If 2013 was the year of “pageant virgins,” 2015 must be the year of also-rans and repeaters, as Binibining Pilipinas crowns a new set of winners on March 15 at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
When Binibining Pilipinas, the country’s oldest and most prestigious beauty contest, turned 50 two years ago, its drumbeaters hailed it as a “special” year since none of the 50 contestants had ever joined Binibini before.
It also turned out to be a good year for Binibini. Its so-called “Golden Girls” led by Bea Rose Santiago and Mutya Datul won Miss International and Miss Supranational, respectively.
Ariella Arida, the country’s representative to Miss Universe, didn’t do badly either by placing third runner-up to Venezuela’s Gabriela Isler.
But this year is turning out to be different for the Stella Marquez Araneta-led “beaucon.”
Aces & Queens and Kagandahang Flores (KF), two of the country’s leading beauty training camps, are fielding pageant “veterans” such as Pia Wurztbach and Hannah Ruth Sison.
Wurztbach won first runner-up in 2013, only to be shut out of the winning circle last year for allegedly failing to score enough points after Sen. Sonny Angara, one of the evening’s judges, asked her to answer his question in Filipino during the make-or-break Q and A.
Will the articulate Filipino-German beauty and sometime ABS-CBN talent finally bring home a crown on her third attempt? Will she wow the crowd by speaking in German this time?
Sison hopes to improve on her second runner-up finish in 2014 by also clinching one of the five crowns up for grabs this year.
Even online favorite Janicel Lubina, KF’s best bet to win Miss Universe Philippines, has had her share of big pageants, including Miss World Philippines where she placed first runner-up in 2013.
Like Venus Raj, the tall and dusky Lubina has an interesting story. She grew up poor in Palawan doing odd jobs—at least, by beaucon standards—such as farming, scavenging for discarded rice grains and working as maid.
Lubina’s detractors feel she doesn’t have what it takes to nail tricky interviews in English, but her defenders in KF attest to her “intelligence.” They even hired the same speech trainer who worked on Mary Jean Lastimosa to help Lubina hone her English and speaking skills.
Will this modern-day Cinderella earn a ticket to fame and fortune by winning big, or will everything turn into pumpkin the minute she opens her mouth? Stay tuned.
Pageant fans are also eagerly watching how third-time hopefuls Patricia Lae Ejercitado and Toni Alyessa Hipolito will fare.
Ejercitado is a licensed interior designer from University of Santo Tomas, while Hipolito finished broadcasting and speaks several languages, including Mandarin.
Another girl to watch out for is first-timer Princess Joy Camu, a hotel and restaurant management student from Legazpi City.
Statuesque and blessed with a doll-like face, Hipolito could end up doing well alongside more seasoned rivals. Like Yvethe Santiago and the celebrated Raj, she’s also a Bicolana.
Camu has won almost all the best in swimsuit awards in regional pageants in Bicol, said a Binibining Pilipinas insider.
Mia Allyson Howell could charm her way to the top with her unique background and academic credentials. Aside from winning silver in the women’s team foil archery event at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games in Thailand, the articulate Howell graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She also worked for a time in the office of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
Howell was set to apply at Stanford University to pursue law when she was encouraged by one of KF’s members to give Binibining Pilipinas a try.
Except for repeaters like Kimverlyn Suiza, Aces & Queens is also fielding fresh-faced hopefuls like Kylie Verzosa, Ann Lorraine Colis, Alaiza Flor Malinao and Teresita Ssen “Wynwyn” Marquez.
Versosa’s pretty, girl-next-door looks fit the template of global pageants such as Miss International and Miss Supranational.
The dusky Malinao and the fierce-looking Colis could end up bagging Miss Universe Philippines.
Apart from her show-biz pedigree, Marquez, daughter of estranged celebrity couple Joey Marquez and Alma Moreno, is related to former Miss International Melanie Marquez.
She may not be as long-legged as her supermodel aunt, but Marquez could probably outwalk and outsmart the tallest and prettiest girl on stage, and win a major, major title.
And like her lovely mom, she’s said to be a good dancer. For all we know, she’s probably got the Miss Talent award in the bag already.