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Getting misty over Miss U mystique

Miss Universe 2016 Pia Wurtzbach in of her final walks as Miss Universe

Expat’s Cebu correspondent recounts his Miss Universe 2016 experience

By the time this article comes out, everyone would have already known the winners of Miss Universe 2016. Everyone would have been part of some chatter about the end results of the pageant; the final questions and answers, their own final five, and maybe even a discussion of the places the candidates failed to visit. The candidates would have long gone home, full of fun-filled tales and memories of their first-hand visits to Manila, Davao, Cebu, Siargao, Boracay, Vigan, Batangas, and Baguio. But please bear with us, dear reader, as this writer recounts his experiences in covering the swimsuit presentation of the pageant held last Jan. 17 at the JPark Island Resort and Waterpark in Mactan Island, Cebu.

Early start

It was quite a lengthy stay for the Cebu-based media practitioners who were up and about at 5 a.m. that fateful Tuesday as we spent the whole day at the resort and tried our best to abide by the strict protocol imposed upon us by the event organizers and resort authorities.

Surprisingly, we managed somehow to live up to the “no interview, no selfie, and limited picture-taking” creed and still came up with newsworthy articles and photos that had to be submitted a bit late due to the cell site shutdown.

Our day started as our van took off at 5:30 a.m. from SM City Cebu to JPark and passed by several thousands of schoolchildren, some of which were in foreign costumes, lining up the 10-kilometer route from the Marina Mall to the resort.

The kids, who waited for nearly three hours, served as the impromptu welcome party for the Miss Universe delegates, as nearly all countries were represented by a sign and their native wear. It was learned that classes were cancelled that day for the kids to put up their best front.

Upon our arrival at the resort, we took our places at the designated media corner and patiently waited for the first batch of candidates who arrived over two hours later.

The 87 candidates arrived at the resort in three batches, keeping the media on their toes the entire time, further amplified when Miss Universe 2015 Piz Wurtzbach and former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson arrived to an overwhelming display of flash photography, selfies, and thunderous Sinulog beat and dance.

VIPs in attendance at the lobby were Justin Uy-JPark CEO, Lapu-lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza, Jason Uy-JPark GM, and others plus a Sinulog band and dance troop to recapture the Sinulog Grand Parade fever held just a couple of days earlier.

Finally, an Interview!

This writer was fortunate enough to have espied Jamie Herrell, whose impressive beauty record includes Miss Mega Cebu, Reyna ng Aliwan, Ms Philippines Earth 2014, and Ms Earth 2014. She was wearing a fluffy white dress while talking with some tourism officials in the lobby.

I was lucky she recognized me right away as this was our fourth meeting over a two-year period. Her mom Snowie was a former neighbor of mine in our early childhood days in a distant northern municipality in Cebu.

She said she was distributing 250 bags with slippers dubbed “Isla 7107,” half for the candidates and the other half to be sold. Her slipper designs feature various tourist destinations of the Philippines.

“I was thrilled to meet Miss Chile. She is my closest friend and my batch mate in Miss Earth 2014. I am rooting for her and Miss Philippines to make it,” she beamed.

When asked for advice, Herell simply said to enjoy [the experience] and be themselves; have fun and remember that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Swimsuit joust

Following a delayed breakfast for media who spent nearly four hours at the resort lobby, everyone then proceeded to the jampacked Triton Ballroom for the swimsuit presentation, where outfits were sponsored by Yamamay, an Italian brand.

The fast-paced show was quick to point out who the crowd favorites were, with Miss Venezuela, Miss Colombia, Miss Vietnam (who nearly fell), Miss Puerto Rico, Miss Thailand, Miss USA, and Miss Korea all receiving more cheers than most.

Needless to say, the Philippines’ Maxine Medina received the loudest cheers as she came out in a shimmering silver and pink swimsuit with her hair neatly tucked in a bun.

It was whispered among certain quarters that the “Best in Swimsuit” candidate was already picked during the pageant, but the winner would be announced at the coronation night on Jan. 30 in Manila.

The photographers’ stage was already overcrowded as is, so this writer had to make do with standing on a cushioned chair at the back in near-futile hopes of getting good shots of the show.

Evening festivities

The evening proved to be quite hectic as well with three separate socials involving the candidates. First was an elegant fashion show involving the creations of 10 local designers as modeled by over 40 Cebu-based and Manila models at the outdoor stage.

The candidates looked even lovelier in their evening attire and appeared to be quite impressed with the local collections. A near-fainting incident involving a certain candidate who was then left unnamed hardly made a dent on the overall luster of the event.

The show was followed by the Kadaugan sa Mactan (Victory at Mactan) presentation with dinner held again at the Triton Ballroom where the girls witnessed the re-enactment of the victory battle of Chieftain Lapu-lapu over Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan.

The night was capped by a DJ spinning the crowd into party mode, with many of the models joining the party with the crowd.