MANILA, Philippines—“The most beautiful batch of ladies” was how Paolo Bediones described this year’s roster of Binibining Pilipinas candidates.
Paolo, who’s hosting the annual pageant with Iza Calzado, sounded very sincere — and not just because his girlfriend is rejoining the contest.
Jaws dropped as the ladies paraded in their red printed peek-a-boo Mossimo swimwear at the Sunset Pavilion of Hotel Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City last week. Pageant veterans, show biz figures and audacious newcomers are among this year’s contestants.
Paolo’s girlfriend, Abegail Cruz, was second runner up in 2007 and a GMA 7 talent. She is joined by Bianca Paz, who is Polo Ravales’ current flame. Also in the roster is Carisheila Kuijpers, Joross Gamboa’s rumored sweetheart and Estee Lauder Model Search winner in Malaysia.
Other returning candidates are former semifinalists Marie-Ann Umali and Jaysel Arrozal and Miss Philippines-Earth semifinalist and Mutya ng Pilipinas runner up April Love Jordan.
The following local beauty title holders have gotten into the fray: reigning Miss Bicolandia Melody Gersbach; Mutya ning Kapampangan 2007 and former Bb. Pilipinas contestant Keann Mallari; Miss Oriental Mindoro 2007 Diana Arevalo; Miss Cebu 2006 Stephanie Señires; Miss Makati 2006 Marie Lorraine de Guzman; Miss Cebu runner-up Priscilla Mae Honorio; and Quezon City queen Gizelle Rivamonte.
The competition could be made tougher by Regina Hahn, Miss Universe runner-up Chiqui Brosas-Hahn’s daughter, and Bianca Manalo, Miss World finalist Katherine Manalo’s sister and niece of Nini Licaros, the first woman to be crowned Bb. Pilipinas-International.
To make the judges’ job even more difficult are former “Walang Tulugan” host Sandra Seifert, “Starstruck” contestant Rich Asuncion (who’s using her real name Richell Angalot) and Miss Teen Philippines runner-up Priscilla Navidad, the hearing-impaired teen housemate in “Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition.”
Neophytes Barbara Salvador and Cheryl Oliveros, on the other hand, might stage upsets.
The pageant selects the country’s official representatives to the Miss Universe, Miss World and Miss International beauty contests.
The outgoing queens are hopeful that this year’s batch will produce winners abroad. Although they have their own bets, they all agree that the contestants are all beautiful and intelligent.
Miss International semifinalist Patricia Fernandez sees at least three contenders who could be short-listed for her title. “I noticed that judges in the Miss International focus on the eyes. They also do not want heavy or muscular women. They prefer cute and charming ladies,” Patricia told the Inquirer.
Danielle Castaño, who replaced Janina San Miguel as the country’s Miss World bet, thinks of four contestants who could inherit her title. “Miss World judges look for someone athletic, who could attract attention right away. She must also be humble, nice and a good role model for the youth,” said Danielle.
Jennifer Barrientos finds two ladies who fit the Miss Universe standards. “In Miss Universe, most of the ladies have modeling backgrounds. But they are not super thin. They are super sexy with a lot of character. They also embody the country they represent,” Jennifer said.
The coronation night is on March 7, 7:30 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum. GMA 7 airs the event at 10 on the same night. (inquirer.net)