beauty pageants

[OPINION] No one remembers the runner-up – except the Philippines

Jairo Bolledo

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[OPINION] No one remembers the runner-up – except the Philippines
While it remains a fact that only one can walk away with the title, Pauline, like all her predecessors, treads the same path of someone who has won at life. A queen who doesn’t need a crown.

Pauline Amelinckx had concluded the last three pageants she joined in the exact spot. 

Prior to arriving in Poland for her first international tilt, she was a runner-up to Rabiya Mateo at Miss Universe Philippines 2020. She later became Miss Universe Philippines Charity in 2022 – technically a runner-up to Celeste Cortesi – and Miss Supranational Philippines at Miss Universe Philippines 2023.

As Pauline held hands with Ecuador’s Andrea Aguilera, bracing together for the announcement of the Miss Supranational 2023, I had hoped that her fate would be different this time around.

Pauline was announced 1st runner-up at Miss Supranational 2023 on Saturday morning (Philippine time). She made history for bringing the Philippines back to the said pageant’s top 5 since Mutya Datul in 2013, who also won that year. 

Achievement aside, the phrase “no one remembers the runner-up” occurred to me. Would Pauline be forgotten?

Then I realized we’re in the pageant-crazed Philippines, where beauty queens’ legacies are immortalized. Even those of runners-up.

Timeless beauty

The Philippines has already produced at least 16 crowns in the five major pageants (Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss International, Miss Earth, and Miss Supranational), among countless titles in minor contests.

Behind this glory are numerous runners-up who equally did their best to wear the Philippine sash with pride. 

In the ‘90s, oriental beauty Miriam Quiambao was catapulted into fame after she placed 1st runner-up in Miss Universe 1999. Fast forward to more recent years, the Philippines consecutively produced runners-up in Miss Universe from 2010 to 2013 (Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup, Janine Tugonon, and Ariella Arida). 

The Philippines also celebrated Ruffa Gutierrez (1993) and Gwendoline Ruais’ (2011) victory at the Miss World, who placed 2nd and 1st runners-up, respectively. Although bittersweet, Filipinos still recognized the wins of Sandra Seifert (Miss Earth-Air 2009), Ma. Ahtisa Manalo (1st runner-up, Miss International 2018), Samantha Bernardo (1st runner-up, Miss Grand International 2020) – and most recently, Pauline. 

All these queens have one thing in common, and that’s not how none of them won the crown. The truth is, despite falling short of the ultimate prize, they actually coveted the hearts of the Filipinos.

These runners-up ended up with good careers. Some secured spots in show business, while some made names in the careers they chose. 

Most importantly, their beauty and legacy are forever engraved in our nation’s history, especially in the hearts of the Filipino pageant fans. 

Stubborn heart

In the final question and answer portion of the Miss Supranational 2023, Pauline was asked, “What makes a good brand ambassador for the Miss Supranational organization?”

She replied: “It would be dedication. Dedication to this journey, dedication to the people who have brought her up to this journey, and dedication of course with the organization that she’ll end up working with. This is such a beautiful experience. And she has to be someone who can bring people together. Someone who knows that this is not a one-woman journey. We all have our differences, but we also realize that we have so much in common. And we are now gathered here on this stage transcending our own borders, bringing nations together.”

Pauline spoke eloquently of cooperation and unity, and how perseverance brought her to where she is. She related to her own journey in expounding how determination serves as an important ingredient to success.

If there’s someone who can relate to that, that would be her, of course. She joined the national pageant three times to earn the right to represent the country in the international arena. 

In her journey, she received bashing and was even body shamed. But she continued dreaming and did not falter. Pauline is an epitome of determination, and true embodiment of persistence.

Madison Anderson, Miss Universe 2019 1st runner-up, shared a powerful quote during her pageant: “Magic happens when you refuse to give up, because the universe always listens to a stubborn heart.”

Pauline’s stubbornness to not give up, and her endless determination to represent the Philippines with all her heart, are enough to secure her spot in the hall of fame of Filipina beauty queens. 

She will always be remembered and adored like all other Filipina runners-up, who walked and reigned before her.

While it remains a fact that only one can walk away with the title, Pauline, like all her predecessors, treads the same path of someone who has won at life. A queen who doesn’t need a crown. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.