It was during the national intervarsity search for Mr. and Miss University 2010 at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, that I first met and palled up with Gina Joy Howell, the Filipino beauty queen who’s now an American soldier. She’d traveled from Pampanga to represent Central Luzon—and I’d flown in from Cebu to do the makeup for our Central Visayas representative, Sharon Grace Angel, which, to me, was a “divine appointment” because my purpose was initially to watch the 2010 Binibining Pilipinas Coronation Night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. I called it as such because, first, Sharon was my mentee for a long time, and, second, her pageant was to take place only two days before Binibining Pilipinas in which another friend of mine representing Cebu, Jam Charish Libatog, was an official candidate, and, most importantly, I stayed at an aunt’s house which was located right between both venues, only about a ten-minute bus ride apart.
I found it exciting to keep Sharon company every day, wherever she had a pre-pageant activity such as pictorial or the talent competition, because next to the enviable given squeak of feasting my eyes on the most handsome university students from different regions of the country, it was such a playing field for me to take stock of the female candidates and tell myself which of them had a future in the pageant arena or would surely surface on our TV screens someday through either Binibining Pilipinas or Mutya Ng Pilipinas.
During the candidates’ school uniform photoshoot, my trained eye for beauty had me single out four candidates who, to me, stood out from the rest and looked as though they’re going to be either official candidates or semifinalists or runners-up or winners at either Binibini or Mutya. Of course, I got my own mentee Sharon Grace Angel, and then I picked Gina Joy Howell, National Capital Region’s Sabrine Al-Tawil as well as Bicol Region’s Yvethe Santiago. I talked to them individually, complimented them on being a cut above the rest, and asked if I could have a photo op with them, together.
Voila, every one of them made it to the top four during the Mr. and Miss University 2010, with Sabrine Al-tawil winning the crown, Gina Joy Howell placing as first runner-up, Yvethe Santiago second runner-up, and Sharon Grace Angel third runner-up. And I was right—because not only did they end up winning that night, they all made it to the prestigious pageants I’d predicted them to be in. Only a few months later, Sharon Grace Angel placed second runner-up at the Mutya Ng Pilipinas 2010 pageant. She was also the recipient of the Top Model of the World award. Because I was able to come back to witness the pageant at the Resorts World Manila, I told Sharon, “See? I told you: You’re going to make it here!”
Sabrine Al-Tawil made it as a semifinalist at the Binibining Pilipinas 2011 pageant, representing Bacolod City. Gina Joy Howell was one of the Binibining Pilipinas 2012 semifinalists. And Yvethe Santiago was crowned as Binibining Pilipinas Supranational 2014. She represented the Philippines to the Miss Supranational 2014 pageant in Poland and landed as one of the Top 20 finalists.
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