With only days to go before its much-awaited coronation night happening on June 9 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the 56th edition of the Bb. Pilipinas beauty pageant has once again reached fever pitch.
Not surprisingly, heavy favorites have emerged after all 40 candidates have been presented to the press, have engaged in the traditional Parade of Beauties, competed in the pre-pageant fashion show, National Costume and Talent competitions.
Unlike last year when it was a practically a foregone conclusion for overwhelming favorite Catriona Gray to win Miss Universe Philippines, this year’s competition is a little more wide open and yes, a tad less predictable.
But as pre-pageant fearless forecasts are part of the annual tradition pageant tradition, it certainly does not hurt for everyone to come up with their own lists.
As far as this particular writer and occasional armchair pageant judge is concerned, here are the 10 beauties that I believe will figure prominently at this year’s coronation night. The choices are based on several factors including the girls’ respective pageant history or in some cases, the lack of it.
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Vickie Rushton #38
If we’re going to compare this year’s pageant, Vickie would be the female counterpart of Jon Snow a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen, the true heir to the Iron Throne. Being last year’s 1st runner-up who is now on her third attempt at a national pageant, not a few feel that the Miss Universe Philippines crown is hers to lose.
Living up to her hype as one of this year’s favorites, the 27-year old Bacolod native and Mutya ng Pilipinas International 2011 has so far figured prominently in pre-pageant activities. She was among the Top 10 in the National Costume competition and also won the Miss Ever Bilena special award. It also doesn’t hurt that she has that kind of mestiza glow reminiscent of dare we say it, Catriona Gray.
The last time a 1st runner-up finisher went on to win a crown on her subsequent attempt was in 2014 when previous bridesmaid Pia Wurtzbach won Miss Universe Philippines and the rest is history.
Samantha Bernardo #27
The pride of Palawan and last year’s 2nd runner-up has also fared well in pre-pageant activities. Another Top 10 contender in the National Costume category, Samantha has also won the Miss Blackwater special award.
She is the only one among the considered favorites to make it as Top 3 finalist in the Miss Talent competition—no big surprise since Samantha, a flamenco dancer, also won Best in Talent in Miss World Philippines 2013.
Historically, Jehza Huelar, who placed 2nd runner-up in 2015 won Bb. Pilipinas-Supranational last year so Samantha also has that going for her. This is her third try and she’s hoping all the experience she has gained from her previous two campaigns will finally help her get over the hump.
Samantha Lo #25
Fun fact: Contestants from Cebu namely Elizabeth Clenci and Eva Patalinjug have won the Bb. Pilipinas-Grand International crown for the last two years.
Like Elizabeth and Eva, this other Samantha who won Best Model of the World-Philippines last year knows how to work a runway and make her presence felt. She is the only Cebuana contestant who made it as finalist in the National Costume competition.
The 26-year old doe-eyed charmer exudes a queenly vibe similar to that of Megan Young and Pia Wurtzbach. Her stock continues to rise.
Aya Abesamis #13
It never hurts to be the daughter of a former beauty queen and a Bb. Pilipinas-Universe titleholder at that. Being the little girl of Desiree Verdadero who not only won the top Bb. Pilipinas crown in 1984 but also went on to finish 3rd runner-up in that year’s Miss Universe contest can be a double edged sword, though.
Because while Aya has the advantage of learning from her mom, she also has big shoes to fill. The dusky beauty representing Pasig City did pretty well in last year’s Bb. Pilipinas pageant and finished in the Top 15 and is making her mom proud by being named to the Top 10 of the National Costume contest.
There is a sense of urgency to her current campaign, however, as Aya will be turning 28 this year and cannot join again next year.
Emma Tiglao #26
Emma is only 24 but this is already her fourth go-round in a national pageant, having joined Mutya ng Pilipinas (1st runner-up), Miss World Philippines (4th princess) and Bb. Pilipinas (Top 15) where she did well but finished in increasing descending order.
All that pageant experience seems to have made the Pampanga lass all the more strong as Emma is bucking all odds to prominently figure in most fearless forecasts but have also performed well in pre-pageant, having finished in the Top 10 of the National Costume contest and have won the Miss Ever Bilena Advance special award.
Emma’s tendency to stammer during the question and answer portion in previous campaigns may also now be a thing of the past as she sounded more confident and self-assured in her recent interviews.
Hannah Arnold #18
Last year, first time contestant Michele Gumabao took home the Bb Pilipinas-Globe crown. This year, this pageant “rookie” hopes to achieve a similar feat.
Only 23, the Filipino-Australian stunner representing Masbate is stealing some of the limelight away from the more seasoned candidates. An online English teacher with a degree in Forensic Studies (whoa!), Hannah has been considered as a formidable candidate since Day One of the pageant as she has drawn comparisons to both Pia Wurtzbach and Catriona Gray, the last two women to win Miss Universe for the Philippines.
She made it to the Top 10 of the National Costume competition but in the process has also invited controversy when her designer, Benj Leguiab was accused of copying her costume from Miss Indonesia 2017, an issue that she nonetheless handled with grace on social media.
Cassandra Chan #29
Like Hannah, Cassandra is also a first time contestant in Bb. Pilipinas. But unlike Hannah, the 24-year old chinita from Bacolod is not among the heavy favorites. She nonetheless surprised everyone when she not only qualified as finalist in the National Costume category but also cracked the Top 3 of the Talent competition where she is heavily favored to win.
Being a ballet dancer, Cassandra moves and talks with a lot of grace. Since this is her first foray in a national pageant, what she has achieved so far is nothing short of remarkable. Still, Cassandra is considered a dark horse that just might pull one more surprise come pageant night.
Patch Magtanong #17
Representing Bataan, Patch is a sought after model who recently completed her law degree from the University of the Philippines. Now 25, she has been considered as beauty queen material for years but has only now decided to finally join Bb. Pilipinas.
After emerging as an early favorite, Patch’s hype started to settle down after she did not crack the Top 10 of the National Costume competition. She also has yet to pick up a special award so she needs to have a big impact on pageant night to take home one of the six crowns.
Gazini Ganados #12
From Talisay, Cebu, Gazini, 23, is a Filipino-Palestinian beauty that exudes a vibe similar to Bb. Pilipinas Tourism 2014 Parul Shah.
No stranger to beauty pageants, she previously competed in Miss World Philippines 2014 where she finished in the Top 13. Like Patch, she was an early favorite that somehow did not make a major splash during the pre-pageant activities. Her fans are hoping this changes on pageant night.
Larah Lacap #23
Like Emma Tiglao, this is also Larah’s fourth go-round in the pageant circuit. Always being underestimated, she has nonetheless had impressive performances in Mutya ng Pilipinas 2012 (2nd runner-up) and Bb. Pilipinas 2017 (Top 15).
Despite her pageant experience, the 25-year old Tourism Management graduate representing
Quezon City is also considered a dark horse in this year’s contest. Larah is keeping things simple so she might be one of those under-the-radar contenders that might just pull the rug from those expected to win.
Photographs from Bb. Pilipinas' Facebook page