I don’t want to sound like I just passed through the eye of a needle in trimming down the 50 Official Candidates of Bb. Pilipinas 2013 to just 18, but I really did. My target number was 15. I had 20. I removed 2 and could no longer shave the remaining contenders. And so, here are my Gold Bars for this year’s very special edition.
The Aces & Queens Short-list: The camp’s mortality rate (50%) as per my armchair-judging is high, but the remaining six survivors are steel magnolias as far as the competition goes. Consider Pia Wurtzbach alone. She is as shoo-in to make the first cut as the most favored candidates in years past. And Mariel de Leon? The press interest in her is high. And with valid reasons to wit. Apart from her celebrity links, the girl exudes a unique aura (and mesmerizing talent) among all the contenders. Let’s add Cassandra Naidas and Ara Arida to the mix and the selection process becomes more compounded. The half-Korean and the chemist are not letting their guards down. And can their be horses darker than Shan Apuad and Angel May Villafuerte? These two are capable of pulling out more than rabbits from a deep hat. They have the typical semifinal profiles that can turn into gold if they play their cards right.
The Kagandahang Flores Selection: This camp’s mortality rate is slightly better compared to A&Q. What’s more, four of the seven ladies left to move on (in my opinion) are so incredibly strong that they can easily monopolize the official results if the favors head over their way. Charmaine Elima, Hannah Sison, Bea Santiago and Parul Shah are all favorites picked to make their mentor, Rodgil Flores, beam with pride come finals night, with adopted Aiyana Mickiewicz plus less-hyped Angeli Dione Gomez and Herlie Kim Artugue playing the role of spoilers. On one hand, there could be a double-edged sword awaiting the original quartet since they are being eyed to win the one and only Miss Universe Philippines crown. But on the flipside, anyone among them can perfectly fit the bill as far as International, Tourism and Supranational pennants go. So do I sense a lion’s share for their group? Gut feel tells me it’s a believable scenario.
The Team JDV Duo: After the dust settled in my end, John de la Vega has all but two of his wards uncrossing their fingers for an early departure. Don’t sneer at Team JDV’s meager count, though. Mercegrace Raquel and Merry Joyce Respicio are double whammies if lady luck stays put on their side. These statuesque lovelies are being tipped to queue close to the short line leading to the titles of Miss Universe Philippines and Bb. Pilipinas International, respectively. And if 2nd Runner-Up Ali Forbes was their sole redeemer in 2012, it looks like there’s a possibility of having more than one this time around.
The R-L Angel: Although Ria Rabajante is the only entry I can see shining from this camp, she is certainly not a mere token to encourage Mr. RL himself to continuously groom candidates for the national pageant. Her petite frame may leave you wanting for more, but the over-all package is a wonder to watch in awe.
The Mutya who wants to be Binibini: Mutya Datul, while most would tag her as the underdog of all underdogs, is actually skin-deep prettiest in the batch. Her smile can light up a whole room. Her youth is refreshing. Her sob story may be turn-offish for some, but it could be this factor that would win her approval from the judges, and BPCI itself.
The Towering Soloist: Anna Fernandina Buquid is not among my 18 Gold Bars for nothing. A roof-reaching height alone is a major advantage that would make her appear in the favored list of many pageant enthusiasts. Her beauty may be unconventional, but her stance is clearly a sight to behold.
MY 12 FINALISTS:
This time around, I threw caution to the wind and turned camp-blind. There’s no use allocating a fixed number of slots to the two major groups. As a result, I assembled my semifinalists based on personal feel and a visualization of their individual potentials for international representation.
Like it or not, there will always be advantageous molds for each pageant abroad. Veering too far away from said templates will not be the most preferable action to take, especially now that the country is re-entering another Golden Age in the world stage of beauty wars. So based on this premise, I categorized the twelve as follows:
Miss Universe: Charmaine Elima, Mariel de Leon, Parul Shah, Hannah Sison, Ria Rabajante and Mercegrace Raquel
Miss International: Pia Wurtzbach, Mutya Datul and Cassandra Naidas
Miss Tourism Queen International: Shan Apuad
Miss Supranational: Bea Santiago and Anna Buquid
At this point, I have already zeroed in one specific contender for a crown. The next leveling will be my hardest assessment ever.
HERE WE GO!
Let me explain in reverse order.
