Binibining Pilipinas 2019: Who’s our best bet?

Voltaire E. Tayag
Binibining Pilipinas 2019: Who’s our best bet?
Voltaire Tayag shares his predictions for the finals night on June 9

Pageant watchers expected a low turnout of strong candidates in this year’s edition of Binibining Pilipinas because of the victories of Catriona Gray in Miss Universe 2018 and Karen Gallman in Miss Intercontinental 2018.

Would you really want the unenviable task of winning a back-to-back title and subjecting one’s self to immediate comparisons to Catriona’s phenomenal performance? There are a million and one reason not to join this year but 40 courageous young women did.

Luckily for the official candidates, this year’s Bb. Pilipinas activities have been geared towards their slogan, #beyondbeauty. The long competition period allowed for numerous activities that helped mold them into well rounded, empowered young Filipinas with a clear understanding of themselves and their purpose. 

The candidates also enjoyed several activities sponsored by the Miss Universe Philippines Organization such as tours of Boracay and Vigan, women empowerment talks, and the FrontRow Cares and The Universe Give Back Charity Fashion Gala

Also at the gala were Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray – shining examples of what it truly means to be that empowered Filipina with a heart. The have – and continue to — support charities Young Focus Philippines and LoveYourself, Inc. 

Both on stage and off stage, I have seen these women perform and let their hair down. Each one is a joy, bringing pride to their hometowns and their families. Each one has a unique story that can inspire a young girl or boy somewhere in our country to dream bigger dreams. (WATCH: The Binibining Pilipinas 2019 candidates talk superheroes, the Avengers)

Most noticeably, the candidates’ social media game has been elevated with their so-called “pasavogue” photoshoots. Glam teams have been working overtime in ensuring their candidates had Vogue-worthy editorial shots to drum up publicity. (IN PHOTOS: The Bb Pilipinas 2019 in their stunning national costumes

During The Road to the Crown, it was mentioned that the selection of the semifinalist would be based on the scores in the Press Presentation, National Costume show, Free Speak and a closed door interview session.

With such a long pageant calendar, consistency and peaking at the right times was crucial. So, I feel the ones who will make the first cut are the ladies who impressed from the beginning. Of course, there is room for the slow burners who peaked at the right moments.

This year’s contestants will be narrowed down to a Top 25 (who will compete in swimsuit and evening gown portions) and later, a Top 15 (for the Q&A), from which the winners will be picked.

With that in mind and with the utmost respect to each and every candidate, I humbly offer my Best Bets List.

Semifinalist shortlist

  • Larah Grace Lacap, Quezon City
  • April Short, Zamboanga City
  • Marie Sherry Ann Tormes, Polangui, Albay
  • Maria Isabela Galeria, Sorsogon
  • Sigrid Grace Flores, Iloilo
  • Cassandra Chan, Bacolod City
  • Denielle Magno, Pangasinan
  • Emma Tiglao, Pampanga
  • Vickie Rushton,  Negros Occidental
  • Samantha Mae Bernardo, Palawan
  • Aya Abesamis, Pasig City
  • Gazini Ganados, Talisay, Cebu
  • Hannah Arnold, Masbate
  • Bea Patricia Magtanong, Bataan
  • Maria Isabela Galeria, Sorsogon
  • Leren Mae Bautista, Laguna
  • Ilene de Vera, Mandaue City
  • Jessica Marasigan, Malabon City
  • Marianne Marquez, Marikina
  • Jessarie Dumaguing, Puerto Princesa
  • Julia Saubier, Legazpi City
  • Jean Nicole Guerrero, Ilocos Sur
  • Samantha Ashley Lo, Cebu City
  • Resham Saeed, Maguindanao

Any of the other candidates not mentioned in this list can easily make it into the semifinals.

The candidate’s evening gown choice, styling, stage presence, final Q&A, and overall performance on the finals night will determine their placements and any of these ladies can make up the next set of queens. One misstep from a front-runner can open up the door for a darkhorse to slip in and grab that crown.

Given that the candidates this year are so evenly matched, the percentage accuracy will probably be not so good because it is truly anyone’s crown to win.

Pageant veteran advantage

I think my choices leans more towards to the women who have pageant experience over the newbies. Historically, returning candidates have had a higher rate of success during their comeback, especially when their age is close to the age limit requirement. I don’t think they are given preferential treatment because of it but I do feel that these candidates perform better than ever knowing that it’s a now-or-never situation. They’ve tasted devastating loss and are now hungry for redemption.

You see and feel this with Vickie Rushton (1st runner-up, Bb. Pilipinas 2018), Samantha Bernardo (2nd runner-up, Bb. Pilipinas 2018), Aya Abesamis, Sherry Anne Tormes, Sigrid Grace Flores, and Emma Tiglao.

The runner-up returnees

Throughout Bb. Pilipinas history, only the following runners-up were fortunate to win a crown during their subsequent tries. In Pia’s case, third time was the charm.

