2019 in Philippine pageants: An end of an era, new beginnings

Alexa Villano
We look back at the ups and downs of the Philippine pageant scene

END OF A DECADE. The Philippines enters a new era in pageantry with changes along the way.

MANILA, Philippines – 2019 has been a rollercoaster year in Philippine pageantry. No Philippine representative won in any of the big pageants. There was a dethronement and citizenship issue. And just as the year was about to end, it was announced that a new organization would takeover the Miss Universe Philippines franchise after nearly 5 decades.

But it wasn’t all sad news. There was the homecoming of the country’s 4th Miss Universe, Catriona Gray, less than 3 years after the 2015 victory of Pia Wurtzbach, the continuation of a 10 year semifinalist streak in the Miss Universe pageant, and winning the Miss Tourism International crown.  

Here’s what made headlines in pageantry in 2019:

1. BPCI bids farewell to Miss Universe  

After 50 years under Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc (BPCI), the Miss Universe Philippines franchise will be under a new management led by Miss Universe Philippines 2011 Shamcey Supsup and former Aces and Queens pageant head Jonas Gaffud. Prior to the announcement, it was reported that the franchise had already been given to businessman and former Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson.

The organization announced the start of its 2020 search.


2. Catriona Gray’s homecoming 

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray was greeted with a warm welcome during her homecoming in February after winning the country’s 4th crown. She was also given special recognition by various sectors and was also honored with a special show produced by Bb Pilipinas and ABS-CBN. (HIGHLIGHTS: Catriona Gray’s reign as Miss Universe 2018)

Although she didn’t exactly travel much, Catriona made the most out of with, attending social functions, gracing awards shows, gracing Fashion Week shows, and showing up for the charities she supported.

Catriona finished her reign last December 8 after passing on the crown to South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi.

HOMECOMING IN ARANETA. Catriona Gray waves to the crowd at the Araneta City where she was given a parade last February 2019. File photo by Dion Besa/Rappler

3. Samantha Lo’s woes

It’s been a challenging year for Bb Pilipinas Grand International 2019 Samantha Lo. When the pageant location was announced to be in Venezuela, Filipino fans convinced her not to go over concerns with the political situation. Samantha, however, insisted on going to Venezuela to represent the Philippines.

Hours before she left for Venezuela in October, she called out Filipinos for spreading rumors that the hotel they were supposed to be staying in caught on fire. The management of the hotel confirmed that there was smoke in the hotel but that they able to put out before it escalated.

Fans then started getting worried because she did not appear in several pre-pageant activities. Reports soon came out that she was sent back to the Philippines from Paris because of issues with her visa. She finally spoke up 5 days before the pageant proper, during which she admitted that she encountered an issue during her transit to Venezuela. She blamed organizers (BPCI) for not giving her a proper transit visa.

Bb Pilipinas denied allegations they did not help Samantha. In a statement, they confirmed that Samantha was sent back to the Philippines and that her parents admitted her Filipino passport had been coursed through a fixer.

Samantha went on to compete and finished unplaced in the pageant despite the attention she got from the controversy. On November 26, Samantha announced in an Instagram post that she was “signing off” as Miss Grand International Philippines.  

LO AND BEHOLD. Samantha Lo's Miss Grand International journey has been rocky from the beginning because of the pageant's controversies. File photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler

4. Cyrille Payumo wins Miss Tourism International 2019

Cyrille Payumo was a favorite candidate to win Mutya Pilipinas 2019 so fans were surprised when she only got 1st runner-up. But the crown, it seems, was destined for Cyrille after organizers of Miss Tourism International did not allow the country’s representative, Tyra Goldman, to compete because of her dual citizenship.

Cyrille was then sent to Malaysia for the pageant. Despite not getting any special awards, she won the title less than two years after another Filipina representative, Jannie Alipo-on, won.

During her reign, Cyrille will travel around the world to promote Malaysia’s culture and tourism campaigns.

WINNER. Cyrille Payumo brings home the Miss  Tourism International 2019. File photo by Alexa Villano/Rappler  

5. Vanessa Walters dehtroned as Miss Eco Teen Philippines 2019

The Miss World Philippines organization announced in October that Vanessa Mae Walters, who won the Miss Teen Eco Philippines title, would be stripped off her crown for a number of violations including misrepresentation of credentials and unprofessional behavior.

Prior to her dethroning, Walters posted seemed to be a nude photo on Instagram. 

Mary Daena Zaide Resurrecion replaced Walters in the pageant. She ended as part of the Top 5 in the Miss Eco Teen pageant in Egypt.

DETHRONED. Miss World Philippines dethrones Vanessa Mae Walters due to many violations. File photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler

6. Michelle Dee’s Top 12 placement in Miss World

Michelle Dee, daughter of beauty queen Melanie Marquez, had been asked to joined the pageant scene ever since she started modeling. This year, Michelle took the plunge and joined Miss World Philippines, and was eventually crowned as the main titleholder

Filipino fans had high hopes that Michelle would finally win the title following a number of disappointments. Michelle ended her journey as part of the Top 12 in the pageant, which was held in London in December. Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica went on to succeed Vanessa Ponce de Leon of Mexico.

TOP 12. Michelle Dee plunges into pageantry after many years of convincing. She went on to win Miss World Philippines and placed in the top 12 finalists. File photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler  

7. Mr World held in Manila

For the first time, Manila hosted the Mr World competition, the male counterpart of the Miss World competition. Around 80 plus candidates from around the world spent almost a month in the Philippines.

England’s Jack Heslewood won the competition, succeeding India’s Rohit Khandelwal of India. Philippine bet JB Saliba was awarded Mr World Asia Pacific.

MR WORLD. England's Jack Heslewood wins the title in Manila last August. File photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

8. Pia Wurtzbach’s wax figure unveiled

Four years after she was crowned Miss Universe 2015, Pia Wurtzbach remains a figure loved by many. Madame Tussauds honored Pia as she unveiled her wax figure for display at the Hong Kong branch of the museum.

It was in September 2018 when she announced that a group from Madame Tussauds took her measurements.

TWO PIAS. Pia Wurtzbach unveils her wax figure in Manila before it was flown to Hong Kong. File photo by Alexa Villano

9. Gazini Ganados brings the Miss Universe Philippines crown to Cebu

Cebu had a big win at the Binibining Pilipinas 2019 pageant. Talisay City Cebu’s Gazini Ganados won the Miss Universe Philippines title.

Gazini, who is of Filipino and Palestinian heritage, has been turning heads since she first joined the pageant scenes a few years back. She went on to represent the country in the Miss Universe pageant in Atlanta, Georgia where she finished as part of the Top 20.

CEBUANA BEAUTY. Gazini Ganados brings home the Miss Universe Philippines crown to Cebu. File photo by Precious del Valle/Rappler

10. Cory Quirino takes over Mutya ng Pilipinas as national director.

After quitting as national director of Miss World Philippines in 2017, Cory Quirino returned to the pageant scene in 2019, this time as the new national director and president of the revamped Mutya ng Pilipinas, now known as Mutya Pilipinas.

Under her wing, Mutya produced a winner in Cyrille Payumo as Miss Tourism International and an additional title, World Top Model, which saw April Short representing the Philippines in Monaco last December.

BACK IN PAGEANTRY. Cory Quirino takes over Mutya Pilipinas. File photo by Alexa Villano/Rappler

– Rappler.com

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Alexa Villano

Alexa is one of Rappler's Lifestyle and Entertainment reporters, covering local entertainment news to a wide range of topics from beauty pageants to reality shows.