Pierre Anther Infante was an experienced radio discjockey before claiming the Miss Cebu crown back in 2012. She was 21 then and a graduate of Southwestern University. Pushing 23 soon, will she become another Cebuana pride joining the queue to submit an application in the upcoming deadline of Bb. Pilipinas 2014? Her fellow candidate in the regionals – Herlie Kim Artugue – was already in last year’s 50th edition. Perhaps, it’s high time that she takes a shot.
Every year, a surprise or two in the official results of Bb. Pilipinas (even Miss Universe) make us look closer at the TV screen (or the stage if watching live) more intently. It’s as if we missed this one girl who is suddenly performing beyond everybody’s expectations.
Last year, a petite and less regarded – albeit photogenic – Ali Forbes stunned amused watchers when she placed 2nd Runner-Up which translated to a year-long Top 5 appearance with Janine, Nicole, Katrina and Elaine. The year before that, the surprise was relatively minor when the likes of less popular Sarah Nicole Clenci and Wendy Lucas made it to the Top 15. And the year before that, Czarina Gatbonton floored everyone by becoming the last Filipina to wear the Bb. Pilipinas World sash.
For 2013, who will provide us with that eyebrow-raising moment? For your consideration, I short-listed eight candidates who just might sneak into the magic circle of Top 15 or Top 10 or even Top 5 when nobody’s looking (or taking a restroom break in between commercial gaps).
Cebuanas Angeli Dione Gomez and Herlie Kim Artugue head the group. Their excellent communication skills – and acceptable facial attractiveness – might not be lost on the judges’ scorecards. Same goes with Law student Ivy Kristel Gonzales and UK-raised Zandra Flores. And how about the youthful beauty of 17 year-old Imee Schweighart? She could turn on the charm that we have been ignoring for so long.
And then there is also Best National Costume winner (and Mutya Datul deadringer) Ma. Teresita ‘Mateane’ Baccay plus sexy Abby Monderin who may possibly complicate the field even more. Finally, let’s not forget the statuesque Valiry Vispo whose 5’10″ frame can be hard to ignore in a less competitive year.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is likely to be one shocking contender for this year. Her identity remains a mystery, though. After all, what’s Bb. Pilipinas without one?
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.
As I have pointed out earlier, the Bb. Pilipinas 2013 Primer last Sunday night showed the ladies in their most expressive selves, with three very noticeable standouts. All of them are from Cebu.
Angeli Dione Gomez, Herlie Kim Artugue and Matet Gorgonio must be beaming nowadays after the positive feedbacks on their respective TV interviews. In fact, Matet even sent out a most appropriate message to all her fellow Cebuanos, which can be read below.
The Queen City of the South should be proud of this trio. Regardless of the results, they have shown the true beauty and intelligence that a Binibini should possess.
Best of luck in the finals, girls!
Binibini 46 : AMANDA NOELLE NAVASERO
Age : 21 years old
Hometown : Makati City
School : DLSU-College of Saint Benilde
Other info : Mandie is a Tourism major who loves to travel. She enjoys reading and watching Broadway shows.
Binibini 47 : AIYANA CAMILLE MICKIEWICZ
Age : 23 years old
Hometown : Agoo, La Union
Other info : AJ has Filipino, Chinese, Ukrainian and Polish lineage. Being part of Bb. Pilipinas excites her the most.
Binibini 49 : HERLIE KIM ARTUGUE
Age : 21 years old
Hometown : Cebu City
School : University of San Carlos
Other info : Hka is a Registered Nurse. She has already joined a number of beauty contests in Cebu before going Bb. Pilipinas.
Binibini 50 : MA. CRISTINA ANN PASCUAL
Age : 21 years old
Hometown : Taytay, Rizal/Batangas City
School : Philippine School of Business Administration
Other info : Krisma finished her Accountancy degree before enlisting for Bb. Pilipinas.
Okay, let’s continue with the Versus series I started weeks back.
For today, I’m focusing on a Province VS Province match-up, i.e., Cebu VS Bulacan – two areas which managed to squeeze in three heads each in the ongoing Bb. Pilipinas 2013.
Match #1: Angeli Dione Gomez VS Merry Joyce Respicio
Height-wise, 5’11″ Merry Joyce leaves 5’6″-ish Angeli in the dust. Face-wise, Angeli appears to be the one with instantly attractive looks. After reviewing their side-by-side shots for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th time, though, Merry Joyce starts to shine more distinctly. So for international standards, the Bulakenya edges the Cebuana, not by a mile, but significant enough to be considered more strongly come judgment time.
CEBU: 0/BULACAN: 1
Match #2: Herlie Kim Artugue VS Jhan Helen Villanueva
5’6′ish Kim and 5’8″ Jhan Helen are perfect for a possible head-to-head collision. Without make-up on, both ladies are on equal footing with Pinay features that push-and-pull each other. Both ladies are beautiful. Both radiate similar styles of smiling. From my vantage point, though, I would give the advantage to Herlie Kim who has a more likeable aura that can catch anyone’s attention in a jiffy.
CEBU: 1/BULACAN: 1
Match #3: Matet Gorgonio VS Camille Nazar
It gets more interesting between Matet and Camille – the match between the Fashion Model and the Farmer. The Cebuana has been walking down the ramp for a profession, while the Bulakenya was plucked out of the ricefields and trained specifically for national pageant purposes. Given such differences, I am more impressed with how Camille was able to transform herself to a poised and graceful lady. That takes a lot of discipline and commitment from someone who is more comfortable supervising farmers under the heat of the sun. Matet, on the other hand, is simply continuing what she has already been doing for so long. This one could be close, but I would give the fair advantage to the Team JDV bet, i.e., Camille.
