She knew it was going to be a momentous night for her when pageant host Xian Lim called out her number—18—as a semifinalist in Sunday’s Binibining Pilipinas contest and told her in a show seen by millions of television viewers: “Tonight is your big night, Binibini 18.”
And it was, indeed, for the 22-year-old pharmacist.
“I need your prayers. In a competition like Miss Universe, you really need God’s grace,” Janine Tugonon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer at a victory party after she was crowned 2012 Miss Universe-Philippines during a four-hour show at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Let’s unite as one and pray for me, pray for us, in our international pageants,” Tugonon added, referring to the other winners of the pageant.
Sunday night’s pageant was Tugonon’s second shot at the crown. She was proclaimed first runner-up in her first attempt last year, when she competed against her roommate Shamcey Supsup, who took the title. Supsup eventually placed third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant in Brazil.
Tugonon’s leap from bridesmaid one year to bride the next was not unprecedented. Last year’s Binibining Pilipinas-International winner, Dianne Necio, was first runner-up in the 2010 pageant.
Both Necio and Tugonon had to give up their runner-up placements in order to join again immediately. Runners-up, like titleholders, are bound by 18-month contracts with the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. (BPCI).
In the past, runners-up who returned to the pageant had to finish their contracts and wait two or more years before they could compete again.
Tugonon—who was crowned Miss Thomasian Personality while she was studying pharmacy at University of Santo Tomas (UST), where she graduated cum laude—is determined to do well when she competes for the world crown.
Plea for support
“I’m pressured because Shamcey and Venus (Raj) both did well. But I’ll make sure I’ll do my best,” Tugonon said. Raj finished fourth runner-up in the 2010 Miss Universe pageant.
And it looks like she’ll draw a huge amount of support from her compatriots. Her fans were among the biggest groups at the Big Dome, raising a deafening noise every time she appeared onstage.
Supsup pleaded for support for Tugonon in a separate interview with the Inquirer.
“I hope you will give Janine the same amount of support you gave me. I believe she personifies what a true Filipino woman is—godly—and has principles the same as mine,” Supsup said.
She added: “We’re so alike in many ways because we share the same beliefs. So she deserves the same level of support. We might be in for a big surprise in the coming Miss Universe competition.”
Tugonon was Supsup’s roommate in last year’s competition and Supsup saw how her successor had improved. “I saw her grow. I know it wasn’t easy for her. I’m like a big sister to her,” Supsup said.
Miss Universe 1999 first runner-up Miriam Quiambao said Tugonon deserved the support of Filipinos.
“I’m really happy for her because I think she carried herself well. She answered the question very well,” Quiambao said.
Asked during the question-and-answer portion of the pageant how she felt about women who forego a happy family to pursue a successful career, Tugonon replied: “I believe that women have the right to choose what they want. But for me, you have to go for what God has told you to do. Whatever it is, between the two, you have to do what your purpose is in this world.”
Quiambao revealed: “According to what I heard from the judges, her look can be very much appreciated internationally. So for all you know, she could be the one.”
Tugonon has been likened to Quiambao, not only because both women studied at UST and earned degrees in the medical field but also because of their distinctly Filipino beauty.
“I always appreciate it when people tell me I look very Filipino,” Quiambao said. “I like that [Tugonon’s] beauty is also appreciated in that sense. Also, the fact that people say we look alike, it just means that our look is very much representative of Filipino beauty. So I hope she wins.”
Tugonon’s prize for winning Sunday’s crown included a P500,000-management contract with BPCI and cash, products and services from Nestlé, Jag Jeans, Gold’s Gym, Avon, David’s Salon, Dale Carnegie Training Center and Entrepreneur’s School of Asia, amounting altogether to hundreds of thousands of pesos.
The night’s other winners, Binibining Pilipinas-International Nicole Schmitz and Binibining Pilipinas-Tourism Katrina Dimaranan, also got the same prize package.
Products and services from the pageant sponsors will also be given to first runner-up Elaine Kay Moll and second runner-up Analie Forbes, who will likewise receive BPCI management contracts worth P150,000 and P100,000, respectively.
Among the judges were Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr., 2005 Miss International Precious Lara Quigaman, former Akbayan Representative Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel, actor Richard Gomez and national football player Phil Younghusband.
Actress Iza Calzado shared hosting chores with Raj, actor Xian Lim and model Georgina Wilson. The pageant was aired on ABS-CBN and will be seen in other countries via The Filipino Channel.