IT HAS has been more than two years since I last sat as judge for a beauty pageant. So when Arnold Larrobis Alvarez, the popular event planner, choreographer, dance instructor, and restaurateur invited me to sit as judge at the Bai Umajam Grand Coronation Night on the occasion of the 57th Araw ng Municipality of Loreto celebration in the province of Agusan del Sur last March 30, 2022, I readily accepted. Despite the long four hour drive, he assured me that I would be in the good company of veteran fashion designer and beauty queen maker, Renee Magtibay Salud, beauty title holders led by Venus Raj, and the President of the Professional Models of the Philippines in the good person of Raphael Keifer.
The Bai Umajam beauty pageant was held at the newly constructed and air-conditioned Umajam Cultural Dome. In front of the dome is a building designed to accommodate visitors who would stay in Loreto for business or pleasure as guests like us of the hospitable municipality. Naturally, the Hon. Mayor Lorife Magdan-Otaza warmly welcomed all the guests who came to fill the dome that warm evening. “Tonight, we will be dazzled with the beauty, glamour, elegance and exceptional talents of the 16 candidates representing the 16 barangays of the municipality…The Bai Umajam beauty pageant is more than just a showcase of beauties. It endeavors to highlight and celebrate the progress in women empowerment in this municipality,” the good Mayor Lorife M. Otaza told the audience.
Emcees Rex del Rosario, lawyer Resci R. Nolasco and Miss Universe Philippines 2010 Venus Raj then introduced the Sining Tala dancers who performed an energetic dance number, after the National Anthem was played, to start the show. The 16 candidates who were dressed in shimmering red, blue and silver body hugging dresses, then did their catwalk on stage to introduce themselves to the delight of a loudly cheering crowd. The candidates also donned their Julius Pegarro swimsuits and Christopher Ledesma/Richie Uy formal gowns after which the minor corporate awards winners were revealed.
In no time, the five finalists were chosen by the board of judges comprised of Karen Ibasco, Johanna Datui, Jehza Huelar, Christopher Ledesma, Francis Morales, Raphael Keifer, Michael E. Dakudao, Agusan del Sur Provincial Tourism Officer Dannah Buquir and the Chairperson of the Board of Judges Renee M. Salud. The lucky five finalists who were chosen based on best in swimsuit and gown, good personality and intelligence were Romechelle Escrin (Brgy. Poblacion), Crislyn Magadan (Brgy. Johnson), Grace Angwas ( Bgy. Waloe), Rejean May Caseria (Bgy. Binucayan) and Vanessa Tolosa (Bgy. Nueva Gracia).
The finalists were once again judged wearing their Pegarro swimsuits, Renee Salud formal gowns, and the Q&A where they were asked just one common question which they had to answer in 45 seconds. The question was, “When you are given the chance to have an audience and talk to the Hon. Mayor Lorife M. Otaza, what subject matter will you want to discuss with her that you think is relevant?” The tall and dusky standout candidate from Bgy. Poblacion, Romechelle Escrin’s response on “financial literacy that will lead to an overall sense of financial well-being and self-trust starting with the building of basic knowledge of money matters is what every average Filipino needs to improve one’s well-being and condition in life” truly impressed the judges and the crowd. The 20 year old Escrin is a 2nd year Civil Engineering student of the University of Mindanao (Davao City). She finds inspiration in the Victoria Secret Angel model and actress Adriana Lima of Brazil whenever she has to strut on the fashion ramp. Escrin was also proclaimed the Best in Gown winner in her red Renee Salud creation.
The other winners included Rejean May Caseria (first runner up), Crislyn Magadan (2nd runner up), Vanessa Tolosa (3rd runner up), and Grace Angwas (4th runner up).
Congratulations to all the winners. Thank you, Mayor Lorife M. Otaza, Arnold L. Alvarez and Jery Pons Maignos, for inviting me.
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