The Philippines firmed up its reputation as a land of beauty queens by capturing honors in two international pageants held within hours of each other in two different time zones.
Miss World Philippines Gwendoline Ruais, a French-Filipino stunner, finished runner-up in the Miss World pageant held at Earls Court in London on Sunday night (Monday morning in Manila). A field of 113 women vied for the title.
Hours earlier, Binibining Pilipinas-International Dianne Necio won semifinal honors, finishing in the Top 15 of the Miss International contest in Chengdu, China. Sixty-seven national beauty queens competed.
Only last September, Shamcey Supsup finished fourth in the Miss Universe pageant in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Ruais, a daughter of a former Air France executive and a former model, was edged out for the Miss World crown by Venezuela’s Ivian Sarcos, who had been preparing for the pageant since late last year.
Sarcos succeeded last year’s winner, Alexandria Mills of the United States.
The 21-year-old Ruais is a business and management graduate of the Southville Foreign University in Muntinlupa City, and an experienced print and ramp model.
Miss World’s 61st edition introduced changes in the pageant’s format. Instead of automatically awarding semifinal places to the winners of various prepageant “fast-track” events, this year’s contestants had to earn points based on their performance in different categories.
The scores were posted on Miss World’s official website (www.missworld.com), while the points of those who ended up in the Top 30 in the various stages of the competition were displayed on a widescreen on stage during the ceremonies at Earls Court.
6th Venezuelan winner
Ruais placed 9th in the first phase, or the interview portion. She was third overall in the preliminaries, with 223 points, by advancing to the final short list of candidates in three fast-track competitions—Beach Beauty, Top Model and Beauty with a Purpose.
Puerto Rico’s Amanda Perez topped the preliminary contest with 233 points but ended up third in the end. Miss Venezuela ranked second during the preliminaries.
Sarcos was the sixth Venezuelan to bag the title, after Carmen Zubillaga (1955), Pilin Leon (1981), Astrid Herrera (1984), Ninebeth Leal (1991) and Jacqueline Aquilera (1995).
No Filipino has won in the pageant’s 60-year history.
Ruais duplicated Evangeline Pascual’s second place finish in 1973. Actress Ruffa Gutierrez placed third two decades later while Cecilia Amabuyok was fourth runner-up in 1968.
Two other Filipinos ended up in the Top 5—Maria Rafaela Yunon in 2003 and Karla Bautista in 2004.
This year, one common finals question was asked of the seven finalists: Why should she be Miss World?
The finalists were Ruais, Sarcos, Perez, England’s Alize Lily Mounter, Korean Kyung Min-doe, Jennifer Reoch from Scotland and South Africa’s Bokang Montjane.
Ruais answered: “To be Miss World is my dream job, and I say job because it has a lot of responsibilities. But there’s nothing I love more than communicating with other people. As Miss World, you get to use your potential and your voice to help people all around the world. And what is more wonderful than doing what you love by helping others?”
The Earls Court erupted in cheers and applause every time Ruais’ name was called.
‘Home court advantage’
American actor James Cook, one of the hosts, said at one point during the pageant that it appeared Ruais had the “home court advantage” because of the warm and loud reception she was getting.
The pageant’s judges included Miss World Organization president and CEO Julia Morley and former Miss World titleholders.
President Benigno Aquino III was among the Filipinos who praised Ruais for her performance. “Congratulations to Ms. Gwendoline Ruais!” Mr. Aquino said in his Twitter account (@PresidentNoy).
Several time zones away, in Chengdu, China, Necio finished in the semifinals of the Miss International pageant while winning the Miss Popularity award for garnering the most number of online votes.
Ecuador’s Maria Fernanda Cornejo was crowned the winner in the pageant’s 51st edition. She bested 66 other candidates to become her country’s first Miss International winner.
Venezuela’s Jessica Barboza, who was a former Miss Earth runner-up, placed second. Tugsuu Idersaikhan of Mongolia was third, followed by Puerto Rico’s Desiree Del Rio and Keity Mendieta of Panama.
The 19-year-old Necio sustained the Philippines’ streak of semifinal finishes in the Miss International contest. Patricia Fernandez was a semifinalist in 2008. The late Melody Gersbach also advanced to the semifinals in 2009 and actress Krista Kleiner did it in 2010.
Of all the international beauty pageants, the Philippines has been most successful in the Miss International contest with four winners—Gemma Cruz (1964), Aurora Pijuan (1970), Melanie Marquez (1979) and Precious Lara Quigaman (2005).
Congratulating Necio, Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. said in a statement: “Despite her young age, Dianne gave a splendid performance, manifested elegance, poise and sophistication and, once again, made us all proud to be Filipino.”
The organization also thanked Necio’s fans “who voted for Dianne online for her to garner more than 300,000 votes, thus giving her the People’s Choice Award.”
Necio will stay in China for one more week, together with the other Top 5 finishers and special awards recipients, for official appearances and other activities. With a report from Christine O. Avendaño