A judge at First Queen Lola PageantBy Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LOS ANGELES—I finally got to be a judge in a pageant.
But it’s surely not what you had in mind. Because there, parading in front of me last Saturday evening at the auditorium of a high school in Glendale, California, were women who were old enough to be my mom. They were the 12 candidates to the First Queen Lola (Grandma) Pageant.
An opportunity to attend a fundraising dinner with the Obamas didn’t pan out; so, what was a better alternative than to spend an evening with determined, charming and smart Filipinas whose ages ranged from 55 to 84? The ladies didn’t have to sashay in swimsuits, so this is one beauty contest that can’t be accused of exploitation.
The evening’s treats were plenty.
In the “Let’s Get Physical” number where the magic 12 danced in fitness outfits—worry not, they were covered up in leggings and all—one original-thinking contestant playfully offered a lollipop to the male dancers.
Jovita Alejandrino, the oldest candidate at 84 but sharp as a tack, turned every chance to speak onstage to showcase her “Balagtasan” skills. She has the gift of poetry and oratory. Jovita delivered the “Sisa” monologue in an earlier event and won the talent award.
The three outstanding hosts—Bernardo Bernardo, Fe de los Reyes and Jannelle So—kept the audience entertained while waiting for the accountants to tabulate the scores.
Bernardo, whose wit is also getting sharper with age, gently ribbed the candidates who were all game and were good sports. Samples: “Parang biyudang walang kamatayan (Like a widow who lives forever)”; “She was Miss Red Cross 1945.”
When he saw a contestant’s gown with dangling glittery stuff, he dished: “May nagnakaw pa ng chandelier! (Somebody had the guts to steal a chandelier!)”
Bernardo, who sings just as well as he cracks jokes, performed a Paul Anka medley and “Smile.” He directed and wrote the show as well.
Fe, whose comedic skills we’re discovering only now, sang “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets” while lying on the floor, legs up, before an amused volunteer from the audience, lawyer Roman Mosqueda. Then Fe launched into her illegal Pinay immigrant version of Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” complete with a huge phone prop.
Jannelle So, host of the TV talk show, “Kababayan LA,” matched her cohosts’ hilarious ad lib skills and helped the show run smoothly with her extemporaneous introductions of guests and numbers.
Eddie Mesa proved to be walang kupas (ageless) in his numbers. When Jannelle relayed Bernardo’s comment backstage that Rosemarie Gil, who was a presenter and my fellow judge, was lucky to have Eddie as her husband, the actress quickly countered, “No, he is lucky to have me.”
Other guest performers in the event produced by Mildred Deang and Norberto Reyes were pop-opera tenor Jonathan Badon, who serenaded the candidates, and Classic Harmony, which sang a la The Lettermen.
The rest of my fellow judges were Alexis Monsanto, Keesa Ocampo, Joyce Shimazu, Monet Lu, Bong Dimayacyac, Tito Ledesma and Jose Dizon.
Part of the pageant’s proceeds went to ABS-CBN’s Bantay Bata program, which was represented by
Robbie Fabian, who spoke eloquently about the disadvantaged children and disenfranchised families needing help in the Philippines.
Gawad Kalinga was also a beneficiary.
At evening’s end, the crown went to Maria Bernardita “Bernie” Targa-Ganon, 62, who is poised, articulate, charming and confident—qualities that will serve her well as the official ambassador of Bantay Bata in the US and Canada. The runners-up were, in this order: Rosalinda Nery, Edith Knoch, Dalisay Alonzo and Aleli Neal Abrigo.
I felt that Del Atillano, 77, should have been in the Top 5. Instead, she won Ms Perseverance. Del took the bus and endured several hours of commute, but was always on time for the rehearsals. I hope she perseveres and joins again next year.
E-mail the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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