Two Nights of Beauty
“Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder,” it’s a cliché that has been heard over and over every time beauty is the topic. Recently, the Global Filipino Network has been invited to witness two events. The first one, the Binibining Pilipinas USA 2015 Bikini Runway Fashion Show which was held last August 9 at the Porsche of Downtown Los Angeles Sales office; and the other one the Coronation Night of the Binibining Pilipinas USA 2015 held last August 15 at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, California.
At the Bikini Runway Fashion Show which is also the preliminary elimination for the pageant, 20 beautiful Filipino-American young ladies joined to compete for the crown and the lucky winner will travel to the Philippines to join the Binibining Pilipinas pageant in the country.
The candidates, in the order of their assigned number were as follows: Heather Prejillana Casignia; Michelle Charlotte Thorlund; Nyomy Obcemea; Terri May Grell, Armalen Flores-Hernandez; Ivy Gabrielle Nalo; Nicole Garchitorena; Pauline Marantan; Zeleen Santos; Sidette San Agustin; Betty Davis; Jill Marucut; Eriel Uy; Rochelle Fajardo; Jennalyn Raquel Lopez; Juanne Elisha Aquino; Angelica Concepcion Alberto; Megan Lago Culp; Krystal Von Seyfried; and Alyssa Monique Yuson.
The event which was on their third year now was produced by Insider Productions under the leadership of entrepreneur, Mildred Deang.
In the preliminary competition, members of the press were expected to vote for Ms. Photogenic, and of course we all have different views about beauty, more so being a photogenic. They didn’t give us criteria for judging, so we didn’t know if we are going to base it on just the looks of the candidate or also her whole body. We just based it in the first impression, besides the candidates need not talk to be photogenic.
Among the celebrities who graced the program are former beauty queen and Filipino actress Anjanette Abayari, Philippine Consul-General of Los Angeles Leo Herrera-Lim, and some notable fashion designers.
Judges for the preliminary elimination were as follows: Acting Director of the Philippine Department of Tourism in LA, Manny Ilagan; Marie Jemma Saranillo, Philippine Airlines area manager for Southern California; Raymond Townsend, first Filipino-American basketball player in the NBA; Eliza Chung, marketing and Sales Director of Majestic Vacations, the official travel partner of Bb. Pilipinas USA 2015; Carlos Cortes, Puerto Rican fashion designer and sales officer for Malibu Design Group; Jo Ann P. Kyle, managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation International; Marc Anthony Nicholas, TV producer and host; Denise Dador, ABC7 health news specialist and anchor; Dante Basco, Filipino-American Hollywood film actor; Fides Herrera-Lim, president of ASEAN Women’s Circle of LA and wife of Consul-General Leo Herrera-Lim; Allen Hsiang, general manager of Porsche of Downtown LA, which is one of the major sponsors; and Amadeo Leandro, Brazilian international model.
We witnessed how the supporters prepared for the night, some even brought cut-out numbers of their candidate waving it while they cheer for their bet, while others whistled and shouted for their favorite. It was a fun and sizzling night because the candidates wore two-piece and one-piece swimsuits for the show, sponsored by the Malibu Design Group.
As soon as the hosts: Anthony Puzio and Binibining Pilipinas USA 2014 winner, Christelle Abello came out to start the program, everybody in the venue was in high spirit. The show was divided into different parts: The first one is the Introduction of the candidates. One by one they walked the runway, donning their colorful swimsuits and the required seven-inch high heels, which have the same transparent and floral design. One could just imagine how hard they have prepared for it–they have to be poised, charming, confident and beautiful while trying to concentrate on where they are walking so they wouldn’t slip or fall.
At the end of the runway, there is a microphone where candidates will introduce themselves and promote the Philippine tourist spot assigned to them, and somehow promote the slogan of the Philippine Department of Tourism—“It’s More Fun in the Philippines!” which is also one of their major sponsors.
The second part of the show is the Extravaganza, where they will wear their swimsuit with matching extravagant, multi-colorful, feathered headdress and sparkling accessories. Some of the candidates really prepared for it as they walk with their eye-catching and scene grabbing costumes.
The next part is called Women in Power, where they have to walk the runway looking fierce and serious, some wearing dark colorful masks, gloves, and headdresses, while others stay simple with just a little accessory.
In the part of the program which they titled Angels, candidates in swimsuits will have to wear angel’s wings. Some put on intricate huge wings while others have small, cute cherubim wings. This may be the first time audience have seen different kinds of wings in one place, it’s like looking at different kinds of birds, only the candidates are angels here. Candidates also have the option to wear either white or black wings. All candidates chose white wings, except for one, some of the press called her dark angel.
