Seven Hours in Araneta: The Binibining Pilipinas Experience
As a pageant fan, I have always been captivated by the allure, the glitz and glamour of the election of the country’s delegates to the most important international pageants. I always wonder “Where did they get those lovely eyes? Those pretty ladies. Where did they get those winsome smiles? Those binibinis? Where did they learn to move like graceful palm trees in the breeze? What magic do they have? What miracle is this?”
Unfortunately, year after year, I only had the chance to see Binibining Pilipinas on the TV screen. So when the opportunity came knocking to watch Binibining Pilipinas 2019 live last June 9 at the Araneta Coliseum via PinoyExchange, I grabbed the chance. After all, it was the chance to see live the selection of the perfect symbol of a people rich in heritage and love.
Last June 9, the outside of the Araneta Coliseum was transformed into one big fiesta as the supporters of the different binibinis trooped to support their bets. It was a smorgasbord of balloons, streamers, posters and shirts, each in their own respective colors- maroon for Bea Patricia Magtanong, green for Cassandra Chan, yellow for Denielle Magno, among others.
At 6 p.m., the gates were opened and fans trekked to their designated places, with each one displaying their tarpaulins in their respective areas. As for me, I was escorted to the press area behind the technical booth, where I sat with photographers and pageant bloggers. It was a safe venue not to be caught by telecast director Johnny Manahan’s infamous crowd shots. As we waited for the show to begin, the full force of the fans’ support became evident, with them bringing out their letters wrapped in LED lights, as well as them displaying their cheers of support, the most notable of which was “Universe si Patch ng Pilipinas,” a play on UP alumna Patch Magtanong’s school cheer.
Noteworthy in attendance were some Binibining Pilipinas former queens, who came to support the organization as well as their personal bets. Also in attendance were Heart Evangelista and newly-elected Sorsogon governor Chiz Escudero to throw support to their province’s bet. Also there was Miss International Indonesia 2019 Jolene Marie.
Come 8 p.m., the announcement came that the program was about to begin, and after a few minutes it did with an amazing flag parade, followed by the candidates dancing to “Raise Your Flag.” Unfortuntely, the LED screen on stage broke down which led to the abrupt cut in the opening number. We were advised of the technical difficulties and that they will begin again. The retake of the opening began past 9 p.m. It was in a way, a blessing, as it lessened the waiting time in the coliseum to catch up with the delayed TV telecast.
Once the show began, the energy in the coliseum became palpable, with the fans feeding off each other’s vibe. Among the most cheered during the opening were Patch, Gazini Ganados, Hannah Arnold, Nicole Guerrero, Leren Bautista, Samantha Bernardo and Vickie Rushton. The military-inspired opening saw the girls in white military-esque uniforms that looked sleek, giving most of them a polished look.
Richard Gutierrez was a vast improvement from his hysteric performance last year, while Anne Curtis was flawless as a host. There is a reason why she was almost always tapped to host the event.
The top 25 saw most of the frontrunners into the semi-finals. Perhaps the biggest shock in the top 25 was the non-inclusion of middleweight favorite Julia Saubier, a protégé of renowned designer and queenmaker Renee Salud.
Following the top 25 was the swimsuit round where the girls paraded in blue swimwuits displaying their discipline in maintaining their bodies for the competition. Personally, the standouts in this round were Patch Magtanong, Gazini Ganados and Emma Mary Tiglao. Their performance was of international caliber that they could be sent to compete right there and then.
The evening gown competition saw the girls level up their glam as they sashayed in evening gowns of their choice from renowned Filipino designers. While some gowns stood out, there were some which fell flat both in presentation and design. Similar to the evening gown, Magtanong, Ganados and Tiglao were the standouts in this round.
The competition was narrowed down to the top 15, again with most of the frontrunners making it to the dreaded question and answer round. Some of the girls answered well, while some made it through by their natural charm and relatability. I, for one, felt bad for Vickie Rushton who was one of the heavy favorites coming into the competition. While she did her best to try to answer the question given her, her nerves got the better of her.
And now we wait. As mentioned earlier, the first part of the competition was taped as live, with the latter part aired live on television. This prevents spoilers from getting out, thus everyone finds out at the same time who wins. The waiting time, was one of the most fun parts, along with the commercial breaks, as this is the time when fans usually get wild and cheer for the girls. The girls in turn, who are onstage, will reciprocate the fans’ admiration with waves and flying kisses.
The final walk saw the queens of 2018 take their final bow and thank the Filipino nation for their love and support. This is also a low-key competition among the queens who could be the most showstopping in their farewell, and quite honestly, Binibining Pilipinas-International 2018 Ahtisa Manalo stole the show with her red Michael Cinco gown. It was as if it was her and not Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray that was the highlight of the walk. It was tough to upstage Catriona but Ahtisa was able to pull it off.
As for Catriona, while she did deliver an empowering speech, her look for the final walk was underwhelming compared to Pia Wurtzbach’s final walk. Her dress was similar in cut to her lava gown, which we all know works well with her body, but I wanted her to have a different cut, something different.
Finally, the announcement of winners. I felt bad for Samantha Bernardo, last year’s 2nd runner-up as she took home the 2nd runner-up again this year. All the rest of the placements, I am content as they were deserving of their finishes. Gazini is a perfect follow up to Catriona as she has the beauty, charm and face that is Miss Universe caliber. Patch, on the other hand, is a perfect choice for Miss International as her credentials speak well. She has the gift of gab which will come in handy for the competition.
The dust has now settled and the new queens are elected. It is our hope they do our country proud in their respective competitions. They carry in their sashes the hopes, dreams and aspiration of every pageant fan in the country.
In all, it was a very fun experience. It is very different from just watching the show in front of the television. There were moments that you cannot see on TV that made the experience and the event worthwhile. The seven hours inside the Araneta Coliseum was definitely worth it!