Creative Vision: The Making of a National Costume

The national costume has got to be my favorite part in any pageant wardrobe. I get more excited with the lavishness and grandiosity of seeing our culture represented in a garb than seeing sneak peeks of one’s evening gown.

Last year, I had the privilege to be asked to create a concept art for Charmaine Elima’s national costume. The idea then was to capitalize on her dusky morena skin with a Nuestra Senora La Naval inspired national costume.  One that pays homage to the Filipinos love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It may not have won best national costume but it did create buzz around the candidate who wore it. That costume created waves among pageant fans and that was always the goal.  Which is the point of today’s blogpost: a focus on the national costume and how it should be designed and executed.
Whenever I am doing a national costume re-imagining or asked to create a concept design, I only have two considerations: 1) it should feel and look AUTHENTIC to the Filipino culture and 2) it should create DRAMA and IMPACT.

Vision to reality: the exquisite details that jumped from paper to fabric and jewelry…

Authenticity is a hard thing to do nowadays with a number of national costumes in pageants. When I did the concept art for Valerie’s costume for Dances of the World, it did receive some flak on the usage of the color blue instead of the traditional black and red of the T’boli tribe. Nobody knew that the costume was actually a Blit Blaan costume, a dance from the B’laan tribe which uses navy, blue and white with other colors in their wardrobe. There is a lot of misinformation that could happen based on Filipinos limited knowledge of our own culture which is the point of research to make it feel authentic.

Take into account the recent Maranao costume of Catriona Gray. A number of pageant fans assumed that it was a Singkil costume (perhaps owing to the fact that it’s the most popular Marano dance). Others had actually went to post online the inaccuracy of the parasol saying that the princess in the singkil dance only holds the apir fans and the parasol was to be held by her handmaiden (it is noteworthy to mention that the position of a handmaiden in court is reserved for the noble families not for slaves). The costume however pays homage to a lesser known Maranao dance called the Kinakulangan where maidens would hold parasols and handkerchiefs as they dance. Actual research has to back up every design to reinforce being authentic. It is the only way to be respectful to the culture that the costume is representing.

The parasol looked exactly as the concept art. The Sarimanok on top was my idea to dramatically create a lasting impact and to lift this iconic creature higher…

There is also the aspect of impact and high-drama. Every costume needs to have visual impact for it to stand out among a sea of costumes. Whether it was the bells of the B’laan costume of Valerie, the body-tattoos of the Pintados costume of Mary Ann Ross Misa, the religious connotations of Charmaine’s terno or the Sarimanok atop Catriona’s parasol…there has to be a focal point that gives the wow factor. There has to be that element that ties everything together without sacrificing the overall impact of the entire look.

When you put these two elements together, you get a memorable costume. Authenticity and Impact.


PhotoCollage of the Day: Charmaine Elima by RL Lacanienta

For today’s #FashionFridays post we feature Binibining Pilipinas 2017 1st Runner-up Charmaine Elima as photographed by RL Lacanienta and styled by me. Charmaine is wearing the Zara jacket that I personalized and embellished by hand for my sister’s wedding earlier this year. 

Photography: RL Lacanienta
Styling: Jesson Capuchino
Hair: Bekbek Vasquez
Makeup: Richmond Rondolo & Grethel Elima

Similar Gown, Similar Fate?

I am so over cape gowns and nowadays I’m into sleeved gowns. However the latest results of Binibining Pilipinas and Miss Universe Puerto Rico had me seeing similarities bewteen the two 1st runners up of both pageants.

Miss Universe Puerto Rico 1st runner up Jailenne Rivera (representing Ponce) and Binibining Pilipinas (Miss Philippines) 1st runner up Charmaine Elima wore similar white gowns. Who do you think wore the better gown?

Bb Pilipinas 2017: A Fashion Review Pt.2

This is the second part of my Binibining Pilipinas fashion review. While not a lot of girls went off-road with their fashion choices, a number of them went via the tried and tested pageant patty/ typical gowns: lots of beads lace and see-though fabrics. 
Kylie Verzosa
– I have seen this Francis Libiran multitude of times already (on Marie Ann Umali, Shamcey Supsup or was it Venus Raj, several models during fashion shows, etc…) and the novelty has worn out. I was wishing that Kylie would have worn the powder blue gown she wore during the Miss International finals instead. Nevertheless Kylie looked immaculate in this gown. 