The next part is the talent portion, where only five candidates have participated. First contestant was candidate number three, Nyomi Obcemea, who rendered a beautiful contemporary song with her guitar. The second candidate was number 17, Angelica Concepcion Alberto, who did a sexy tribal dance. Third was candidate number one, Heather Casignia, who belted a song. Fourth contestant was candidate number 13 Eriel Uy, who also did a dance number, while the last one was candidate number 16 Juanne Elisha Aquino, who did an operatic song number.
At the concluding part of the show, candidates all went back to the stage to make their final walk in the runway, and while they dance to the music, confetti poppers burst out to add to the festive atmosphere onstage.
After the show, candidates and celebrities alike gave photo opportunities to the media and well-wishers at the lobby adorned with Binibining Pilipinas USA 2015 banner wall ads. Supporters, photographers, friends and family lined-up for their turn to take pictures with the candidates, together with 2014 Bb. Pilipinas USA winner Christelle Abello and other last year’s runner-ups who happily accommodated them.
Bb. Pilipinas USA is now on its 3rd year and is produced by Insider Productions under the leadership of their CEO Ms. Mildred Deang and Sr. VP Atty. Norberto F. Reyes III. With the help of their Associate Producer Mr. Joey Galon along with the staff and crew, they have come up with remarkable productions. According to their website, “Binibining Pilipinas USA pageant was created to showcase and highlight the beauty, intellect, and cultural pride of today’s young Filipina-American.“ which would make it easier for the Philippines to grab the coveted title in international pageants.
The Coronation Night was hosted by beauty titlist Venus Raj and Filipino actor Gabby Concepcion. It was a very lively night; all the supporters of the candidates carried their tarpaulin banners and posters in support for their favorites. Everybody was shouting their candidate’s number, hoping this would somehow affect the overall score of their candidate and also help boost their favorite’s morale and confidence on stage.
The stage was painted with a picture of a stairway, like the one in Cinderella’s castle; a second backdrop is a painting of a beach, used during the swimsuit presentation portion.
As the audience waited for the opening of the program, production director Ted Benito gave the audience some guidelines for the show, then it was followed by a stand-up comedy ice-breaker, and the singing of the Philippines and US national anthems with colors.
Opening number was given by the dynamic college students from CSULB’s (California State University Long Beach), the energetic PAC Modern dance group.
After that is the presentation of the candidates wearing their national costumes, mostly designed by Filipino-American fashion designers in the USA. Most of the dresses were based on traditional costumes added with a modern twist.
Following that is the presentation of the Special Awards as announced by hosts Gabby and Venus, among them are the following:
Friendship Award which goes to candidate number 12, Jill Marucut.
Ms. Photogenic, voted by the press last preliminary elimination, went to number 17, Angelica Alberto. Alberto is also Binibining Fil-Am Insider, chosen by one of the sponsors, and she also received Binibining Social Media and the Best in Swimsuit Award.
Ms. LA18 Award, which was chosen by the official TV partner of the pageant, and will serve as the goodwill ambassador of the Fil-Am community for the whole year after the coronation is candidate number 1, Heather Casignia, who also received the Binibining Popularity Award.
Best in National Costume goes to candidate number 3, Nyomy Obcemea. Her costume was done by Hollywood Fashion designer, Alexis Bong Monsanto. The attire is mostly golden frame with an elaborate headdress, similar to those worn by the Filipino indigenous people in Southern Philippines–the Lumad.
Best in Talent Award goes to number 16, Juanne Elisha Aquino. She bested the five others with her rendition of the operatic song Think of Me from the The Phantom of the Opera. She was also chosen the Binibining Philippine Airlines by PAL to serve as the goodwill ambassador for their events for the whole year after the coronation. In addition, she also won the Best in Long Gown award which weighs a big score in the pageant.
After the special awards is the presentation of the judges. Among them are: Fritz Friedman, president of the Fritz Friedman Company, a production and communications company based in LA and San Diego; Arriela Arida, Miss Universe 2013 Third Runner-Up; Tia Carrere, international actress and two-time Grammy awardee; Larry Potter, vice-president for sales and marketing at LA18 KSCI-TV. Some of the judges from the preliminary competition were also included like: Manny Ilagan; Marie Jemma Saranillo; Amadeo Leandro; Eliza Chung; Jo Ann P. Kyle; Allen Hsiang; Fides Herrera-Lim; Marc and Anthony Nicholas.
