IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Controversies that rocked Filipino pageantry

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Controversies that rocked Filipino pageantry fans

/ 04:19 PM May 22, 2023
Some of the biggest controversies that took Philippine pageantry by storm. Images: FILE PHOTOS

Some of the biggest controversies that took Philippine pageantry by storm. Images: FILE PHOTOS

A group of empowered women are vying for the coveted crown, where they have to put their grace and wit to the test. In this battle of wills, only one will emerge as the queen. But while many pageants follow almost a similar pattern, there are moments when unexpected controversies would ruin the flow of the competition that would leave fans in shock.

Pageantry is considered one of the most competitive, if not lucrative, industries in the country, to the point that it is an obsession to a huge sector of the population. So, it’s no surprise that any hint of controversy are blown up to match any breaking national news are deemed as a shock in the community — which can, in a way, be compared to breaking news.


From the Miss Universe Philippines (MUPh) 2023 Top 10 blunder to Pia Wurtzbach’s Miss Universe coronation, here are some of the modern-day controversies that shook the pageant scene.

MUPh’s Top 10 vs Top 18 blunder

Miss Universe Philippines 2023 candidates. Image: Instagram/@themissuniverseph

Miss Universe Philippines 2023 candidates. Image: Instagram/@themissuniverseph

The most recent controversy was the MUPh organization disregarding its Top 10 finalists during the 2023 pageant due to undisclosed technical issues.


As a result, the Top 18 semifinalists were brought back to compete at the evening gown competition which astounded many fans.

Shamcey Supsup

Image: Instagram/@supsupshamcey

Days after the coronation night, MUPh national director Shamcey Supsup explained the anomaly, citing “discrepancies” in the initial Top 10 results despite the tabulations made by professional accounting services firm SyCip Gorres Velayo & Co (SGV & Co). She later explained that the figures appeared “highly improbably” that led her to believe that the results may be compromised.

“In order to ensure absolute fairness and transparency, the board made the decision to initiate a manual counting of the judges’ votes. This meticulous process was conducted with the utmost diligence and in the presence of the accounting firm. As a result, it became evident that there were discrepancies in the initial top 10 results,” she said.

Backlash after Michelle Dee’s MUPh win

Miss Universe Philippines Michelle Dee (left) and Miss Supranational Philippines Pauline Amelinckx share a tender moment during the announcement of the Top 10./ARMIN P. ADINA

Miss Universe Philippines Michelle Dee (left) and Miss Supranational Philippines Pauline Amelinckx share a tender moment during the announcement of the Top 10./ARMIN P. ADINA

To make matters worse, the national pageant appeared to have polarized public rather than unifying it behind its chosen candidate, Michelle Dee of Makati, who was crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2023. The title was said to be a close fight between Dee and Pauline Amelinckx of Bohol, who would eventually be crowned Miss Supranational Philippines.

But while the two have only kind words and camaraderie for the other, their fans were in a bitter contest of their own against the other camp. One such example of their fans’ rivalry was this video uploaded by Be An INQUIRER on Facebook.

No blessing for Binibining Pilipinas bet

Volleyball athlete-turned-Binibining Pilipinas candidate Joy Dacoron (Cebu) had thought of getting the church’s blessings for her to represent the province in the national beauty tilt, and to take inspiration from Sto. Niño for her national costume in a bid to pay tribute to God. Dacoron appeared to have been properly inspired as she wore the the full garb of the image of the Child Jesus, from her embroidered red cloak to her bejeweled crown and scepter.


Many Catholics, however, were outraged saying what she did was a desecration of a religious icon. This would eventually result in her apologizing for her gaffe as she appealed for understanding and hope that everyone would just “spread love.”

Binibining Pilipinas

Joy Dacoron. Image: P. Adina

“It was not my intention to desecrate our Señor Santo Niño. I deeply love our señor. If you only knew the stories I could tell because of my faith in him that is so deep, I will tell them all,” she told the Inquirer last May 17.

The costume, created by Bacolod-based designer Chino Ledesma, showed the beauty queen as the seeming Child Jesus, as it’s surrounded with the Santo Niño’s vestments. The photo has been taken down from the national tilt’s official social media platforms, as of this writing.

R’Bonney Gabriel’s Miss USA win

R'Bonney Gabriel. Image: Instagram/@rbonneynola

R’Bonney Gabriel. Image: Instagram/@rbonneynola

Filipina-American beauty queen R’Bonney Gabriel’s Miss USA 2022 win was also marred with controversy, as some of her fellow contestants took to Tiktok to accuse the national tilt of rigging the results in her favor, per Insider.

Gabriel spoke about the allegations against her during an interview with the U.S.-based media outlet, saying she didn’t have an opportunity to stand up for herself at the time. “The hardest part was I felt like I didn’t have a voice at times as Miss USA. I wanted to stand up for myself and say, ‘Hey, this is false. This is very frustrating,’” she was quoted as saying.

“But I wanted to compose myself and carry this with grace because I was in the public eye. I wanted to show people how you can push back from adversity and be resilient,” she continued.

The beauty queen went on to represent the U.S. in the Miss Universe pageant, where she was eventually crowned as the winner.

