In contrast to Saturday last week when they, along with the 20 other contestants (originally 24 but one was disqualified for posing sexy in a men’s magazine), stood on high heels under glaring lights at the Araneta Coliseum, with nice smiles not leaving their faces even if they must have been hungry and sleepy and exhausted, the three major winners were subjected by Conversations to another round of Q&A in the cool comfort of a Pizza Hut parlor at the Gateway at the Araneta Center in Quezon City where the pictorial was also held in the nearby Oasis.
They were gracious under pressure, poised even under the oppressive summer sun, very confident now that they are titled. According to Madame Stella Marquez-Araneta, head of Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc., this year’s batch of Bb. Pilipinas aspirants was one of the prettiest in years, no wonder the board of judges (including 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz, Richard Gomez, Regine Velasquez, Rizal Gov. Junjun Ynares and AFP Chief Alexander Yano) had a hard time picking the winners.
• 2009 Bb. Pilipinas-International Melody Gersbach (half-German/half-Filipina) who will compete in the Miss International contest in Japan (for the pre-fnals activities) and Macau (for the grand coronation);
• 2009 Bb. Pilipinas-Universe Pamela Bianca Manalo, for the (58th) Miss Universe Pageant in Paradise Island, Bahamas, sometime in August. (She’s the niece of 1968 Bb. Pilipinas-International Nini Ramos and the sister of Bb. Pilipinas-World Katherine Manalo); and
• 2009 Bb. Pilipinas-World Marie Ann Umali (half-Lebanese/half-Filipina), for the Miss World contest in South Africa later this year.
Come, let’s pick the brains of the three Binibinis.
As a Binibini, what qualities of the Filipina would you highlight in the international contest?
Melody: The simplicity, confidence and positive attitude of the Filipina today.
Bianca: Her strong faith in God, her positive values and good morals.
Ann: The modern outlook of the Filipina, her dynamism, the way she can play multiple roles in the society — as her husband’s partner, as a leader and as a mover.
Who is your role model and why?
Melody: My mother, Marina Manuel Gersbach. She has a strong character. A typical Bicolana. She has determination. As far as she’s concerned, nothing comes her way. To her, everything has a solution.
Bianca: My sister, Katherine Anne Manalo. She plays very well her being the eldest sister in the family. She leads by example. I am a Binibini today because of her. As Bb. Pilipinas-World (2002), Ate Kate represented our country very well at the Miss World contest.
Ann: I also look up to my mother, Renita Umali, a Batangueña. She’s the source of my strength, she’s my inspiration. She taught me the values in life and the importance of respect not only for elders but for everybody.
Young people today are liberated and adventurous, willing to try everything. What’s your stand on pre-marital sex and contraceptives?
Melody: The young are really curious; they want to experience everything. Pre-marital sex is a matter of choice. If they are old enough, they should know the consequences of their actions. Contraceptives? I’m pro-life. Again, it depends on the person. She has the right to decide for herself.
Bianca: Everyone has a right to decide what to do with her life. Personally, I’m not for pre-marital sex. You give “it” only to someone you love, someone that you marry. I’m also against the use of contraceptives of any kind.
Ann: If they can say no, say no. I believe in the sacrament of marriage and that sex should happen only between married couples.
Regarding contraceptives, nasa desisyon ‘yon ng taong involved.
After two women presidents, should we have a third one?
Melody: In terms of leadership, gender shouldn’t be an issue. Women of today can do men’s jobs. What matters is a good platform. A good leader, whether a man or a woman, should know how to listen to the people.
Bianca: Gender doesn’t matter. The important thing is the sincerity to serve the people and not her (the leader’s) own interests. She must lead by example.
Ann: Gender shouldn’t be the basis for choosing a leader. What’s important is the capacity to lead, and a heart for public service.
If you were Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, what are the three priority problems that you would attend to?
Melody: First, poverty. Second, education. Three, the environment.
Bianca: Education is a basic right and everyone should have access to it. Job opportunities. And poverty. If everyone gets good education and land good jobs, then it would be easy to eradicate poverty.
Ann: Poverty, because it deprives people of choices and opportunities. There’s also environmental issues like forest denudation. And, the traffic situation.
You seem perfect. What do you think is wrong with you and how do you want to fix it?
Melody: I’m happy with myself and with what God has given me, so I won’t change anything in me. But I want to be a better person and my being a Binibini will definitely help me in that area.
Bianca: I’m happy with myself. It’s not really changing but I want to improve myself. With experience, I think I can do that.
Ann: I don’t find anything wrong with me. But I am open to improvement. I want to grow old gracefully.
Who would you choose, a rich man who is not good-looking or a handsome guy who has no money?
Melody: The one who’s not rich but good-looking. If we work hard together, we can become rich. Money is not an issue with me.
Bianca: What’s important is not how rich he is or how guapo he is. Ang importante is that he is God-fearing, honest and thoughtful. And, most important of all, he should be faithful.
Ann: What’s important for me is that I love the guy and he loves me, too. I want to be in a relationship that is pure and sincere.
Do your boyfriends possess the qualities of your ideal man?
Melody: My boyfriend is the vice president for operations of their family business. He’s responsible, he has his own goals and, like me, very close to his family.
Bianca: He’s a pilot trainee. He started pursuing his dream of being a pilot when he learned that I would be a flight attendant. Yes, he has all the qualities of my ideal man. He’s religious like me. We hear the early-morning Mass together every day. Before going home, we would drop by the Adoration Chapel. What I want most about him is his strong faith in God. If you have that, everything is possible.
Ann: My boyfriend works in their family business (billboards). He fights for his principles and he fights for me. He’s sincere, very positive.
If you were somebody else, who would you like to be and why?
Melody: Princess Diana. I like her passion in life which was to be a role model to other people. She was compassionate. She was a princess and yet she was very humble.
Bianca: My mother, Norma Ramos-Manalo. I appreciate her patience. Even if we may have disappointed her, still she understood. She’s there to support us in all our endeavors.
Ann: Josefa Llanes Escoda, the founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. She was an excellent civic leader.
Describe yourself in three words.
Melody: Positive. Goal-oriented. Humble.
Bianca: Not just three words... I am a woman of faith. I have a strong faith in God... I am loving. When I love, I love unconditionally... I am humble. I don’t let things go to my head. I keep my feet on the ground. And I know how to look back.
Ann: Passionate. Generous. Lovable.(philstar.com)