipinas shutout last year was heartbreaking, but then again, it was her first shot at nationals, and that was infamously a killer batch with several contenders left in the cold. The good news is that vindication seems to be in the cards, and, as a pasarela coach herself, she’ll never be short of onstage tricks. She’s expected to make the most of her overdue break. 

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