WITH only one crown in contention, the Miss Universe Philippines pageant is the most thrilling of them all. From an initial 100 then trimmed to 75 and currently at 50, the delegates have been subjected to runway, casting and interview challenges. Virtually.
A panel of Miss Universe Philippines experts will select 27 delegates while the remaining three slots will be filled in via fan votes to comprise The Final 30. So if you think your bet won’t make it on her own merit, secure a slot for her by casting your vote on the Miss Universe Philippines app until August 31, 11:59 pm.
The winner will succeed Iloilo’s Rabiya Mateo. She will represent the country at the 70th Miss Universe in Israel in December. Here are my fierce choices for the next “Phenomenal Filipina”.
- SUPER QUEENS. Having competed successfully at the international level is a definite advantage. Fil-Am Katrina Jayne Dimaranan (28, Taguig City) represented the US at the Miss Supranational 2018 pageant and placed second. She was Binibining Pilipinas Tourism 2012 but the Miss Tourism Queen International 2012 pageant was canceled.
Leren Mae Bautista (28, Laguna) was Mutya ng Pilipinas Asia Pacific International 2015 and crowned Miss Tourism Queen of the Year International 2015. She was also Binibining Pilipinas Globe 2019 and placed third at The Miss Globe 2019.
Fil-German Maureen Christa Pojas Wroblewitz (23, Pangasinan) won the fifth season (2017) of Asia’s Next Top Model.
As Mutya ng Doha, Qatar, Janela Joy Cuaton (24, Albay) was Mutya ng Pilipinas Tourism International 2015 and finished second at Miss Tourism Metropolitan International 2016.
Fil-Am Christelle Anjali Abello (27, Aklan) was Binibining Pilipinas USA-Tourism 2014, Top 13 at Miss World Philippines 2015 and Top 16 at Miss Universe Philippines 2020.
Cebu Province’s Steffi Rose Aberasturi was Sinulog Festival Queen 2011, Miss Campus Femme 2012, Miss Mandaue 2013, Reyna ng Aliwan 2014 and Binibining Cebu 2018-2019. She hasn’t had an international campaign yet but her multiple local crowns have catapulted her as the girl to beat in this year’s edition. What can harm her chances, however, is her polarizing political stance.
- LGBT QUEENS. Simone Nadine Bornilla (18, Marinduque) proudly admits that she grew up to be a fine young lady because of her two gay dads. Reigning Binibining Cebu Beatrice Luigi Gomez (26, Cebu City), meanwhile, is proudly LGBT. Ally or member, both staunch advocates have the wholehearted support of the pageant-loving LGBT community.
- HOMETOWN QUEENS. Hailing from Region 10, I am apologetically cheering for my home girls. Though it is sad that Camiguin’s Sherlyn Legaspi Doloriel (Miss Cagayan de Oro 2016, Miss Scuba Philippines 2017) did not make the Top 50, there are two more in contention: Misamis Oriental’s Chella Grace Falconer (22), Thailand-based Megan Julia Roa Digal (25), and Cagayan de Oro’s Vincy Labadan Vacalares, a Covid-19 survivor who had to withdraw last year after testing positive.
- QUEEN MARY. From Mary Ann Carmen Philipps Corrales (1957) to Rose Marie Brosas (1975) and Maria Mika Maxine Medina (2016), there have been 15 winners with variations of this magical name. This year, we have Maria Corazon Abalos (23) of Mandaluyong City and Parañaque City’s Maria Ingrid Teresita Palanca Santamaria (25). Abalos’ mother, Carmelita “Menchie” Aguilar Abalos, the current mayor, was a Binibini in the early 1980s, while Santamaria is the niece of 1990s socialite/model Crispy Santamaria Laurel and the granddaughter of legendary concert pianist Ingrid Sala Santamaria.
- QUEEN SLAYERS. These delegates can snatch the crown: New Zealand-born Filipino-Spanish/Irish Victoria Velasquez Vincent (25, Cavite), she with the Nastassja Kinski eyes; and Manila’s Izabella Jasmine Umali (25), a fashion muse. Angeles City’s Mirjan Hipolito (24), a financial journalist, is the natural successor to dusky beauties such as Miriam Quiambao, Janine Tugonon and Janicel Lubina.
Two women sending shock waves for defying pageant standards are Masbate’s Kirsten Danielle Delavin (22), the showbiz starlet with a formidable fan base; and San Juan City’s Rousanne Marie Bernos (26), a TikTok personality, podcaster and founder of clothing line Morena The Label, whose candor is refreshing. Because, yes, pageants are political. And the personal is political.