A Game of Crowns: Thoughts on Bb. Pilipinas 2017


The theme of this year’s Bb. Pilipinas pageant was “Game of Crowns“, an obvious play on Game of Thrones, as if the scoring and treatment of the opening billboard didn’t emphasize that enough. Fortunately, the proceedings were devoid of blood and gore even if deliberations reportedly took more than an hour. And, as far as I know, everyone left the venue intact. Nevertheless, there were shocking twists to spare.

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Recap: Pia Wurtzbach’s Grand Homecoming Special


As expected, Pia Wurtzbach’s Grand Homecoming Special was a thinly disguised Kapamilya affair. Xian Lim took on hosting duties and Dyan Castillejo was the de facto co-host. There was a Boy Abunda segment halfway through and shoehorned video shout-outs by LizQuen and KathNiel. The musical intermissions were serviceable, though Jed Madela‘s bit could have been interspersed with more Pia snippets. The show’s about her, after all.

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Miss Universe 2015: My Fearless Forecast

Given the recent uncertainties plaguing this pageant (prolonged host city bids, Donald Trump‘s controversial statements), it’s not surprising that the delegate count suffered a major attrition this year. With 80 contestants, it’s the smallest roster this pageant whipped up in this decade so far. Even Miss Earth and Miss Supranational attracted more representatives this year, and those contests are far younger. One can’t help but wonder if we will ever see the Miss Universe delegation exceeding the 90s mark. Only time will tell.

One thing you can’t fault in this pageant, though, is the overall quality of its delegates. And I guess it’s one factor why it’s still considered as one of the world’s popular international beauty contests. In recent years, we’ve seen rosters where more than half of the contestants were competitive. This year is no exception.

The pageant is taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada for the third time within the last five years, which is, again, indicative of the pageant’s organizational woes. Then again, this may or may not bode well for certain North American countries. I will elaborate later.

Without further ado, here’s my rundown of this year’s Miss Universe delegates.

Continue reading “Miss Universe 2015: My Fearless Forecast”

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!

Adios, Amparo

The universe has lost one of its celestial beings.

Amparo Munoz, the stunning Spanish beauty who was once crowned Miss Universe 1974, passed away Sunday night after a long battle with an unspecified terminal illness. She was only 56.

She is notable both for being Spain’s first (and so far, only) Miss Universe and for being crowned in Philippine soil. (LEFT: Amparo with Imelda Marcos)

Amparo’s reign was anything but smooth. During her run, she was hounded by controversy and ended up abdicating her title only after 6 months, thus making her the first Miss Universe to step down. She was never officially replaced, which is most probably why she is still universally recognized as that year’s titleholder.

After her tumultuous reign, Amparo would later on foray into an acting career in her homeland, making sporadic appearances in B-movies and TV shows. She would also enter a string of unsuccessful marriages before eventually sinking into obscurity during the mid-90s.

Infamy aside, she is still widely considered as one of the most beautiful titleholders in the history of the pageant.

Farewell, troubled angel.

ABOVE: Amparo‘s crowning moment in the then-newly constructed Folk Arts Theater. Note that her runner-up was Wales‘ equally-controversial Helen Morgan, who was stripped off the Miss World title later that year for being an unwed mother.

36 to Watch: My Miss Universe 2010 Wish List

Here is my “fearful forecast” for this year’s Miss Universe pageant, along with my other favorites.

WINNER:  Ireland – Rozanna Purcell

If there’s one country which deserves to win its first Miss Universe crown this year, it’s definitely the Emerald Isle. Rozanna is Ireland’s best shot in years, especially with her perfect body, electrifying blue eyes and Angelina Jolie lips. It’s probably also a good sign that she’s the near-namesake of Miss World 2003 Rosanna Davidson – her country’s only Grand Slam winner so far. Who needs the Luck o’the Irish, when you’re perfection personified?

1st RUNNER-UP: Philippines – Maria Venus Raj

Whether it’s because of her superb presentation skills or her triumph in the face of adversity, Venus is a goddesss through and through. Fresh from the much-publicized controversy surrounding her citizenship, she came to Vegas extremely well-prepared, with a superb body and amazing presentation skills to boot. It also helps that her supporter’s cheers were among the most deafening. It’s high time we ended this drought.

2nd RUNNER-UP: Russia – Irina Antonenko

Prepare to be vindicated, Oxana Federova. This living doll was my pre-pageant favorite and is arguably THE face of the competition. I’m just a bit worried about her almost lifeless presentation and clumsy gown choice. But then again, with a face like that, you could practically get away with parading in a burlap sack. She is just that mesmerizing.

3rd RUNNER-UP: Mexico – Jimena Navarrete

I consider her the strongest Latina delegate this year. Plus, let’s not forget that her country usually figures well  whenever the pageant is held in Las Vegas (Lupita Jones won in 1991; Vanessa Guzman finished 5th in 1996). It looks like Mexico is ready to avenge Karla Carrillo’s undeserving exclusion last year.

4th RUNNER-UP: France – Malika Menard

She fell out of many lists after her disappointingly subdued preliminary performance. I, however, am still keeping the faith. Facially, she is one of this year’s strongest delegates and her evening gown is among the best.  



Colombia – Natalia Navarro

Is it just me, or does she look like local celebrity Alessandra De Rossi in her close-up shot? Anyway, Colombia has been placing only in even-numbered years since 2004, and Natalia aced both areas of the preliminary competition. Expect the streak to continue.

Trinidad and Tobago – La Toya Woods

It’s great to see TNT back in fighting form after missing the competition last year. La Toya looks like a mix of two former Trini queens: Her face reminds me of Kenisha Thom (2006), while her styling gives me Arlene Peterkin (1995) flashbacks. She also made the news for agreeing to pose topless for her glamshot. So, hmmmm….

