MISS PHILIPPINES-EARTH 2006: Height is might

By Giovanni Paolo J. Yazon

INSTEAD of a repeater and ladies with some parentage in their ancestries, a towering and brown-skinned amateur romped off with Miss Philippines-Earth 2006 title.

Catherine Yu Untalan, a 20-year-old psychology cum laude graduate of University of the Philippines-Diliman, won the finals held at the UP Theater Sunday evening.

Untalan bested 23 other beauties, including first to fourth runnersup Ginger Conejero, 22, political science graduate of University of California from the United States, voted Miss Photogenic (Miss Air); Katrina Rigets, 21, physical therapy student of University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center from Metro Manila (Miss Water); second timer Francis Dianne Cervantes, 24, public relations coordinator and runway model from Central Luzon (Miss Fire); and Reena Sarmiento, 22, advertising and marketing graduate of Sheridan School of Business from Canada (Miss Eco-Tourism), respectively.

Completing the semifinalists were Faith Averie Mercado (Southern Tagalog), adjudged Best in Swimsuit; Stephanie Florence Magali (Metro Manila), a candidate in last year’s Binibining Pilipinas pageant; crowd favorite April Love Jordan (Calabarzon); Royce Ann Estella (Metro Manila), reigning Miss Chinatown-Philippines; and Iris Frances Tan (Cordillera Administrative Region).

Absent in the semifinals were early favorites who received special awards: Chrismin Ann Lim (Western Mindanao), Best in Cultural Attire; Arriane Veneracion (Bicol), Miss Talent; Jacqueline Boquiron (Metro Manila), Best in Long Gown; and Andrea Dimalanta (Metro Manila), Miss Friendship, and whose photographs before undergoing a nose job reportedly proliferated in pageant Web sites days before the coronation.

The judges who had the responsibility of choosing the new Miss Philippines-Earth included Miss Asia-Pacific 1993 winner and erstwhile actress Michelle Aldana Heinermann, Mutya ng Pilipinas 1992 and Pond’s marketing manager Mutya Crisostomo, Lifestyle Asia contributing editor Baby Cruz, fashion designer Lulu Tan Gan, Miss World 1973 first runnerup and actress Evangeline Pascual, equestrienne Toni Leviste, singer-stage actress Isay Alvarez and broadsheet columnist and public servant Dr. Margarita Cojuangco.

This year’s Miss Philippines-Earth was undoubtedly the most fabulous in the pageant’s six-year history. Aside from having Piolo Pascual, Derek Ramsay and Sam Milby as hosts; presence of Miss Earth 2004 Priscilla Meirelles of Brazil; an “all-women” panel of judges; the previous runnersup and titleholders joined this year’s candidates at the opening number.

And instead of having tired-old “parade of regions” with ladies wearing cultural attires at the start of the show, the past queens and the 24 ladies donned red, white and blue fringed dresses symbolizing the elements of the Earth: fire, air and water, while dancing to a faster version of Kamikazee’s song, “Narda.”

Last year’s queen Genebelle Francisco Raagas didn’t have a traditional farewell walk. As a replacement to a prerecorded goodbye speech, she was interviewed by Ramsay about her memorable experiences as a beauty queen.

The crowned beauty

In the final interview, Untalan was asked: “Our judges have made their mark globally in their respective fields, how would you like to be recognized internationally?”

Her winning answer was: “I would like to be recognized as the first Filipino Miss Earth if I would be given the opportunity. Miss Earth [contest] is not just a showcase of [physical] beauty, it also about concern for the environment. I would like to be that person to represent our country.”

“My victory hasn’t sunken on me yet. I wasn’t so sure about winning because days before the coronation all the newspapers and pageant Web sites that featured me said I am just tall (and that’s it). And so my target was just to make it to the semifinals… I feel so blessed by God because I made it to the top,” she said in an interview with Standard Today minutes after her coronation.

At the final dress rehearsals-cum-mock pageant held last Saturday, Untalan only emerged first runnerup to Conejero. The result of that mock pageant became her “driving force to do my very best on the coronation night,” she said with a smile.

She also believes that, “Things have a right way of falling into place.” She revealed that she tried her luck in this year’s Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant. “I was half-hearted with my decision because I would be graduating at that time. If I pushed through with it, I would have missed the final exams and would not have graduated with honors,” she said. When she didn’t become an official candidate, she considered it as a blessing. “Maybe God has some other plans for me.”

With a whistle-bait figure of 35”-25”-35” and standing at 6 feet, Untalan now shares the record with Bb. Pilipinas-World 1992 Marilen Espino being the tallest Filipina beauty queens.

But, is height really might for Untalan?

“Although it helped me to stand out, I’d like to believe that I won because of my totality as a person, and that I really worked hard for this. More than anything else, it’s actually the prayers of all the people who believed in me from the very beginning that made my dream a reality,” she said.

Untalan’s winning the crown proved that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes—teaching a lesson to those who think that most Filipina beauty queens are only 5’7” tall.

Her undeniable beauty and wit make her already a frontrunner for the Miss Earth 2006 title! The international pageant, for the first time, will be held outside the country, in Santiago, Chile this November.

Source: http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=goodLife03_may20_2006

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