With formal evening events still a thing of the past, no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a welcome distraction to see 28 young and beautiful women parade in their respective evening gowns during the Miss Universe Philippines’ recent preliminary competition at the new and still empty Clark International Airport.
As usual, the event wasn’t only a competition between the ladies, but also a proxy battle between fashion designers. And since the candidates were given the freedom to choose their own designers beforehand, they have no excuse this time to falter on the runway.
Speaking of runway, the absence of a physical one—as the ladies were made to glide on the terminal floor itself and not on an elevated stage—somewhat reduced the magic behind their sartorial choices.
To make matters a bit more challenging, natural lighting drowned out or obscured the effects of a number of dresses, making certain pieces less brilliant, for instance, or less impactful in the case of see-true numbers.
Despite these limitations though, a good number of ladies rose above the situation to give pageant fans the show they want. Their rankings in the evening gown competition will be added to their earlier rankings in other preliminary competitions such as swimsuit and interviews.
Their respective average scores will be their ticket to the MUP 2021 Top 15 + 1 come coronation night on Thursday, Sept. 30, in Bohol.
So, who made it to my Top 10 list? Remember, it’s never about how the gown carried the girl—but how the girl carried the gown.
Manila’s Jane Umali in Nat Manilag
Tall and porcelain-skinned Jane is sex goddess personified in Nat’s abbreviated version of a green sari-cum-Roman toga. Surprisingly, despite the strategic cutouts, see-through portions and a thigh-hight slit, Jane still managed to look chic. What did I tell you? It’s all about the girl in her gown.
Taguig’s Katrina Dimaranan in Martin Bautista
Just when everybody thought Katrina would go for the beaded nude look or the bright, neon number to show off her delicious mocha skin, she went for something totally unexpected by going edgy in Martin’s mesh-like see-through creation with uneven sleeves, cowl neckline and silver tassel details. I was surprised, all right, but in a pleasant way.
Madaluyong’s Maria Corazon Abalos in Mark Bumgarner
Maria Corazon is obviously channeling the Disney princess look in Mark’s canary yellow creation with a mini bustle and bodice with silver beadwork peeking from the middle and sides of the dress. She came on in true Belle mode with matching pa-beautiful eyes on camera. If judges liked what they saw, this princess might end up a queen on Thursday.
Cavite’s Victoria Vincent in Furne Amato
If Maria Corazon channeled a princess, tall and slim Victoria channeled a Hollywood A-lister in Furne’s red carpet-worthy silver beaded and embroidered number with a deep V neckline and center slit. Indeed, why go for gold when you could look more smashing in silver?
Aklan’s Christelle Abello in Cherry Veric
Now this is how you do sexy without the need to go see-through. In Cherry’s white number with a strategic side cutout, Venus neckline and thigh-high slit, Christelle smoldered on stage. Could somebody turn on the AC? It’s getting hot in here!
Cebu City’s Beatrice Luigi Gomez in Furne Amato
What was supposed to be just another sexy red beaded and sleeveless number with an ostrich feather-embellished skirt turned out to be a joyful one as well, thanks to Beatrice’s seemingly nonchalant way of projecting herself. Take her or leave her. This girl is definitely no pageant patty.
Albay’s Janella Joy Cuaton in Roy Erwin Tizon
Every pageant has a resident golden girl, and this year, it’s Janella in Roy’s golden confection. With a scoop neckline and adorned with such details as embroidery, beadwork and beaded tassels that dangle from the edges of Janella’s shoulders and across her back, the gown is a throwback to the ’80s, but in a good way.
Romblon’s Jane Nicole Miñano in Jhoey Villarante Magallon
It would take a klutz of a designer to go wrong with Jane. Tall, slim and curvaceous, she mined her assets to the fullest by showing them off in Jhoey’s silver dress with tassel details that’s reminiscent of some of Catriona’s gowns during her Miss Universe days. You certainly can’t go wrong in a classic. The challenge here is making that classic look all your own.
Misamis Oriental’s Grace Chella Falconer in Juniel Doring
Grace also did justice to a classic look—sleeveless red column with sweetheart neckline, lace bodice and paillette detailing on the skirt. By wearing her hair up in a bun, she seems to be signaling judges that this porcelain-skinned mestiza is ready to be crowned. Here’s hoping they get her signal.
Marinduque’s Simone Nadine Bornilla in Oliver Tolentino
Not-so-tall girls tend to go for nude-colored gowns to give them an illusion of height. That’s why petite Simone’s choice to wear Oliver’s sleeveless creation sprinkled with bubblegum pink beadwork was pretty brave. Although it had a nude base, the gown was more pink than anything. Thanks to such a choice, Marinduque’s bet was definitely pretty in pink!
Miss Universe Philippines coronation night is on Thursday, Sept. 30, in Bohol.