MANILA, Philippines—Before she was crowned the most beautiful woman in the Philippines, Janine Tugonon found signs that the 2012 Binibining Pilipinas pageant held last Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum would be a momentous event.
One of the signs was when pageant host Xian Lim said, “Tonight is your big night Binibini 18” and she was called to take one of the 12 semifinal slots, Tugonon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer during the victory party held after the coronation night. And it was indeed a big night for the 22-year-old pharmacist, who was proclaimed Miss Universe-Philippines at the end of the four-hour ceremonies.
Sunday night’s pageant was a second shot for Tugonon. She was proclaimed first runner-up during her first attempt in 2011, when she competed with eventual winner Shamcey Supsup, who later placed fourth in the 2011 Miss Universe pageant in Brazil.
But Tugonon’s move was not unprecedented. Last year’s Binibining Pilipinas-International winner, Dianne Necio, was first runner-up in the 2010 pageant. Both Necio and Tugonon had to rescind their runner-up placements in order to join again. Runners-up, like the titleholders, are bound by an 18-month contract with the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. In the past, runners-up who returned to the pageant finished their contracts and waited two or more years before joining again.
And this opportunity would not go to waste, declared Tugonon, who was also crowned Miss Thomasian Personality while she was studying Pharmacy at the University of Santo Tomas, where she graduated cum laude.
“I’m pressured because Shamcey and Venus [Raj] both did well. But I’ll make sure to do my best,” Tugonon declared.
She appealed to Filipinos: “I need your prayers. In a competition like Miss Universe, you really need God’s grace. Let’s unite as one and pray for me, pray for us, in our international pageants.”
And it appears she will be getting a huge amount of support. During the national competition last Sunday, her fans were among the biggest groups in the Big Dome, making deafening noise every time she appeared on stage.
Supsup, her predecessor, also pleaded support from Filipinos. “I hope you will give Janine the same amount of support you gave me. I believe she personifies what a true Filipina is—Godly, and has those principles same as me.”
She added: “We’re so alike in many ways because we share the same beliefs. So she deserves the same level of support. We might be in for a big surprise in the coming Miss Universe competition.”
Tugonon was Supsup’s roommate in last year’s competition, and she saw how her successor improved. “I saw her grow. I know it wasn’t easy for her. I’m like a big sister to her. I’m really happy for her,” shared Supsup.
Miss Universe 1999 first runnerup Miriam Quiambao also believes Tugonon deserves the support of Filipinos.
“I’m really happy for her because I think she carried herself well. She answered the question very well,” said Quiambao.
When asked how she felt about women who forego a happy family for a successful career, Tugonon replied: “I believe that women have the right to choose… But for me, you have to go for what God has called you to do. Whatever it is, between the two (choices), you have to do what your purpose is in this world.”
Quiambao also revealed: “According to what I heard from the judges, her look can be very much appreciated internationally. So for all you know, she could be the one.”
Tugonon has also been likened to Quiambao, not only because both ladies studied in UST and earned degrees in the medical field, but also because of their distinctly Filipino beauty.
“I always appreciate when people tell me I look very Filipina,” said Quiambao. “And I also like that [Tugonon’s] beauty is also appreciated in that sense. And also that fact that people say we look alike, it just means that our look is very much representative of the Filipina beauty. So I hope she wins.”
Tugonon’s prize package includes a P500,000 management contract with BPCI and hundreds of thousands of pesos worth of cash, products and services from Nestle, Jag Jeans, Gold’s Gym, Avon, David’s Salon, Dale Carnegie Training Center and Entrepreneur’s School of Asia.
The other winners, Binibining Pilipinas-International Nicole Schmitz and Binibining Pilipinas-Tourism Katrina Dimaranan, also bagged the same prize package.
Products and services from the pageant sponsors will also be given to first runner-up Elaine Kay Moll and second runner up Analie Forbes, who will receive BPCI management contracts worth P150,000 and P100,000, respectively.
Among the night’s judges were Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, United States Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas Jr., 2005 Miss International Precious Lara Quigaman, former Akbayan Representative Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel, actor Richard Gomez and national football player Phil Younghusband.
Actress Iza Calzado shared hosting chores with Raj, actor Xian Lim and model Georgina Wilson. The pageant was aired on ABS-CBN and will be seen in other countries via The Filipino Channel.