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The winner of the recently concluded Search for Miss Cebu 2013 displayed what a beauty queen should possess: a little bit of everything. She was barely a standout at the beginning of the show, but she grew on me as soon as she stepped out in a Cary Santiago evening gown, sported a bun which resembled that of Miss Universe 2012 Oliva Culpo’s, and projected a face that made her look like Miss International 2004 from Colombia, Jeymmy Paola Vargas Gomez.

I wasn’t very much updated on their respective profiles, so when the girls introduced themselves, candidate # 8 Namrata Murjani reminded me of her namesake, an Indian beauty queen named Namrata Shirodkar—Miss Asia-Pacific 1993 first runner-up to our very own, Michelle Aldana, and Miss Universe 1993 top six finalist (Dayanara Torres of Puerto Rico won the crown)—who herself came to Cebu in 1994, when she co-hosted with Anthony Pangilinan at Miss Asia-Pacific Quest held at the Cebu Provincial Capitol facade. I met her family shortly after the coronation ceremony, and I was surprised at how fluent in Cebuano the father was, considering he’s one-hundred-percent Indian. I should’ve asked if her daughter was named after the above-mentioned Indian beauty queen, but I was in a hurry to get to work four blocks away.

Many of those who watched the pageant last January 16, both at the Pacific Grand Ballroom of Waterfront Cebu City Hotel & Casino and on television courtesy of Studio23, murmured words of dissatisfaction with this year’s 12 official candidates’ performance, saying that this batch was a total opposite of Miss Cebu tradition wherein the most coveted crown is usually pulled off after a neck-and-neck battle of the brains between five finalists.

Such tradition is what differentiates Miss Cebu from other pageants. Because the winner will not pack her suitcase the next day and carry the name of her city to a national competition, the annual search is for a Cebuana who will make a perfect spokesperson for Cebu, an emissary of goodwill in behalf of its people whose collective aim is to build stronger relations with the rest of the country and beyond.

This particular criterion for judging and a bit of other bases for customizing the crown for Cebu’s most exceptional lady are what make Miss Cebu the most challenging beauty contest there is. Results are unpredictable. And because most of the invited judges are big shots in the arts, entertainment, culture, politics and business from other cities and countries, my being a true-blue Cebuano couldn’t help taking pride in the fact that these celebrated personalities would be amazed to see the distinct beauty of a Cebuana and hear the natural eloquence of the Cebuano people.

Best of luck to Namrata with a reign that promises new friendships, better connections, learning experiences, renewed enlightenment, developmental goals, and a brighter future. She may not be as eloquent as what is expected of a Miss Cebu, but she’s definitely one of the most beautiful winners.

While, apparently, two Miss Cebu runners-up—Karla Henry (Miss Cebu 2006 second runner-up, Miss FTV Philippines 2006 first runner-up, Miss Philippines Earth 2008, and Miss Earth 2008) and Rizzini Alexis Gomez (Miss Cebu 2009 first runner-up, Aliwan Festival Queen 2010, Mutya Ng Pilipinas-Tourism 2012, and Miss Tourism International 2012)—have brought monumental honor to Cebu by winning at international pageants, I have utmost confidence in Namrata’s potential that, someday, she will make us all proud by joining the ranks of former Miss Cebus who came home wearing a national crown or sash, such as Melanie Ediza (Miss Cebu 2002 and Binibining Pilipinas 2005 second runner-up), Karla Bautista-Siao (Miss Cebu 2003, Binibining Pilipinas World 2004, and Miss World 2004 Asia’s Queen of Beauty), Sarah Katrina Minoza (Miss Cebu 2005, Miss Philippines-Fire 2007, and Miss Leisure International Miss Smile awardee), Sian Maynard (Miss Cebu 2008, Aliwan Festival Queen 2009, and Miss Philippines Earth 2010 semifinalist), Maria del Carmen Menchu Antigua-Macapagal (Miss Cebu Tourism 1999, Miss Philippines-Air 2001, and Binibining Pilipinas 2003 semifinalist), Aline Ramirez (Miss Cebu Tourism 1998, Miss Sara Lee Philippines 1996, and Binibining Pilipinas 2001 semifinalist and Miss Red Bull Supreme Energy special awardee).

Other Miss Cebu runners-up—whose beauty and brains have earned for them national titles, as well as pride for the city—are Vanessa Claudine Ammann (Miss Cebu 2011 second runner-up and Miss World Philippines 2012 second princess), Charish Bagley (Miss Cebu 2008 second runner-up, Mutya Ng Pilipinas Tourism 2008, Miss Tourism International 2008 semifinalist and Binibining Pilipinas 2010 official candidate), Mai Honorio (Miss Cebu 2008 third runner-up and Binibining Pilipinas 2009 semifinalist), Rogelie Catacutan (Miss Cebu 2010 second runner-up, Aliwan Festival Queen 2011, and Miss World Philippines 2011 semifinalist).

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