Joanna Eden – simple and understated. She is the best dressed among the outgoing queens that evening. It didn’t need too much bling but she looked tres tres chic in her white column gown.

Maxine Medina – her gown by Rhett Eala was a high fashion risk that didn’t pay off. It was perfection from the neck up and looked like Cousin Itt got a reverse Mr. T head-shave from the neck down. I didn’t expect that the outgoing MUP would wear such a disastrous gown. Didn’t Maxine read my sarcastic post on what we would want to see during finals?
Elizabeth Clenci – her fashion choice paid off big time as this ranks as one of the best gowns that night. Her hair and make up was also spot on which made the gown stand out more. I would put this gown as my 2nd fave among the gowns that night.

Jehza Huelar – went for the Zuleyka look, which was almost a fashion home-run except for the high slit in the middle that shown the huge platform sandals she was wearing. These type of heels would look great in swimsuits, but not necessarily on evening gowns. Still a fashion win though.
Mariel de Leon – she shone in her Cary Santiago red berry gown. While she may have not been my choice as the best in gown that evening, she nevertheless was one of those that scored a fashion win.

Sirene Sutton – I love this girl and her purple gown! But I would loved it even more had she wore this gown in a deep berry color or in dazzling white. She could have also styled her hair up to really set off the gown’s color. That would have earned her major diosa points.
Charmaine Elima – hers was a gown that could compete with the best gowns that Misses Colombia would wear in Miss Universe. Pablo Galicia Mendez’s gown could stand at par with any of the best gown Alfredo Barraza could dish out. I would have preferred if Maine styled her hair up to really set off her neck and the neckline of the gown.

If I were to pick my best dressed it wold be a toss between these three ladies: Elizabeth Clenci, Charmaine Elima and Pia Wurtzbach’s powder blue gown…

The Binibining Pilipinas 2017 Review Pt2

This is the second and final part of my review of the recently concluded Binibining Pilipinas pageant.

The Telecast – to be honest, it was neither exceptional nor it was atrocious. It was just okay and  it still has areas of improvement. I was just a bit on the fence regarding the ‘no online updates’ policy that was imposed this year by ABSCBN. Though I understand their reasons, it would have been an additional income generator for them had they made a “pay per view livestreaming” of the coronation night. In terms of production, I didn’t see any major flaws as it looked decent overall.
I am just listing some pet peeves that I noticed on the production: 1) the unnecessary audience shot when the girls are doing their pasarela, hope this is removed in the future and should be reserved during the opening dance while girls are changing tableaus or formations on stage or when panning towards the stage as the pageant comes back from commercials, 2) Daniel Padilla’s amazing singing (note on the sarcasm there), this is the first time I saw someone lipsynching without exerting effort to make it look like he is actually singing, 3) the special awards, do they really have to include the sponsors’ head honcho on the awarding? They take too much airtime, having their names flashed onscreen should be enough. More so, the flashing of their brands during the telecast should have been adequate exposure.

Xian Lim has vastly improved in his hosting skills as compared to the first time that he acted as host of the pageant several years back. He has matured immensely with his hosting skills. Former Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach did quite well as a host and provided additional pageant glamour to the event. Together they delivered well as a pair though they lacked the rapport we once saw with Andy Cohen and Giuliana Rancic when they hosted the Miss Universe 2012 pageant.
Another point observed by those in the actual venue is the somewhat subdued  atmosphere in the stadium compared to the 2014 or 2015 editions. While we could not gauge that on the tv screens, it can be noted that there were more vacant seats this year as compared to previous years. It is no wonder that I knew several people who still were giving out tickets the day of the finals night.