Following the presentation of judges, Ms. Talent showcases her singing talent to the audience. Everybody was amazed of how high she reached for the notes of her aria at the last part of her song.
To give a break for the other hosts, offstage host dermatologist Dr. Tess Mauricio, asked the judges a few questions about the candidates and some inspiring words from them.
This was followed by the Swimsuit Presentation where candidates paraded in their swimsuit and silver cape onstage. Each has her own style on how to walk the stage with their silver cape.
Then candidates sashay onstage with their stunning long gowns in the Long Gown competition. They walked with poise and elegance, hoping to charm the judges. In the end, the award went to candidate number 16, Juanne Elisha Aquino. According to the host, this award adds 40% to the final score. Aquino wore a beautiful golden, see-through lace long gown onstage.
Before the Top Ten was read by the host, everybody was all ears in anticipation, as the audience shouted for their favorite candidate. Top ten were contestant numbers 3, 14, 17, 20, 18, 13, 1, 7, 16, and 12. But before they let the other girls go, they announced that they have a wildcard, and the wildcard was the one who won the People’s Choice Award, another special award chosen by netizens, and the winning candidate for this automatically joins the top 10. This award went to candidate number 15, Jennalyn Raquel Lopez.
Then the contestants were ushered to the Question and Answer Portion of the pageant. A bowl with the judges’ names is placed at the center of the stage for the candidates, where they will chose who among the judges will ask them a question. Here, they will show their wit and how quick they can come up with a logical answer for the questions given to them.
After that portion, points were deliberated to come up with the final five among the eleven semi-finalists. Dr. Tess came back to interview some of the judges, she even asks for a selfie from Tia Carrere, which the celebrity judge happily obliged.
A production number was given by Black Eyed Peas member Apl.de.ap, who is also a judge for that night. Together with his new discovery, rapper-singer Jessica Reynoso, they let the candidates and the audiences dance to their songs and raps, including his popular Filipino song, Bebot.
Then the much-awaited moment, the announcement of the top five, among them are: candidate Number 1, Heather Prejillana Casignia; 18, Megan Lago Culp; 13, Eriel Uy; 16, Juanne Elisha Aquino; and 17, Angelica Concepcion Alberto.
Before they give the crowns, last year’s Binibining Pilipinas USA Christelle Abello made her last walk and farewell message onstage. Also presented are the last year’s winners: BP USA Tourism, Czarina Hermoso; first runner-up, Caitlin San Diego; and second runner-up, Gabbie Gonzales.
Then as the candidates held hands onstage in front of the cheering crowd while waiting for the awarding of the titles, we can see the tensions and anticipations in the top five’s reactions. Starting with the 3rd Runner Up, hosts Gabby Concepcion and Venus Raj announced the winners. Binibining Pilipinas USA 2015 Third Runner Up went to candidate number 13, Eriel Uy. Then, Second Runner Up went to candidate Number 17, Angelica Concepcion Alberto, and the First Runner Up is candidate number one Heather Prejilliana Casignia.
But before they announce the final two awards, Venus Raj said and stressed that she will first announce the grand winner for the night–the Binibining Pilipinas USA 2015. This is to avoid confusion and mistakes, like what happened last year. And as the last two candidates held hands while facing each other, they are also whispering words of good luck to each other. At this moment, the crowd and the supporters of the two went wild; everyone wants to hear who the winner is and is somehow hoping that their candidate wins. Then it was proclaimed, the Binibining Pilipinas USA 2015 Grand winner is candidate number 16, Juanne Elisha Aquino. We can see that she almost fainted in excitement; her reaction maybe a combination of gratefulness and surprise.
Of course, the other award, Binibining Pilipinas USA 2015 Tourism went to candidate number 18, Megan Lago Culp. She will be the official goodwill ambassador for the Philippine Department of Tourism; and in case the reigning queen cannot do her duties, she will be the one to do it and compete for the Binibining Pilipinas crown back home.
After this, the rest of the candidates swarm the winners to congratulate them. Audiences were immediately ushered outside of the auditorium while VIPs get to have photo opportunities with the winners. Sadly, we are not included in the VIP list so we were not able to get a picture of the five winners. However, it was a fun and exciting night.
Again, we can only speculate what beauty really is. As what the saying goes, “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder,” and even though each of them possess unique charm and good looks, this is not all that matters. Sometimes, one also has to have talent, wit, charm, elegance, luck, character, and of course the grace given by God to win a beauty pageant, like the Binibining Pilipinas USA 2015.