The Coronation Night of Miss Ilocos Norte 2015 held May 9 at the Centennial Arena before a crowd of around 6,000 measured up to the hype it generated in the past weeks. One can argue that it is one of the best provincial beauty pageants in the country and, no exaggerations here, probably among the world’s finest.
I offer the following review.
A visual feast The set design by Ohm David, a resident in big Ilocos Norte events, was stunning as usual. The images on a giant HD screen were carefully chosen and animated, providing ambiance to the competition’s various parts. For instance, flashed for the long gown competition were the buttresses of the Paoay Church on a starry night. Miniature windmills and huge harps also accentuated the stage in succession. I am amazed by the organizers’ eye for details from the grand set to the flower arrangements on the judges’ table. The lighting was perfect, but, given the inherent acoustic limitations of the venue, the sounds could have been better.
All the production performers were good, but the background dancers during the swimsuit competition nailed it best. Wearing avant-garde costumes that fused Ilocano and Japanese elements, the dancers’ vogue movements were a joy to watch. They delivered a fresh presentation that did not steal the show from, but instead trained the spotlight on, the real stars: the 23 beauties. I have seen a lot of performances choreographed by Christian Espiritu, but that one, a total work of genius, is yet the best.
The gowns and costumes created by our local designers were mostly remarkable, some of them even world class. In the evening gown competition won by Miss Pagudpud in an Amor Albano creation, the work of Jaynny Lao perfectly donned by Miss Laoag was also a hit. I am really glad of the fabulous display of artistry and talent. But organizers says some of these designers already have attitude problems even before they make it really big. Our source did not elaborate. One wonders, by the way, why Windell Madis of Batac, the third fashion designer from Ilocos Norte to make it to a fashion-oriented reality TV show, did not make anything for anyone, not even for his own town. Something, dear karikna, is amiss here.
Snappy and intelligent… and decent
Where most local beauty contests could last five to seven hours, the Miss Ilocos Norte 2015 was done in less than three, starting at 8:35 and finishing at 11:25. Thankfully, there were no long discourses by ugly politicians. The only speech delivered that night was by Governor Imee Marcos who was herself a stunning beauty. One wonders how a person her age, who has enormous responsibilities on her flawless shoulders, could look as young and vibrant.
The hosts were smart–all of them, including Matthew, the governor’s son. Just one observation. I hope the organizers will be more careful in casting hosts next time. Ancher Cua is, no doubts about it, a very promising star in the hosting department, but he looked off standing with his female partner who was glaringly taller than he was. The difference was around three inches, enough to make him look like the youngest brother, or nephew, of the female host whose name escapes my mind. That was the same impression when Ancher stood side by side with Michael. It is really just a matter of matching individuals well in a very visual medium. Still, Ancher did really good, and I would have put my hats off him, only that I didn’t wear any as the Centennial Arena was a virtual oven toaster on that typical summer night. (Aircon, please!)
The script was finely written, and, as a writer, I am particular about that. Highlighted but not to the point of hard sell are Ilocos Norte’s feats and thrusts in tourism development, job generation, and the overall improvement of the quality of life of Ilocanos. The only downside is the background music that was at times too loud, thus drowning Mahjang Leaño’s voice over. And it was a show even reasonable feminists would not find offensive. The opening number had the contestants in their festival costumes together with the image of the La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc, patroness of Ilocos Norte, and then in the next part a few minutes after, they were down to their two-piece bikinis. But the contestants in their swimwear looked just as dignified as when they were in their gowns. The women onstage always looked empowered and never exploited. It takes really mature organizers to pull that off.
The real test of intelligence, of course, was in the the Q&A portion where the five finalists smartly answered the question from the chief judge, “As an Ilocana, what are you most proud of?” All of them gave varying but all impressive answers, ranging from the province’s rich biodiversity to tourist attractions, to Imee Marcos. Well, one or two sounded liked they had memorized answers but I understand that it’s part of the strategy… better, of course, than looking dumb before an unforgiving audience that will jeer you at the slightest mistake.