  • Desiree Verdadero —  1st runner-up (1982) and then Miss Universe Philippines 1984
  • Abbygale Arenas — 1st runner-up (1994) and then Miss Universe Philippines 1997
  • Maricar Balagtas —  2nd runner-up (2001) and then Miss Universe Philippines 2004
  • Margaret Ann Bayot — 1st runner-up (2002) and then Bb. Pilipinas International 2004
  • Dianne Necio — 1st runner-up (2010) and then Bb. Pilipinas International 2011
  • Janine Tugonon — 1st runner-up (2011) and then Miss Universe Philippines 2012
  • Mary Jean Lastimosa — 2nd runner-up (2011) and then Miss Universe Philippines 2014
  • Pia Wurtzbach — 1st runner-up (2013) and then Miss Universe Philippines 2015
  • Jehza Huelar — 2nd runner-up (2016) and then Bb. Pilipinas Supranational 2018

If Samantha Bernardo and Vickie Marie Rushton are successful in their bid, it would be the first time in BInibini history that the year’s previous runners up became the top winners the following year.

The articulate newbies and the Q&A

Patch Magtanong, Julia Saubier, Resham Saeed, Nicole Guerrero, and Samantha Lo are some of the strongest talkers in the batch. They are some of my favorites this year but my best bet list isn’t based on my personal preferences. It is also based on my educated guess of what the organization and the judges might lean towards.

They aren’t soft spoken, submissive, quiet and passive women. In fact, I worry that some may come off as too strong or too straightforward for traditional Filipino sensibilities – these ladies tell it like it is and don’t sugarcoat the truth. This is the quality I love most about them which is why I hope that the judges see the beauty in these truly empowered women.

Sometimes, even Filipino pageant fans don’t know how to appreciate an empowered woman when they meet one. These women have opinions that matter and have voices that are strong because they have conviction in what they believe in. That is their brand of empowerment and I find it very refreshing.

Some have been low-key in the early stages of competition, while others need to pump up their runway and stage presence. But on finals night, give them the microphone and prepare to be amazed – that could very well be the tipping point that changes the predictions altogether. Of course, their glam team needs to make sure that they are on point so that there won’t be any missed opportunities.

The potential is all there and it just all needs to come together to make magic happen. Any or all of the articulate newbies can easily occupy the winners’ circle, depending on their performance on finals night. 

Among them, Patch Magtanong probably fits the classic, tried-and-tested Miss Universe Philippines look. In fact, that is the title that would suit her the best. If she rises up to the challenge, this lady can take it all.

But Julia, Resham, Nicole and Samantha Lo are all fighters and have proven so in their previous competitions. If the organization is looking for beauty queens who can also be also spokespersons, they should look no futher than these 5 women.

The winners’ circle

Bb. Pilipinas 2019 2nd runner-up: Jessica Marasigan,  Malabon City

Jessica has everything that it takes to be a queen. She is sweet, charming, and very pretty. Having a showbiz background doesn’t hurt either because she knows how to entertain a crowd and host events. She just has that x-factor that makes you take notice.

Alternate: Marianne Marquez, Marikina 


Bb. Pilipinas 2019 1st runner-up: Ilene de Vera, Mandaue City

Ilene is tall, beautiful, personable, and intelligent. I haven’t seen her star shine as brightly in previous events but I feel that she has the potential to do so in the finals. She is definitely one to look out for and she can easily capture one of the crowns if she does everything right. She’s proven to be a great representative in the international pageant scene and her experience will be an edge over the other candidates.

Alternate: Jessarie Dumaguing, Puerto Princesa

I think that with a bit more polishing and experience, Jessarie will be a major queen in the future. She has that classic Filipinas beauty queen look. She is, however, still a bit timid at this point.   



Bb. Pilipinas Globe 2019: Aya Abesamis, Pasig City


This year is possibly Aya’s year of redemption. She has transformed herself and showed that she is hungry for a crown. Aya was flawless in the Jag video shoot and her pictorials have been fabulous. Depending on how she performs during the Finals, she may even get a higher crown. She will surely have former Bb. Pilipinas titleholders cheering her on.

Alternate: Leren Mae Bautista, Laguna 

I really wish there was another crown to give because Leren absolutely deserves one. That’s the problem when the batch is super strong — you inevitably have to lose even great candidates. Leren hasn’t been consistent in the pageant but when she is on, she is unstoppable. Let’s hope she is on during the finals. Good luck to the other candidates because she might just get their placement.


Bb. Pilipinas Grand International 2019: Hannah Arnold, Masbate


My first impression of Hannah was that she looked like Pia with Catriona’s background. But once you get to know her, you’ll know she is uniquely Hannah. She is charismatic and exudes a genuine kindness that is so endearing. The reason I placed her as Bb. Pilipinas Grand International is because I want the Philippines to finally win that crown and I know Hannah is the girl to do it. She has been working very hard in her Binibini journey and her heart is in the right place. Should she win, I hope that her styling would be more consistent to bring out her natural beauty. Hannah is so sweet to her supporters and her fans. I’ve seen her take time to say hello to them and take selfies with them without rushing.

Alternate: Ilene de Vera, Mandaue City 

We know that Nawat [Itsaragrisil, of Miss Grand International] likes tall winners, so Ilene would be a great choice for MGI as well.