The Stage – I have a hard time appreciating initially the stage this year. I felt that we had seen something like this before, it reminded me of the circular props of BBP Gold. Not that it was bad or anything, it’s just that it could have broken out of the box and offered something new for pageant fans to enjoy. The saving grace of the stage however is its ability to put those on stage to the forefront instead of taking over the entire visual of the spectacle. It didn’t overpower the eyes so I give the stage a higher than average score for that.

The Musical Performers – I have already mentioned several months back during the 65th Miss Universe pageant that I wanted Sia’s “Move Your Body” as a possible music wishlist. That came true during the Bb. Pilipinas coronation night’s opening dance. I believe that overall, this year’s music soundtrack was just okay. The trio singing of R&B Prince, Jay R, Daryl Ong and Jason Dy was a good follow-up to the opening sequence only to be let down with Daniel Padilla’s singing (I see he was trying to look suave but it ended up otherwise).

The Winners – In one of my last posts before the Bb. Pilipinas coronation night, I named two ladies that I am practically torn for the Miss Universe Philippines title…and I was right to name them as Rachel Louise Peters became MUP for 2017 and Charmaine Elima ended up with the 1st runner up title. Then my only crown contender for the Bb. Pilipinas International title was Mariel de Leon who won that exact same title! Among my final list of crown contenders and crown spoilers, 7 out of 13 went on to comprise the winners circle. Only Kristel Guelos was out of my radar!

Now let’s talk about the individual winners:
Kristel Guelos2nd Runner up, she was the true underdog from the very beginning of the competition. Nobody saw her coming and it was refreshing to say that she did perform consistently throughout the evening. I see promise on this lady, I just think that a better styling would have made her stand out much better.
Charmaine Elima1st Runner up, her runner up placement is deemed low by her fans but it was IMHO a better placement than being given a minor title. It seemed as if she was ‘reserved’ as a runner up than to be sent to a lesser pageant. At age 24, she still has time to do a comeback if she chooses. I would hate to think that such a universal face would be wasted…

Nelda IbeBb. Pilipinas Globe, I have a hard time thinking if this is the best possible title for Nelda. Perhaps it would have been better if she got the Intercontinental title who seems to favor taller girls. Nevertheless Nelda can bank on the guidance she can get from fellow KF sister and Miss Globe 3rd runner up, Nichole Manalo.
Katarina RodriguezBb. Pilipinas Intercontinental, personally Katarina would have been a great match for Miss International or even Bb. Pilipinas Grand. She would have made a killing in the Thai-based pageant however she can be trained to conform to what the German-based pageant looks from a winner.
Elizabeth ClenciBb. Pilipinas Grand, she looks like Parul Shah in some angles and she has the same gift of gab like Nicole Cordoves. I have high hopes that at least a runner up finish will be in the works for her in Miss Grand International. 
* If I had my way, I would have Nelda for Intercon, Katarina for Grand and Elizabeth for Globe that is if we are to place them strategically within their strengths. However I believe that the judges and BPCI might have seen something on each of the girls that warranted their placements.

Chanel Olive ThomasBb. Pilipinas Supranational, seems like she is tailor-fit in what the Polish pageant is looking for: lovely with a strong ramp skills. Never-mind that her evening gown presentation was subpar, I chalk that to her gown that seems to need a little less hem length. 
Mariel de LeonBb. Pilipinas International, I believe she is best suited for this title from the moment she was rumored to join BBP. Several of my insiders recently have told me that she was eyeing the Miss International title all along. I have high hopes that she could break the Mikimoto curse and could possible end with a top 3 finish in Tokyo later this year.
Rachel PetersMiss Universe Philippines, she was the complete package in this year’s batch. For most pageant fans she was not considered a frontrunner but for me she was. I always knew that she was a heavy contender for Miss Universe Philippines and I was not mistaken.
While there are those who are still divided by the results of the pageant,  I urge Filipino pageant fans to unite in supporting the new queens. It will be our country that they will be representing in the international arena when the international pageant season comes. I also encourage everyone to be kind to those that did not end up in the lucky 8 winners’ circle. Each of the girls did their best and that is more than what we can ask from them.  

