When Miss International Beauty Pageant returned to Japan this year, not a few spirits were raised. In fact, many representatives from all over the world rejoiced that their overseas assignment will be held in the Land of the Rising Sun for a welcome change from the oft-China venue. And so, the 69 contenders found themselves enjoying Japanese hospitality at its finest. From the time they set foot in Okinawa up to the penultimate day of competition, they endlessly bonded with each other and with the locals. Nonetheless, this remains a tough competition, so the standouts should be filtered from the mere joiners. True to its unpredictable nature, it sure ain’t easy singling out the favorites of the host city because they showered everyone with most equal attention. But from my armchair judging vantage point, I selected fifteen ladies who I can see entering the semifinals.
As expected, the Latinas dominated the shortlist with six (6) making their appearances – Brazil’s Rafaella Butarelli, Colombia’s Melissa Varon, Dominican Republic’s Melody Mir Jimenez, Ecuador’s Tatiana Loor, Paraguay’s Nicole Huber, and Venezuela’s Bianca Aljibes. On the other hand, four (4) Asians made it, namely, India’s Rochelle Maria Rao, Japan’s Ikumi Yoshimatsu, the Philippines’ Nicole Schmitz and Sri Lanka’s Madusha Mayadunne, with three Europeans filling in a few spots – Hungary’s Claudia Kozma, Poland’s Rozalia Mancewicz and Ukraine’s Julia Gershun. Finally, Haiti’s Anedie Azael (an alumna of Miss Universe 2011) and the USA’s Amanda Renee Delgado complete the cut.
Here’s where it gets tricky. A good half of the 15 are deserving of making it to the final 5. I wanted Colombia’s Melissa Varon and Poland’s Rozalia Mancewicz to make it. In the end, I decided to just use my gut-feel and went ahead with the circle of Brazil’s Rafaella Butarelli (who has been on top of my ranking ever since) being joined by Melody Mir Jimenez of Dominican Republic, the Philippines’ Nicole Schmitz (not just for sentimental reasons, but because she deserves to get this far), India’s Rochelle Maria Rao and Venezuela’s Bianca Aljibes. Some might be surprised at my inclusion of India in the Top 5. All I can say is that this South Asian charmer is a fresh mold from what we are used to seeing as reps from this country. Although petite compared to the rest, she has an arresting way of projecting herself to everyone. And others will agree 100% that Osmel Sousa’s baby – Bianca Aljibes – should be the top seed, hands-down. I like this girl, but she is only occupying middle ground among the quintet. She is gorgeous, but she doesn’t have the unique qualities of her two predecessors who won and placed in the two previous editions.I will stop my rankings as this point, except for stating that I want Nicole Schmitz to win tomorrow night. But stepping back to see the whole picture, it’s so hard to ignore the impact of this ravishing Priscilla Meirelles-deadringer in Rafaella Butarelli as she effortlessly rises above the other ladies in each and every activity. If she does not end up with the Mikimoto crown on her head, then I would be on Cloud 9 if Nicole Schmitz grabs our 5th Miss International victory in the process.
Who are your favorites, dear readers? 😉