Venezuela – Marelisa Gibson

 Suffice to say, the pressure is totally on Marelisa. But a three-peat might still happen. After all, her presentation is strong and her video interview reveals that she is one of the bubbliest personalities in the bunch. The only thing I’m concerned about is her stiff styling. Then again, I said the same thing about Stefania Fernandez last year, and look where she ended up.

Puerto Rico – Mariana Vicente

Another possible Top 5 usurper comes in the form of this Latin Barbie. Mariana was also one of my early front-runners, but then, the competition proved to be so tight (as always), I placed her in the 9th position. Her silver disco ball gown is stunning, but her decision to sport frizzy curls drew mixed reactions. Let’s see where that puts her.

New Zealand – Ria Van Dyke

 Undoubtably, the strongest Kiwi delegate we’ve seen in this contest within the last 20 years. Ria’s presentation may have been a little on the safe side, but her face is one of the most beautiful in this year’s bunch. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her.



Uruguay – Stephany Ortega

Her country made headlines early this year for unexpectedly finishing fourth in the World Cup. I’m somehow hoping for this underrated South American bombshell to also pull off a surprise.

Albania – Anxhela Martini

Her name sounds like a European knock-off to perennial American Idol reject Angela Martin. Now that I’ve got that boring observation out of the way, let me just say that I am pretty impressed with this NYC-based model. I originally had her as an alternate, but now I think her overall presentation is worthy of a Top 15 placement.

Jamaica – Yendi Phillipps

Along with Venezuela’s Marelisa Gibson, Yendi is also one of the most vivacious personalities this year. While her disappointing gown performance makes it unlikely for her to surpass her successful Miss World 2007 finish, I still think she’s worthy of a placement.

Haiti – Sarodj Bertin

Likely Trump Choice #1 – It’s wonderful to have Haiti back in full swing after a 21-year absense. There are two things to consider here: 1.) the destructive earthquake which ravaged her country earlier this year, and  2.)  her mother who was murdered back in 1994. I think this sensual island girl has enough interesting back story to be noticed.

USA – Rima Fakih

 Likely Trump Choice #2: Aside from being the host delegate, Lebanese-born Rima is also the first Muslim-American to represent her country in this pageant. I’m almost certain she’ll be up there. While not conventionally beautiful, she is indeed a breath of fresh air compared to the usual run-of-the-mill “All-American” girls sent to this pageant in recent years.  


These five girls would be shoo-ins.


Australia – Jesinta Campbell

She may not be a strong as, say, Rachael Finch and Laura Dundovic, but her girl-next-door charm is undeniable. Her participation in the Miss Universe promotional tour early on in the pageant might mean the Donald’s got his eyes on her.

Canada – Elena Semekina

At 6’1, this stunning blonde is the tallest girl in the bunch, which literally makes her a stand-out. She was unjustly ignored in Miss International 2008, which is why it’s great to see her competing strongly here. I’m also amused by the fact that her Russian accent is still intact.

Dominican Republic – Eva Arias

The island of Hispaniola is indeed well-represented this year! I didn’t care much for this deadringer to Sandra Bullock at first, but her fiery performance in the preliminary round made me pencil her in as a possibility.

South Africa – Nicole Flint

Of course, we all know that her country played gracious host to the World Cup held early this year. But I guarantee that it’s not the only thing going for this Katharine McPhee look-alike. She also delivered the goods when it mattered.

Ukraine – Anna Pavlovska

 Eastern Europe’s answer to Mischa Barton. Although a lot were disappointed with her gown choice, I still think this sexy blonde is in the game. 



Other potential surprises.

Bahamas- Braneka Bassett – Many are raving about this Bahama Mama’s strong preliminary performance. I could just imagine if she were chosen to compete last year in her homeland instead. Can she finally bring forth the Bahamian breakthrough?

Belgium – Cilou Annys – Her controversial flag-toppling moment and atrocious national costume aside, Cilou also has one of the prettiest faces this year.

Brazil – Debora Lyra – She is the reigning Miss Model of the World 2009. But then again, this is an even bigger playing field.

Czech Republic – Jitka Valkova – Again, one of this year’s prettiest faces. But I’m still undecided whether or not she can keep the Czech streak going.

Peru – Giulianna Zevallos – With her strong stage chops and interesting gown choice, she has vastly improved from her unsuccessful Miss Earth 2008 stint.

Slovak Republic – Anna Amenova – Slovaks usually stay in the middle of the pack, but certainly not this year. However, like her “twin sister”, Puerto Rico’s Mariana Vicente, gorgeous Anna’s main setback is her questionable styling.

Spain – Adriana Reveron- The former Miss Earth 2008 front-runner has lost some of her sparkle, but we never know what the judges might see in her.

Thailand – Fonthip Watcharatrakul – Talk about last-minute favorite! Her figure may not be among the strongest, but her fine Asian features and impressive gown performance cannot be ignored.


And I also have a soft spot for…

Argentina – Yessica di Vincenzo – Another unfairly ignored alumnus from Miss International’s class of 2008; she reminds me a bit of Dayanara Torres

Denmark – Eva Sandra Causevic – Another early favorite; however she comes across as rather “teen”.

Ghana – Awurama Simpson – One of the prettiest faces from the African continent this year.

Great Britain – Tara Hoyos Martinez – First Latina to represent her country; typical British lass oozing with Colombian charm.

Japan – Maiko Itai – Riyo Mori Version 2.0

Netherlands – Desiree Van Den Berg – Avalon-Chanel Weyzig must be avenged.

Romania – Oana Paveluc – Gorgeous face, although her gown looks like it’s made of rubber; Potentially this year’s Sarah Cosic.

Sweden – Michaela Savic – Sexy vamp, but somewhat fell under the radar as the competition progressed.