The Binibining Pilipinas 2017 Review Pt1

This year my pageant review has a little bit more “spice” to it than usual as I feel the need to be truthful and honest to my opinions, though I will try to put them as nicely as I could. I hope no feelings are gonna get hurt because this is going to be a whole lotta eyeful to read…

The Top 25 Semi-finalists – 12 from KF, 12 from A&Q and 1 independent candidates comprise the top 25. The shocker of the year is the non-inclusion of Liezel Ramos, Angelique de Leon and Dindi Pajares. While we couldn’t really pinpoint what went wrong, we can all guess that the closed-door interview might be the culprit or perhaps they weren’t what the org is looking for this year. It is said that the questions during the closed-door interview were very difficult with topics ranging from current events, religion to politics. I am really impressed with the inclusions of Dane Felise Marasigan, Ana Patricia Asturias and Nelda Ibe on the semis. I also see that the top 25 comprised of women from different backgrounds.

The Outfits – This year, I am very much impressed in how far along we have gone in terms of the wardrobe for the local pageant. It was only 3 short years ago that fans are complaining about the lack of Filipino talents in the wardrobe of the pageant. Opening dresses were made by Bing Cristobal. This year we have Domz Ramos and Jeffrey Rogador doing the swimsuits for the pageant (Domz created the ones for the parade and Jeffrey for the finals). I only wished that the Jeffrey Rogador swimsuits used during the press presentation was switched for the finals instead. I believe that the dark colored swimsuit wasn’t a good match for the finals and the neon colored ones would have made a better impact onstage.

Shoes were made by Jojo Bragais as it was for the past couple of years. I just hoped that the powers at be decided to make the girls wear same colored shoes as their opening outfits as the gold was too high a contrast on the green and purple outfits. Let’s not mention the evening gowns who are all made by Filipino designers.

The Swimsuit – this portion is definitely nailed by Rachel ‘the Killer Bod’ Peters. Her performance in this round was almost perfect. Though I would give this round to Ruffa Nava with what was an effortless glide onstage.
The Evening Gown – while I have nothing against Mariel winning this award, I thought the evening gown performance of Charmaine Elima then followed by Sirene Sutton were superior to hers. Mariel still has to polish her walk.
Before I go unto the next segment, I really wished to have seen Ruffa Nava making top 15. It would have been interesting to see and hear her speak in the top 15.

The Top 15 Q&A – this is where the best girls emerged. Kristel Guelos did quite well here and I thought I would have switched her with Elizabeth Clenci in terms of placement. Elizabeth was conversational in her Q&A but delivered it with just enough confidence. Charmaine rambled initially but was able to pull off a strong finish to her question about cursing. Had she edited her answer to only say the last portion, she could have nailed a crown. Nelda Ibe flubbed her answer and she could have done better, perhaps flustered nerves were the culprit. I would have replaced her with Christagale Borja instead. Christa’s answer to the ‘best day’ question merited a much higher placement in my opinion. Nevertheless I am happy for Nelda’s title. Gabriela Ortega gave a strong answer as it was quite relatable, although her thick Spanish accent made her sound unsure in her delivery. Katarina Rodriguez was given a ‘standard pageant question’ to which she responded well, had she been given a tougher question like that of Rachel Peters then I think she could have gotten a higher title. Rachel had a difficult question as its nature is about current political events. She nailed her question saying divisiveness in religion, politics and culture is something that she would like to address to the ASEAN leaders. Juliana Kapeundl was a revelation that night and I thought she would possibly end up as a runner up. However her lack of conviction while she was speaking was probably the main culprit of her not making top 8. Mariel was also given a ‘standard pageant question’ though I give props to her for injecting a little bit of humor to her response.

Watch out for the 2nd part of the Binibining Pilipinas pageant review coming soon…

The Binibining Pilipinas 2017 Recap!

The Binibining Pilipinas coronation night has come and gone and now we have a new set of winners that will represent us in several international competitions later this year! So before we do a full review of the pageant here is a quick recap of the coronation night…

Opening Number – the girls went out onstage wearing Bing Cristobal identical dresses in red, greed purple and gold. They came out in 4 batches of 10 each to the tune of Sia’s “Move Your Body” (which coincidentally was one of my music wishlist for the 65th Miss Universe pageant).

