By MISS CHARLIZE / BUSINESSMIRROR
EVERY year, the Binibining Pilipinas pageant draws a batch of contenders that’s more formidable than the previous one. The 2017 lineup is no exception and looks poised to equal or improve on the stellar performances of Batch 2016, the titleholders of which cracked the semifinals round and beyond in their international campaigns. Since 2010, Binibinis and other national titleholders have been subjected to tremendous pressure to bring home international crowns or at least a runner- up placement, nothing less. How unfortunate that we expect more from our pageant queens than our politicians. But this year’s Binibini contenders are up to the challenge, knowing full well what’s asked of them. All competition veterans, any of the stunning 10 on our list can snare any of the six titles in contention— Miss Universe Philippines, Binibining Pilipinas International, Binibining Pilipinas Supranational, Binibining Pilipinas Intercontinental, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International and Binibining Pilipinas Globe. Binibini 10 Jehza Mae Huelar (22, 5’6?, Davao City), last year’s second runner-up, is considered to be a lock for a crown. Binibini 22 Chanel Olive Thomas (26, 5’9?, San Antonio, Nueva Ecija), Miss Philippines Air 2015, could charm her way to a title. Binibini 31 Katarina Sonja Rodriguez (24, 5’7?, Davao City), second runner-up in Cycle 2 of Asia’s Next Top Model, has the energy to win—and reign. Binibini 21 Jamaica Elysse Ambal (24, 5’11”, Calamba, Laguna) is the dark horse who could be thrust into the spotlight. Some Miss World Philippines alumni are doing their best to grab a Binibining Pilipinas plum. Binibini 18 Nelda Ibe (23, 5’9?, Tarlac City), second princess in 2014, and Binibini 26 Ruffa Nava (23, 5’8?, Iloilo City), a nonplacer in 2014, have both become more polished. But Binibini 19 Rachel Louise Peters (25, 5’9?, Camarines Sur), fourth princess in 2014, is almost guaranteed a spot in the winning circle. After their Top 15 finishes in 2013, the most successful batch in Binibining Pilipinas history, Binibini 15 Maria Angelica de Leon (5’9?, Las Piñas City) and Binibini 32 Charmaine Elima (5’7?, Binangonan, Rizal) are the girls to beat this year. De Leon, born to showbiz royalty, only needs to show more personality, while Elima, who has the enviable Latina flair and Asian nerve, has to prove her eloquence in the interview portion. The silent killer, though, is Binibini 13 Sirene Sutton (23, 5’8?, Las Piñas City). What’s remarkable about this candidate is her being an independent, meaning that she is not affiliated with the top 2 beauty camps, Aces & Queens or Kagandahang Flores. The last time someone won who didn’t belong to any of the two camps was Janina San Miguel, crowned (but later resigned) Binibining Pilipinas World in 2008. She has excellent communication skills, a beautiful face and impressive pasarela. But is she “confidently beautiful with a heart” (and all such related slogans from all the global pageants)?