Bb. Pilipinas Intercontinental 2019: Emma Tiglao, Pampanga

It’s been a long time coming for Emma Tiglao. She’s waited 5 years before coming back and that has done her really well. Emma’s stage presence is unparalleled. Her face lights up so brightly, as if she has a real life filter. She could be in the second row and she’d still be the one whose smile beams brightly.

She can be sent to almost any of the international pageants and she would do very well. In all the times I’ve attended the Binibini events, she was always a ray of sunshine and I could feel her drive. Emma also has some of the most stunning “pasavogue” photos. This consistent, hard working, patient, down-to-earth and beautiful Binibini deserves a crown.

Alternate: Leren Mae Bautista, Laguna


Bb. Pilipinas Supranational 2019: Samantha Mae Bernardo, Palawan

Samantha Bernardo version 2019 is far more confident because she’s comfortable in who she is, what she can do, and what she can offer. She is enjoying her Binibini experience a lot more and it shows. She has what it takes to take it all the way. She has been one of the most consistent candidates throughout this grueling 3 months of competition with unwavering dedication. She has a laser focus on the crown but does not forget to have fun along the way. She has been experimental in her style and thankfully, it has worked. Her crimped locks look make her a standout in certain events and all for the right reasons. She has the runway skills, stage presence and charisma that are all necessary qualities for a Supranational queen. At the rate she’s been going, a higher title is also a very likely possibility.

Alternate: Aya Abesamis, Pasig City


Bb. Pilipinas International 2019: Vickie Rushton,  Negros Occidental


Aya Abesamis would have been my first choice for International but I don’t think she is qualified anymore because of her age. The Japanese would have loved her. But the great thing is that we have other candidates who are just as fitting for this title.

Much like her 2018 sister Samantha, Vickie version 2019 is filled with life and personality. She is a lot more engaging and exudes a joy that comes from within. She is undoubtedly that type of beautiful face that Filipinos go gaga over. She is the very prototype of beauty that we love to send at Miss International. She has a demure and quiet demeanor but with a presence that the Japanese would appreciate. I really hope that her age won’t be a technicality because someone like Vickie can secure us another MI crown that could – or should – have been Ahtisa Manalo’s last year. I really admire Vickie for her deep love for her brother and family, something that you sense and feel when talking to her. She is also someone who is very warm and friendly.

Alternate: Hannah Arnold, Masbate 

She is the tall, doll-like, mestiza beauty we also like to send to Miss International. Here, Hannah’s bubbly personality will work.


Miss Universe Philippines 2019: Gazini Ganados, Talisay, Cebu


The undefined, undeniable gorgeous beauty of Gazini Ganados will send shivers down the spines of rival nations if she is crowned Miss Universe Philippines. What I love about Gazini is that she has a universal appeal. Her Palestinian, Spanish, and FIlipino mix makes her look Latina, Middle Eastern, Asian, and European all at the same time. Let’s face it – many are waiting for the Philippine streak to end at Miss Universe. Remember that time when Venezuela reigned supreme and people would comment that they all looked the same?

Gazini oozes with a natural sex appeal. She just has it. But don’t be deceive by that exterior. In my conversations with Gazini, I’ve discovered that she is an old soul with good values and is a simple girl at heart. Her deep connection to her grandparents is also admirable – something that many from her generation seems to have take for granted. She openly talks how she has never met her father but is hopeful that one day she’d have that opportunity. Her dreams aren’t rooted in fame or fortune but grounded on love and family. There is also an air of mystery about Gazini and a sophistication uncommon for her age.

That’s what makes her very beautiful and my choice for Miss Universe Philippines.


  • Vickie Rushton, Negros Occidental
  • Hannah Arnold, Masbate
  • Patch Magtanong,  Bataan

I know that the Final Q&A is a make-or-break for many. This is that window of opportunity wherein the articulate newbies can smooth talk their way into a crown.

Depending on the set of judges and the selection panel, once the semifinalists are selected and placements have to be determined, what will really be factored in? Will there be a priority given to who are about to age out of pageantry? Do the panel of judges know the nuances of the types of winners that the international pageants look for? With so many variables and so many strong candidates, this is the most unpredictable edition of Bb. Pilipinas in recent history. Whatever the results are, the Philippines wins because we have these ladies representing our country.

Acceptance of destiny is key to succeeding in a pageant. Each candidate is already a winner for having all the experiences but accepting their destiny on finals night holds the key to happiness.Yes, it would be a lot easier to be happy with a crown on your head – but a crown is never a guarantee for happiness.

Regardless of what happens on June 9 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the important thing is to support your candidate with encouraging words of love and kindness in social media. Whatever the results are on the finals night, always remember that it is that woman’s destiny to win that evening. Let us show the world that Filipinos are the best pageant fans because they uplift the Filipina queens.  — 


Voltaire has 10 years experience in the fashion industry. He previously worked with a luxury clothing and accessories brand in Los Angeles, CA. He graduated magna cum laude from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, major in Fashion Design. He also holds a BS in Applied Economics and BS in Marketing from DLSU. He is now doing real estate but finds ample spare time to pursue his passions.


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