Head-turners back in the Binibining Pilipinas contest
Shamcey Supsup placed fourth in the Miss Universe pageant last year, following Venus Raj’s fifth-place finish in 2010. Perhaps believing in the adage “third time lucky,” many former Binibining Pilipinas candidates—including last year’s runners-up—have returned in the hope of bagging the coveted international crown for the Philippines while the country is on a hot streak.
Mary Jean Lastimosa and Janine Tugonon, Bb. Pilipinas 2011 second and first runners-up respectively, rescinded their places in order to rejoin the competition this year.
But their move was not unprecedented. It came on the heels of Dianne Necio’s withdrawal. Necio was first runner-up in 2010, but resigned so she could participate in 2011.
She was successful and bagged the Bb. Pilipinas-International crown at the age of 18. She competed in the Miss International pageant in China and was proclaimed Miss Internet Popularity for garnering the most number of votes online. Her special award also secured her a place in the semifinals.
The runners-up, like the titleholders, are bound by an 18-month contract with the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. (BPCI). If a runner-up decides to rejoin the pageant the following year, she must give up her place in last year’s contest.
At the launching ceremonies for the pageant’s 2012 edition, BPCI founder and chair Stella Marquez-Araneta told the media that if any or both of the runners-up end up in the winners’ circle this year, such as Necio last year, the pageant’s board may review its rules for possible amendments.
In the past, runners-up who decided to rejoin the pageant returned only after two or more years. Some were more successful than others.
Ups and downs
Bb. Pilipinas 1982 first runner-up Desiree Verdadero became Miss Universe 1984 third runner-up.
Abigail Cruz, who was second runner-up and Best in Swimsuit in the 2007 edition, returned in 2009 but went home empty-handed.
But Jeanette Fernando, 1991 second runner-up, rejoined two years later and was crowned Binibining Pilipinas-Tourism.
Abbygail Arenas, 1993 first runner-up, came back in 1997, won the Bb. Pilipinas title, and was proclaimed Miss Photogenic at the Miss Universe finals.
Miss International 2004 semifinalist Margaret Ann Bayot first joined the local search in 2002, and Miss International 2005 Precious Lara Quigaman was also a two-time Binibini hopeful who did not make it in her first attempt.
The most persevering candidate has been Maricar Balagtas. She first joined in 2000 at age 17. She bagged the Miss Close-Up Smile award but failed to advance to the semifinals.
The Bulacan-born lass returned a year later and was proclaimed second runner-up and Best in Swimsuit. After becoming the first Asian winner in the Miss Globe pageant, she staged a successful comeback to the local search in 2004 and eventually snagged the highly coveted Bb. Pilipinas-Universe crown, along with the special titles Miss PAL Sunniest Personality, Miss Internet, Best in Swimsuit, Miss Red Bull and Miss Cream Silk.
Parade of lovelies
During the presentation of the 30 official candidates at Genting Club of Resorts World Manila, both Lastimosa and Tugonon showed they were serious contenders for any of the three titles to be awarded on coronation night.
Their 2011 batch mates, Supsup, Necio and Bb. Pilipinas-Tourism Isabella Manjon, noticed the changes in the two women.
“I’m so proud of them,” Supsup told Inquirer Entertainment. “I can see how much they’ve improved. They’ve been training with us because they were also winners last year. And they’ve obviously used it as a springboard to get better!”
Necio, meanwhile, said: “I hope we inspired them (Lastimosa and Tugonon). They took the same training with us and I see the improvement.”
But Lastimosa and Tugonon should not be too complacent because this year’s crop of aspirants has a handful of strong contenders as well.
“There are many competitive contestants,” Manjon said. “You can find women who are the complete package, ready to compete on the international stage with minimal training.”
Supsup added: “I’m delighted to see they’re all fighting for the crown.”
She invited Filipinos to see the “other side” of the contestants in the prepageant special. “We only see the ladies now in swimsuits and walking down the ramp. But the prepageant special will show their personalities. Who they are as a person will constitute a big part in choosing the winner,”
The 2012 Binibining Pilipinas prepageant special will be seen on ABS-CBN’s “Sunday’s Best” today. The coronation night will be held at Smart Araneta Coliseum on April 15, to be broadcast live on ABS-CBN.