Bb. Pilipinas 2011

The race is on!
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte


The race, to be among the country's top beauty representatives who will vie for the most coveted international beauty titles, heats up as the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. (BPCI) presented its roster of official candidates before mediamen at the Luzon Ballroom and the poolside of the sprawling Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.
BPCI chairperson Stella Marquez-Araneta, herself the very first crowned Miss International in 1964, admitted that the process of being included among the line-up of forty contestants for Bb. Pilipinas 2011 has gotten even more rigid simply because of the sheer number of aspirants that have tried their chances at the pageant screenings.
The BPCI organizers observed that the impressive showing of Ms. Universe 2010 runner-up Ma. Venus Raj seemed to have inspired and attracted more girls to vie for the titles.
Stella Marquez-Araneta also told the girls that this year's press presentation screening committee which is composed of herself, BPCI executive directors Conchitina Sevilla-Bernardo, National Artist Pitoy Moreno, Ambassador of Spain to the Philippines Lani Bernardo, internationally-renowned visual artist Betsy Westendorp, Ms. Universe 1999 1st runner-up Miriam Quiambao, Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman, Spanish consul Antonio Garcia, Sofitel general manager Goran Aleks, Megaworld's Charlie Yu, Unilever's media director Ed Sunico, ABS-CBN's VP for corporate communications Bong Osorio and TV executive Chit Guerrero meticulously scored the ladies based on beauty of face, body proportion, poise & personality, and their intelligence. Reigning Ms. Universe-Philippines Ma. Venus Raj, together with current titleholders Krista Mae Kleiner (International) and Czarina Gatbonton (World) as well as past winners – Bb. Pilipinas-Universe titlists Karen Agustin (2002), Nina Ricci Alagao (2004), Jionna Cabrera (2005), Maricar Balagtas (2004), Jennifer Barrientos (2008); Bb. Pilipinas-International winners Maricarl Tolosa (2001) and Denille Lou Valmonte (2006); Bb. Pilipinas-World titlists Carlene Aguilar (2005) and Mary Ann Umali (2009); as well as last year's runner-up Nicolette Henson – used the same standards when they sat as judges during the eliminations. She emphasized that it is imperative that the screening panel use global parameters of beauty since the winners will be competing in international competitions.
A record number of 108 semi-finalists originally made it through the three screenings that were all previewed by the press. We were told that this is the first time the screenings were made public for the media as the proceedings in the past were strictly a closed-door event. The girls, with ages ranging from 17 to 25 came from all over the country: Agusan del Norte, Nueva Ecija, Davao, Bulacan, Aklan, Ilocos Sur, Bicol region, Guimaras Island, Bulacan, Pangasinan, Isabela, Occidental Negros, Cavite, Bataan, Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Laguna, Iloilo, Olongapo, General Santos, Catanduanes and the NCR; while some are Filipinas who are based abroad. The semi-finalists were whittled down to this year's crop of 40 hopefuls. It was also noted that the prestigious pageant has transcended the erstwhile social class and pageant stereotypes as there is a smattering of aspirants from myriad disciplines and/or persuasions. While a few are still in school, most of the delegates are professionals and have been with the country's work force as pharmacists, interior designers, nurses, architects, engineers, fashion designers, stock analysts, medical technologists, sales representatives and call-center agents. Among the pageant's early favorites are 18-year-old trike driver Luzelle Felipe; Ateneo graduate Kathleen Subijano, younger sister to Bb. Pilipinas-International '94 Kara Subijano; returning aspirant Diane Necio, who won as 1st runner-up in last year's competition; and architect and first-timer Shamcey Supsup.
Twelve of the official candidates have wowed the Ali Mall audience, a fortnight before the press presentation, with different showcases ranging from singing to dancing and sketching during Talent Night. The singers in the group were Zephorah Mayon, Angelia Ong, Ma.Kristina Marasigan, Luzelle Felipe, Camille Alexis Baltazar and Jenette Noguchi. The latter has been in crutches since the semi-final deliberations as she sprained her ankle in a bathroom mishap. Her doctor has assured her that she'll be back on her feet before the pageant finals; and she was during the press presentation, albeit in low-heeled shoes. Others such as Janine Tugonon, Diane Necio, Sarah Clenci and Ladylyn Riva chose to show their terpsichorean talents. Shamsey Supsup decided to show her sketching prowess while Queenierich Rehman opted to do an entertaining beatbox number.
Three ladies from the original 40 – Grendel Arevalo, Roxanne Cabanero and Jenilyn Oliver – backed out from the competition early on and were replaced by Bernadette Aguire, Girlie Lero and Monique Manuel. The other girls who made it to the finals, including the aforementioned, are Marish Alyssa Marquinez, Krystle Ann Grant, Carolyn Ty, Elizabeth Durado Clenci, Samantha Purvor, Mary Jean Lastimosa, Jennielyn Natividad, Hazelyn Santos, Carla Lacson, Kenneth Dimaampi, Suzette Hernandez, Isabela Manjon, Teresa Pamela Ludovice, Arabella Hanesh, Gianna Therese Quintos, Patricia Tumulak, Wendy Lucas, Sabrinne Al-Tawil, Ma. Paula Bianca Paz, Martha McCulley, Jenn-Roe Gubat, Diana Arevalo, Glennifer Perido, and Paula Camille Figueras.
The rigid process will finally come to an end on Sunday, April 10th when the BPCI conducts its annual coronation rites at the Big Dome. “I am so proud of the quality of candidates this year. I wish all of them well especially those who can't make it to the top spots. We will always receive you with open arms now and in the years to come,” declared BPCI chairperson Marquez-Araneta at the close of the presentation ceremonies.
The Bb. Pilipinas culmination night will be telecast live to a nationwide audience via their new media partner ABS-CBN, and through the TFC relay stations abroad, after BPCI and the televison network inked a 5-year alliance. The Miss Universe Finals, on the other hand, will also be telecast live through the same TV station(s) from Sau Paolo, Brazil in September.
As part of its teaser campaign, ABS-CBN will air a special primer on the forthcoming pageant entitled “Road to the Crown” in its Sunday's Best late evening show on Sunday, April 3rd.

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