Herlene Budol’s withdrawal from the Miss Planet International pageant

Herlene Budol

Image: Instagram/@herlene_budol

In November 2022, Herlene Budol sent fans abuzz after her manager, Miss Planet Philippines national director Wilbert Tolentino, announced her withdrawal from the 2022 edition of the global tilt due to “uncertainties” from its organizers.

“Due to uncertainties by the organizers, I have decided to withdraw Herlene ‘Hipon’ Budol from the competition despite numerous [attempts] to fix some pageants’ debacles. It seems like the Ugandan Government has no initiative to intervene,” he said, without elaborating.

Tolentino also stressed that the beauty queen’s withdrawal got “very hurt” over their experience, saying he, Budol, and her team will “never lose hope.”

“I [am] very hurt. Not only [had] we lost a crown, lost [money], lost [effort], but lost [time]. But we will never lose hope, because we have [a] bright future back [home]. This is indeed a traumatic experience for all of us, but we fought for it until the end. And that is our mission,” he said on Facebook.

Prior to Budol’s withdrawal, the pageant executive revealed that many candidates went through inconveniences during the pageant due to the Ebola outbreak in Uganda and supposed lack of information about the yellow fever vaccinations.

In January 2023, Maria Luisa Varela eventually took Budol’s place in the pageant, which moved to the city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she won the coveted crown.

Maria Luisa Varela wins Miss Planet International. MISS PLANET INTERNATIONAL FACEBOOK PHOTO

Maria Luisa Varela wins Miss Planet International. MISS PLANET INTERNATIONAL FACEBOOK PHOTO

MUPH 2022 bet accused of alleged blackfishing

Laguna-based beauty queen Shaira Diaz’s MUPh 2022 experience had been an unfavorable one, as she was accused of alleged blackfishing by pageant vlogger Davonna Finley.

The term “blackfishing” is used to call out someone who is appropriating the culture or qualities of a black person, picking out only the good parts and disregarding the rest, such as the issue on racism.

In a video revolving around the MUPh 2022s headshot challenge, Finley called out Diaz for styling her hair into a big Afro hairdo, which is a common feature among individuals with African and black descent.

Finley’s claims was also seconded by Filipino vlogger Kuragan Karag, who pointed out that Diaz apparently had fair complexion and her features are a clear indication of having an Asian descent.

Diaz, however, has yet to address the “blackfishing” claims, as of this writing.

Sandra Lemonon spilling the ‘tea’ about MUPh

Sandra Lemonon

Image: Instagram/@sandralemonon

MUPh 2020 candidate Sandra Lemonon caught the attention of pageant fans in October 2020 after she claimed that she would “spill tea” about the national tilt’s organization, moments after Rabiya Mateo was crowned as the winner.

In a series of now-deleted Instagram Stories, the pageant veteran claimed that she would never be “afraid” of the truth as she had a “clear conscience.” She, however, kept her followers on a waiting spree despite assuring them that her expose is “brewing” two months later.







“It’s brewing. Charot. But in all seriousness, I decided to stay silent for now, to ‘keep the peace’ and be no hot tempers. As my intentions are pure, my purpose in speaking up is to improve the pageant community by being transparent and honest,” she said on Instagram Stories last December 2020.

“All I will share is my truth from the perspective of a candidate of Miss Universe Philippines 2020 who has experienced all three organizations (Miss World, Binibining Pilipinas, and Miss Universe Philippines), and who has witnessed things that weren’t aligned with my beliefs and morals,” she continued.

Lemonon, however, failed to make follow-up statements to her supposed expose up to this day.

Pia Wurtzbach’s Miss Universe coronation

Probably one of the most noteworthy snafus of all time is Steve Harvey wrongfully announcing Colombia’s Ariadna Gutierrez as the winner of the Miss Universe 2015 pageant — even if the Philippines’ own Pia Wurtzbach turned out to be the winner.

The incident seemed to be a scene straight from a film as Miss Universe 2014 Paulina Vega removed the crown off the head of a visibly shaken Gutierrez. Wurtzbach, who was seemingly embarrassed about the incident onstage, did her best to flash a smile after she was crowned.

Five years after the awkward incident, the Colombian stunner said she never saw Wurtzbach as competition, as seen in an Instagram video posted by one Hector Cermeno.

“I actually saw her twice during the competition, once at the dining area and during rehearsals. But a person like a… a ghost! You see her and never again, like the exit signs! Nobody saw her,” she said. “I used to go with the Latinas but we sat with the Asians and I did not notice her. She was very solitary, too. I did not notice her and when I did, I did not think of her as my competition. That is the truth,” she continued.

Wurtzbach, however, didn’t address Gutierrez’s remarks, as of this writing. EDV


Pia Wurtzbach seen as ‘ghost,’ not competition, by Ariadna Gutierrez for Miss Universe crown

Shamcey Supsup reveals ‘discrepancies’ in Miss Universe PH Top 10 result

Shamcey Supsup shrugs off ‘unjust accusations’ against Miss Universe Philippines

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TAGS: Binibining Pilipinas, Miss Universe, Miss Universe Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach, Shamcey Supsup
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