CEBU: 1/BULACAN: 2
It’s no secret that your blogger is from Bulacan. But I distanced myself from the provincial connection by analyzing beyond looks. At any rate, the Central Luzon ladies are one up against the beauties from the Queen City of the South, in my current opinion.
Once again, so many things can still happen in the coming weeks. Who knows, the eventualities might turn in the favor of the Cebuanas. And I’m very much open for such to happen.
“A picture is worth a thousand words“, the popular saying goes. But if you look at the group photo of Kagandahang Flores ladies Hannah Ruth Sison, Ana Carmela Aquino, Matet Gorgonio, Charmaine Elima and Herlie Kim Artugue above (taken before their individual photoshoots), you won’t need to consult a dictionary or thesaurus to pick the most outstanding face among the five.
Without a doubt, Charmaine Elima stands head and shoulders above the rest of her camp sisters. She possesses an oh-so-beautiful and radiant look that can stand the test of competition. And she seems to be steadily improving by the day. I will definitely be following this young lady throughout the whole thing.
This is just the beginning for the 50 Official Candidates of Bb. Pilipinas 2013. OPMB Worldwide chanced upon some of them upon arrival at Gateway in preparation for their first official photoshoot for the pageant. Their energies are brimming with excitement. I hope they can keep it up till the homestretch because it won’t be an easy trek to the finals. With all the scheduled activities and personal appearances, the last thing in their minds should be getting a good 8-hour sleep.
All photos courtesy of OPMB Worldwide.
From the Facebook Fanpage of Bb. Pilipinas comes this message specifying the assigned numbers of the 50 contenders:
Presenting to you the golden batch of Bb. Pilipinas! #50beautifulyears #bbp2013 #bbpilipinas2013
Bb. Pilipinas 2013 Official Candidates
1. Ria Rabajante
2. Ma. Bencelle Bianzon
3. Zandra Flores
4. Nicole Kim Donesa
5. Maria Sofia Gloria Mustonen
6. Yvette Chantal Mildenberger
7. Maria Ivy Kristel Gonzales
8. Abbygale Monderin
9. Katherine Anne Enriquez
10. Anna Carmela Aquino
11. Ana Carmina Antonio
12. Camille Carla Nazar
13. Charmaine Elima
14. Mary Rose Pujanes
15. Pia Wurtzbach
16. Joanna Cindy Miranda
17. Carin Adrianne Ramos
18. Christine Paula Love Bernasor
19. Hannah Ruth Sison
20. Bea Rose Santiago
21. Lourenz Grace Remetillo
22. Ellore Noelle Punzalan
23. Leona Paula Santicruz
24. Cassandra Naidas
25. Merry Joyce Respicio
26. Anna Fernandina Buquid
27. Vania Valiry Vispo
28. Mercegrace Raquel
29. Pauline Quintas
30. Maria Theresa Gorgonio
31. Maria Angelica De Leon
32. Cindy Abundabar
33. Parul Shah
34. Grace Yann Apuad
35. Theresa Marie Fenger
36. Angel May Villafuerte
37. Ma. Teresita Alaine Baccay
38. Mariz Ong
39. Mutya Johanna Datul
40. Jan Helen Villanueva
41. Ariella Arida
42. Jacqueline Alexandra Mayoralgo
43. Rhea Nakpil
44. Gabrielle Monique Runnstrom
45. Imelda Schweighart
46. Amanda Noelle Navasero
47. Aiyana Mikiewicz
48. Angeli Dione Gomez
49. Herlie Kim Artugue
50. Ma. Cristina Ann Pascual
Quick notes:a) The four towers of this batch – 5’10″ Cassandra Naidas, 5’11″ Merry Joyce Respicio, 5’11 3/4″ Anna Buquid and 5’10″ Valiry Vispo got all the middle numbers – 24, 25, 26 and 27 – respectively.
b) While not the shortest among the 50, 5’7″ish Ria Rabajante got assigned the important #1 pin and will always lead the 50 when being presented or paraded.
c) Bence Bianzon got assigned the #2 pin. This could only mean that BPCI wants a 1-2 punch whenever the candidates are being called for introduction and other pre-pageant activities.
d) Early favorite Pia decided to use Wurtzbach as her surname for the competition. Although this would reflect differently (read: looked at as less Asian by foreigners) should she win and be fielded abroad, there still remains the ‘itching’ theory of carrying a ‘double-U’ (W) in the same.
e) The last number (in this case, #50) is usually one of the least looked-at candidate (perhaps the audience is already dead-tired by the time it reaches the end), but BPCI has gotten into the habit of assigning a lady with striking features here. Last year, it was Latina-looking Sherlyn Gonzales (#30). This year, it’s another Latina-looking Krisma Pascual who’s at the tail-end.
f) Last year, the lucky numbers were 18 (Janine Tugonon), 8 (Nicole Schmitz), 13 (Katrina Dimaranan), 15 (Elaine Kay Moll) and 29 (Ali Forbes). Will good fortune follow Paula Bernasor, Abby Monderin, Charmaine Elima, Pia Wurtzbach and Pauline Quintas in that order? Probably for two of them at best.
Any other quickies you’d like to add, dear readers?
What are the chances of having girls with the same names in a group of fifty? Very high. But let’s skip long write-ups for now. I will let pictures speak in the meantime. Discussions and assessments will be reserved for another day. Enjoy them first!
All photos courtesy of OPMB Worldwide.