'Mutya' a battle of beauties from here and abroad

By Armin Adina

FORGET the hard court. The competition between locals and Filipino-foreigners moves to the beauty pageant arena as the 37th annual Mutya ng Pilipinas invites a record number of delegates from Filipino communities abroad.

The roster of 24 candidates for this year's search includes eight delegates from Australia, Europe and North America.

Inquirer Entertainment talked to some of the candidates during their briefing at the ABC 5 offices in Makati City recently.

Shelly Wynne Manacsa, 21, represents California. The 21-year-old nursing student aims to duplicate the feat of California-based Filipino Miriam Chui, crowned Mutya in 2002. Shelly is a part-time model in Los Angeles.

Canada sent 20-year-old Annalie Bonda, winner of the Miss Philippines-Canada pageant. Annalie is a Fashion Communication, Marketing and Management student at the International Academy of Design and Technology.

In 2003, she represented Canada in the Miss Global Teen Quest won by the delegate from Puerto Rico. "She was very prepared," said Annalie of the winner.

The US East Coast is represented by 19-year-old Katherine Bernal and Anijia (pronounced Anya) Jalac, 22. Katherine and Anijia joined the same pageant in the US and landed first and second, respectively. Katherine is a Biology junior at the Brooklyn College-City University of New York and has an associate degree in fashion. She is a member of the Filipino Dance Company in New York. "My favorite dance is the Pandango sa Ilaw," she said.

Anijia grew up in a traditional Filipino family. Her parents are very strict, especially about boys, she said, adding that she thinks "it's very good." She was just recently allowed to have a boyfriend.

Good fight

But the local girls are expected to give the "imports" stiff competition. There are two very strong contenders from Bicolandia.

Windena Zaragoza and Penelope Joy Jacinto have known each other for three years. They first met at the Miss Camarines 2002 pageant and have since competed against each other in latter pageants.

They were runners up in the last Mutya ng Ibalong Quest.

Dumaguete sent 20-year-old Liana Basmayor. Although a self-confessed pageant "veteran," Liana quickly added: "I'm not making [joining pageants] a career."

Fashion designer Renee Salud and film director Jeffrey Jeturian spotted the California-raised Liana hosting the Miss Silliman pageant last year and asked her to give Mutya ng Pilipinas a try.

Ilocos Norte's Rochelle Jane Hagunos is only 18 years old, but she is the tallest candidate at 5-foot-9.

"This is my first pageant," said Rochelle, a Nursing freshman at the Mariano Marcos State University. She is an only child who has lived with her grandmother since her parents separated when she was very young.

Another 18-year-old, Arabella Hanesh, has distinct West Asian features that make her stand out. The representative from Pangasinan keeps fit by belly dancing. "It's good for the belly... makes it firm," she explained.

Batangas is represented by Marevel Alcantara, 18. A Tourism student at the Lyceum of Batangas, she landed second in the last Binibining Lungsod ng Batangas pageant.

Lynelle Fari񡳠was crowned Mutya ng Pilipinas-Mindanao just two weeks ago. The 19-year-old future nurse is a TV host at a station in Zamboanga.

Also competing this year are Carmenliza Nicolosi of Italy, Australia's Rosecel Aguilar, Filipino-German Katherina Koegel and United Kingdom's Elaine Coyle. They are joined by Quezon City's Abigail Cruz, Elizabeth Nacuspag and Hemilyn Escudero, Carmelle Paguia of Zambales, Bulacan's Christelle Reyes, Isabela's Mary Candice Ramos, Kathlyn Valenzuela of Para񡱵e, Namkeen Hameed of Ilocos Sur and Paula Ruiz of Marikina City.

Mutya ng Pilipinas and Miss Asia Pacific International 2005 fourth runner-up Jedah Hernandez crowns her successor on June 11 at the PTA Tent in Clamshell II, Intramuros. ABC 5 airs the ceremonies on June 12.

Source: http://www.opmb.com/forums-mb/view_topic.php?id=4535&forum_id=16

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