Ilocos’ Funniest Videos In last year’s seminal edition of the new Miss Ilocos Norte tilt, the video presentation individually featuring each of the 12 finalists was one of the highest points of the night. The same was true last night. The video features were generally entertaining and most were funny. However, the common sentiment (based on reactions from other attendees) is that while the videos this year were funny, last year’s set had more heart. ‘Yung tipong parehong may kurot sa puso at may ngiti sa labi. There was, in fact, an all-too-conscious effort to make the 2015 videos funny, but some of the clips fell short in terms of the puso factor.
Nothing came close to the unforgettable 2014 video of Miss Burgos Sheena Dalo, who once worked as a househelp, sweeping the entirety of the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse and the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation—tourist attractions both located in her town, or of the moving images of Miss Dingras having fun with her sister who is suffering from hydrocephalus. Also last year, family members provided short testimonials, something we missed this time. In the case of this year’s Miss Batac, she mentioned in the video that she loves ball games, particularly basketball and volleyball. She was thus shown playing.. and playing alone until the video ended. I waited, my breath abated, for the twist, but there was none. Not touching at all… and not even funny. In terms of the technical aspect, the creative shots were also better in 2014. It could be time pressure or a change in the production staff, but it seems more time effort, and talent were poured in last year.
Social media hullaballoo
One of the slots for the Top 12 was reserved for the contestant whose picture on Facebook garners the most number of likes and shares. However, some parties cried foul over the alleged use of ‘Autolike’ apps by some contingents. Such allegations were most likely true. Organizers conceded that they had no way of tracking down contestants who used computer applications to pad the votes. “Unfair!” cried some supporters, including my former student and now-Facebook friend Jones Pacol who belonged to a huge army of online and SMS supporters of Batac’s muse. For instance, a town whose population is only around three thousand, and whose candidate is never mentioned as one of the pageant favorites, saw their Facebook votes increase from 500 day before the coronation night to 26,000. But where it was impossible to track down social media cheats, all municipalities should just have gone the same way and employed everything within their means to have their respective contestants clinch a spot, and maybe the award can be renamed, Miss Autolike, which can be sponsored by Motolite, because they rhyme well. In place of a sash, the winner could be adorned with a headband like Pacquiao’s.
The lady from Solsona won as Miss Social Media while Batac’s pride was texters’ choice. The latter’s win was beyond question given the integrity of the mobile network’s system and the full support extended by the young city, with lawyer Chito Nalupta as chief cheerleader. But both ladies, it must be noted, did not make it to the Top 5.
Judges and Winners
Led by the nation’s sexiest policeman, Neil Perez, and Venezuela’s Jose Anmer Paredes– Mister International winners in 2014 and 2013, respectively– all the judges are achievers in their respective fields, but I wonder why there were too many Project Runway alumni in the panel. It would have been better to have judges from diverse fields. Didn’t they invite Manny Pacquiao to serve as judge in Miss Universe? I am happy though that Mary Anne Cua Macaraeg, one of the most proactive lifestyle entrepreneurs in Laoag, sat as judge. She was a perfect choice.
In the end, the judges picked Miss Pagudpud (Henna Santos), a crowd favorite from Day 1, as Miss Ilocos Norte 2015, with the ladies from Nueva Era (Mayzelle Ruth Duyao), Laoag (Charity Mae Mandac), San Nicolas (Lovely Bolo), and Dingras (Jesamay Taylan) as runners up. Santos, in my book, was a runaway winner. Her beauty was matched with a glowing skin; her well sculpted figure made even more evident by elegant movement and poise; her intelligence well translated by good speaking skills. Miss Ilocos Norte 2015 is a total package.
More than that…
Morning after the pageant, Ilocos Norte tourism officer Aian Raquel, also the event’s creative director, enthused in a phone interview that as the Miss Ilocos Norte tilt evolves, the people increasingly realize that it is not just a beauty pageant but a grand showcase of Ilocano talent.
‘Nuff said, dear karikna, I totally agree.