Honestly, runner-up placements are the most cruel in any final tally. It’s like being an excellent candidate, but not excellent enough to nail one of the titles. At any rate, it took me quite a while to finally assign a duo for 1st and 2nd Runners-Up. Both Parul and Hannah could’ve easily be crowned winners in any given year, except 2013. The comers are just too painfully strong, and dizzyingly crowded at that. With them on the sides to complete the court, I would like to see their return in a year or two. Seriously.
I had initially penciled Bea Rose for Tourism, but erased the thought. She already represented the Philippines in China for a second-tier pageant (Miss Tourism Queen of the Year International 2012) and wasn’t a hit beyond the Top 10. So if Miss Tourism Queen International will be conducted in the mainland as well, then sending her will prove to be a bad decision. What could be right is wearing the Philippine sash in Minsk, Belarus for Miss Supranational 2013. The Central Europeans fancy young women with lots of personality and a fluid ability to communicate in front of the video-camera and media. Methinks she will be better appreciated there.
Shan, on the other hand, is a no-brainer option for Bb. Pilipinas-Tourism 2013, as far as I’m concerned. Apart from the girl’s substantial work experience as a World Ambassadress in Macau’s Starworld, she has this natural flair for weaving charm and sexiness without being offensive. With the international pageant’s venue a virtual lock for China, she could be the type to make the Chinese look a second, third or everytime. I feel that she instinctly knows how to do just this. Justine Gabionza 2.0 perhaps?
Now this one’s an interesting forecast personally. In fact, I dilly-dallied up to the last minute before finally making Pia and Mutya collide for the Bb. Pilipinas-International 2013 crown. And since Miss International 2013 will be held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam did I see things falling in the right place. Had Japan maintained hosting duties, I would have secured the position for another special girl (half-Korean Cassandra, that’s who). But now, I can clearly see one of these two gorgeous and ever-smiling beauties standing tall and proud side-by-side the foreign delegates. It doesn’t take a lot of researching to know that Vietnam has a lingering fondness for pretty, friendly and fair-skinned faces. Of course, that won’t be enough of an argument to win over analysts who think otherwise. But I have a feeling that Pia will be the one to snatch the BPI title come Sunday. As is the case with the “it’s-her-crown-to-lose” quip, Mutya is the closest to actually steal the thunder from right under her nose. Inspite of the Isabelan‘s wanting skills in English, she remains a low-risk investment with the potential for high returns.
Here is where all the marbles stacked up in my endgame.
Charmaine Elima or Mariel de Leon? The top favorite or the relatively come-from-behind competitor? The wholesome dusky classic or the driven weight-losing-and-with-loads-of-upsides-to-deliver alternative? In short, the girl other Asians feel could be a big threat to theirs or the the work-in-progress?
Truth be told, it is with trepidation that I gave up on Parul Shah for this title. But there’s no use complicating the equation than it already is. Between Elima and de Leon, there are already unspoken miscellaneous factors that could come into play. And I say ‘unspoken’ because these are variables we – as ‘mere watching mortals’ – are not privy to. So why am I left with these candidates? Because I have a strong hunch BPCI (via the Madame) has their keen microscopic eyes intently looking at the two for a couple of weeks now.
An Elima win is for the voice of the majority. The girl is far from perfect, but close to convincing. She has nagging shortcomings that can be efficiently remedied in a matter of months. What’s more, her beautiful face doesn’t need any further negotiations. As icing to the cake, an easy-to-deal-with (read: compliant) side is a definite plus for the organizers.
A De Leon victory is for those who can see how encouraging a big transformation can be made of her. I may become too redundant with the word ‘upsides’, but she has more to offer en route to a much-improved version of herself. Pardon the comparison to how the pre-BBP2012 Janine Tugonon evolved into the pre-MU2012 reworking. But that is where my justification for Mariel exists.
After the smoke clears, Charmaine Elima as Miss Universe Philippines 2013 will sit well with me. Mariel de Leon is the one strong enough to pull the rug from underneath her. I won’t be disappointed with either of two outcomes.
These predictions took a long time to finish. Parts have already been completed two weeks back and the Gold Bar concept was hatched in my mind as early as the screenings. The most important blanks, though, were filled only in the last 48 hours. Whatever the official results are, I am at peace with myself knowing that I racked my heart and brains out to come up with the most satisfactory analysis of this year’s edition. Something that I can sleep with, if you will.