YES, Binibining Pilipinas is still the most electrifying beauty competition in the land. It may have lost important rights to Miss Universe and Miss Supranational but the quality of this year’s contenders is unmatched and the ferocious support of the fans remains unwavering. That there was a titillating pause at the Smart
Araneta Coliseum before the announcement of the top plum added to the mystique of the “Queen of All Pageants.”
- These Girls Will Surely Win Your Heart. The new Binibini theme got a new P-Pop energy as performed by the sensational SB19 during the opening number. By the witching hour on August 1, a new set of queens were crowned: Stacey Daniella Gabriel of Cainta, Rizal was Second Runner-up; First Runner-up was Herlene Nicole Budol of Angono, Rizal; Bb. Pilipinas Grand International was Roberta Angela Tamondong of San Pablo, Laguna; Bb. Pilipinas Globe was Chelsea Lovely Fernandez of Tacloban City: Bb. Pilipinas Intercontinental was Gabrielle Camille Basiano of Borongan, Samar; and Nicole Yance Borromeo of Cebu was Bb. Pilipinas International.
It was heartbreaking to see Karen Laurrie Mendoza of Iloilo City miss the winning circle again, and even more so when Cyrille Payumo failed to advance to the Top 12. For her grand comeback, Gabrielle won back-to-back the Best in Gown and Best in Swimsuit awards. Herlene the “Hipon Girl” amassed a treasure trove of special awards that cumulatively may be of higher value than the major winners’ prize packages.
- Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves. A heartwarming highlight was when Pia Wurtzbach, in a video clip of a pre-pageant activity, shared about the journey toward forging friendships in pageantry. “All of you are in competition with each other, and all of you are trying to get the crown. Ano ba talaga ang maiuuwi mo dito? Kasi ang mananalo naman one year lang may crown and then she has to pass it on to another girl,” the Miss Universe 2015 asked.
“But what’s something that you take with you in the years to come? It’s the friendships and the connections that you’ve built in that competitive space,” adds Pia, who competed three times. “In fact, you relate so much to each other because nobody else knows what you’re going through than the girls sitting next to you.”
Even before becoming Binibinis, the 2022 titleholders’ pageant trajectories have been intertwined. Chelsea and Gabrielle were once classmates at the Asian Development Foundation College in Tacloban City. Gabrielle was Top 18 at Miss Earth Philippines 2018 while Chelsea was MPE-Water 2019.
Chelsea was Reyna ng Aliwan Fiesta 2018 and she turned over the title to Nicole in 2019. Stacey, Nicole and Roberta trained under Aces & Queens. Chelsea and Herlene are honed by Kagandahang Flores. Gabrielle is an RL Angel.
- Courage of Their Convictions. What was refreshing about this year was the Interview Round, when raging issues that other pageants feared to tread were tackled. Very relevant, thought-provoking questions were met with equally impressive replies from the winners.
Well, except for Roberta. She got rattled and rambled on, but she will surely redeem herself come her Miss Grand International campaign. She won Miss Eco Teen International 2020 after all. The girl is captivating, with the vava-voom presence of Sofia Vergara crossed with Ariadna Gutierrez.
Stacey stood up against historical revisionism and defended historians: “A historian is one who recognizes our painful past with factual evidence, looking back at our rich, vibrant history, and as well at the times that our humanity was trampled on and our heritage was almost erased. If we look at our past, we can surely move onward and upward and rebuild, rise from this pandemic, and dream for a safer, healthier, and happier Philippines.”
Herlene, “Ang Binibining Hindi Inaasahan,” celebrated Buwan ng Wika by answering in Filipino about her personal transformation: “Para sa akin, isang karangalan na nakatungtong dito sa Binibining Pilipinas bilang isang binibini na hindi inaasahan. Para sa akin, ang sarap pala mangarap. Walang imposible. Isa pong komedyante na laki sa hirap. At ang aking transpormasyon ay magbigay ng inspirasyon. Because I know for myself that I am beautiful, that I am uniquely beautiful with a mission.”
Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked Gabrielle: “If you win as our Binibini, how will you deal with fake news and other negative comments criticizing your looks, intelligence, and the way you live your life?”
Gabrielle replied: “I’ve been receiving a lot of opinions from other people, and I’m not complaining about it, because people are entitled to their own opinion. As for me, I will always remind women that we are strong, independent and courageous. Because these are the traits that are very critical to the complicated roles that us women play in today’s society.”
Nicole is a Miss Teen Philippines 2019 second runner-up (to Nikki Advincula de Moura of Cagayan de Oro City), Miss Millennial Philippines 2019 and Sinulog Festival Queen 2019. Her Origin Management family in Cebu City include Miss Earth 2014 Jamie Herrell, Misses Universe Philippines 2019 Gazini Ganados and 2021 Beatrice Luigi Gomez, and Miss World Philippines 2021 Tracy Maureen Perez.
Heartthrob Donny Pangilinan asked her: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate yourself as a responsible Filipino citizen, and why?”
Nicole’s winning answer: “As a responsible Filipino citizen, I’d like to give myself a good 8. Because I know there’s always room to improve; there’s so much I don’t know, but there’s so much I’m willing to learn. I hope to do that with you.”
With the US Supreme Court officially reversing Roe v. Wade declaring that the 1973 constitutional right to abortion no longer exists, the most high-impact question came from Abena Appiah, Miss Grand International 2020 from the US, to Top 12 finalist Yllana Marie Aduana: “What are your thoughts and sentiments on the advocacy ‘My Body, My Choice’?”
Without missing a beat, the brave Binibini from Laguna bared: “I believe that all women should always be entitled to our own opinions and we should have the most autonomy on whatever decision that we have toward our body. Because us women, we are a tower of strength, a pillar of hope, and a champion of purpose. And we should always believe that all our choices should always come right into our hands.”
Image credits: PHOTOGRAPHED BY BRUCE CASANOVA