The 2020 Philippine national pageant season would be virtually nonexistent if it were not for the extraordinary efforts of the Miss Universe Philippines Organization and the candidates. Pageants are tough enough as they are but the past 9 months and dealing with the pandemic have pushed them to their limits.
During my interview with Miss Universe Philippines National Director, Shamcey Supsup, she said it was important for them to continue with the pageant not just for the organization but for the candidates.
“I think the main message is hope. Because these are unprecedented times. I think this is the first time that the whole world was put on a halt. Something that we are not really sure how to combat yet. But I say that no matter what throws at you, as long as you have hope in your heart, then there’s going to be a light at the end of the tunnel. People have been giving up on their dreams. They think it’s not valid anymore or is not essential anymore. We want the pageant and the girls to really inspire them that every dream is valid. And you can still hope to reach that no matter the circumstances,” she said.
Of course, it takes a village of pillars in the Miss Universe Philippines Organization to mount such an undertaking beginning with Jonas Gaffud as MUP Creative Director, Mario Garcia as Business Development/ Marketing Head, Atty. Nad Bronce as Head of Legal Affairs, Lia Ramos as Head of Women Empowerment Committee and Charity and Albert Andrada as the Design Council Head.
The MUP Pageant is making history for not only being the inaugural edition of the new franchise holder but also being held during the quarantine restrictions. Thankfully, it did not go fully virtual but it is still under new normal standards.
It started out with a bang during the MUP Press Presentation of the official candidates and a major runway event. However, since then, it has relied primarily on the social media campaigns of the candidates.
Candidates with existing huge social media followings automatically gain an advantage in terms of media exposure. At the height of the quarantine, candidates who had access to designers, glam teams, and other resources resulted in better pictorials. Needless to say, those who also did not have to worry financially could focus on fulfilling requirements rather than thinking about how they will survive.
So to the 45 candidates that made it through the 9 months and passed all the Covid tests, this in and by itself is a life victory that will carry them through tough times.
I would like to give a special mention to the candidates who were unable to continue on their journeys for understandable personal and health reasons. Angela Aninang of Negros Occidental, Princess Laureano of Aurora, Maria Lara Hamid of Capiz, Chiara Lyn Markwalder of Leyte, Maria Isabela Galeria of Sorsogon, and Vincy Vacalares of Cagayan de Oro.
Their journey may have been cut short but they have a bright future to look forward to.
To rephrase a popular quote, in today’s times it might be appropriate to say “Don’t judge a candidate by her social media alone.” So it’s a good thing that I had the privilege of having Zoom interviews with all of the candidates, the Ring Light Series, the preliminary competitions to make my Best Bets List. These have all proven to be game-changers.
We hear the word “authenticity” being used often by the candidates. There have been debates and discussions on the interpretation of this word. I feel that the message of authenticity can get lost in translation and used as a shield to mask an unwillingness to change for the better. Don’t confuse the message of authenticity as do whatever you want. A lot of young people who grew up with reality TV and social media have a notion that I can be a mess and still be a celebrity.
Without any historical trends or patterns as a basis, the MUP pageant results are as uncertain as the climate we are in today.
Will there be regional groupings in the selection of the semifinalists? Will the preliminary scores carry over to the finals night? Will the MUP Organization have any say in the selection process or will it be solely left to the hands of the judges? Will the really good speakers and very wonderful personalities in the closed-door interviews score higher in swimsuit and evening gowns because the judges fell in love with them? This is something that happens in pageants, especially when the judges get to see the interviews first.
The Preliminary Judging panel includes former Miss Universe Philippines representatives namely: Maria Venus Raj, MU 2010 4th Runner-up; Ariella Arida, MU 2013 3rd Runner-up; and MJ Lastimosa, MU 2014 Semifinalist.
Completing the judges' panel are Dra. Katrina Salonga-Versoza, Jackie Aquino, Neil Perez, and Sam Versoza.
The Preliminary Competition was held at the Cordillera Convention Hall at the Baguio Country Club and hosted by Benjamin Alves. The stage production featured LED screens and a U-shaped runway where the candidates could show off their runway skills.
As soon as the music started the remixed version of “Mabuhay” originally used in the 1994 Miss Universe pageant, I started to get goosebumps. It was a very symbolic way of reliving the glory days of pageantry and pageant history as well as celebrating the now and the future of Philippine pageantry. Seeing them in their national costumes set in the beautiful mountains of Baguio was a glorious moment for the Miss Universe Philippines’ triumph in staging its first ever pageant despite the challenges.
Based on my overall impression of the candidates and their preliminary performance, I feel that the following ladies are the Best Bets for Miss Universe Philippines 2020. If the preliminary scores are erased and they all start on a clean slate during the Finals, this list can be flipped around entirely. All of these women have the potential to up their game and kick it up a notch during the FInals. So, someone who was in the 16th position can jump to becoming Miss Universe Philippines. All these women are quite capable of wowing the judges. The question is: Will they deliver?
This group of five women can easily slide into the Top 5, depending on their performance in the finals.
Preliminary competition host Benjamin Alves also announced the Specials Awards. These are very special because, without these sponsors, there would be no pageant.
Face of the Universe – Pauline Amelinckx, Bohol
Best in Swimsuit – Rabiya Mateo, Iloilo City
Best in Evening Gown – Ysabella Ysmael, Parañaque City
Miss MG Philippines – Michele Gumabao, Quezon City
Miss Creamsilk – Pauline Amelinckx, Bohol
Miss Downy Sweetheart – Pauline Amelinckx, Bohol
Miss Cetaphil Sun – Pauline Amelinckx, Bohol
Best in National Costume – Lou Piczon, Mandaue City
Miss Photogenic – Tracy Maureen Perez, Cebu City
In one day, we will all finally found out who will become Miss Universe Philippines 2020. A reminder: this is only my Best Bets list. The field is still wide open and that crown is up for the taking by anyone of the 45 candidates. At the end of the day, nothing can stop a candidate from fulfilling her destiny.
If you want to relive all the activities, the Ring Light series, the preliminary competitions, and watch the Grand Finals of Miss Universe Philippines, head on over to www.empire.ph and subscribe. – Rappler.com