Special Awardees – they were split into batches. Early lead went on to Chanel Olive and Rachel before Katarina and Mariel catched up on their respective awards…
Miss Friendship – 22 Chanel Olive Thomas
Miss Photogenic – 19 Rachel Peters
Best in Talent – 1 Dane Felise Marasigan
Best National Costume – 22 Chane Olive Thomas
Manila Bulletin Readers Choice – 20 Christagale Borja
Jag Denim Queen – 19 Rachel Peters
Miss CreamSilk – 15 Mariel de Leon
Best in Swimsuit – 19 Rachel Peters
Best in Evening Gown – 15 Mariel de Leon
Miss PAL – 31 Katarina Rodriguez

The top 25 Semi-finalists – this year there was two major cuts before going to the winners circle. First was the cut to the top 25 which comprised of the following (in order of call out):
2 Arienne Calingo
27 Beatrice Valiente
1 Dane Felisse Marasigan
37 Sammie Anne Legaspi
6 Ma. Benjieleen Nama
7 Jennyline Carla Malpaya
9 Vanessa Saliba
33 Kristi Rose Cequena
26 Ruffa Nava
38 Ana Patricia Asturias

After the top 15 competed in the swimsuits and evening gowns, they were then narrowed to the top 15 where each of the girls were asked by the panel of judges a question. They were split into two batches of question and answer. 
The Top 15 – 6 from KF, 1 independent and 7 from A&Q.
10 Jehza Huelar
13 Sirene Sutton
20 Christa Gale Borja
17 Camille Manalo
34 Gabriela Ortega
16 Sarah Grace Lacap
28 Juliana Kapuendl – People’s Choice winner (automatic top 15)

The Winners
2nd Runner up – 40 Kristel Guelos
1st Runner up – 32 Charmaine Elima
Bb. Pilipinas Globe – 18 Nelda Ibe 
Bb. Pilipinas Intercontinental – 31 Katarina Rodriguez
Bb. Pilipinas Grand International – 39 Elizabeth Clenci
Bb. Pilipinas Supranational – 22 Chanel Olive Thomas
Bb. Pilipinas International – 15 Maria Angelica De Leon
Miss Universe Philippines – 19 Rachel Peters

Congratulations to the new winners!

Binibining Pilipinas 2017: The Crown Contenders

Here is my complete set of Binibining Pilipinas Crown Contenders…
Binibini 12 – Angelique de Leon
Binibini 13 – Sirene Sutton
Binibini 15 – Mariel de Leon

Binibini 19 – Rachel Peters
Binibini 20 – Christagale Borja
Binibini 24 – Dindi Pajares
Binibini 32 – Charmaine Elima
* As my possible 8th placer, I am adding Nelda Ibe into the list…

I believe that all seven (plus one) of these girls could easily take home any of the titles at stake.
Good luck to all the girls competing in the pageant finals!

PhotoCollage of the Day: Charmaine Elima by BlackAnt Lensman

Three weeks ago, photographer BlackAnt lensman released several photos of Binibini 32 Charmaine Elima that were taken in a photoshoot I styled last January. A couple of those photos are featured in today’s PhotoCollage post…

Photography: BlackAnt Lensman
Styling: Jesson Capuchino
Hair: Bekbek Vasquez
Makeup: Turmeric Dionisio Balili

Is the Miss Universe Philippines Between Charmaine Elima & Rachel Peters?

As the Binibining Pilipinas 2017 competition has progressed, I am seeing only two girls with massive Miss Universe potential that could possibly clinch the most coveted title of Miss Universe Philippines 2017: Charmaine Elima and Rachel Peters. What is the more interesting is that these two ladies have different strengths that they can use to their advantages.

Charmaine undoubtedly has a universal face that could give the Latinas and Europeans a run for their money. High cheek bones, small button nose, refined jawline on a swan-like neck; qualities that are universal benchmarks of what is considered beautiful. Most people would have difficulty guessing her nationality with just one look. Beauty-wise, the lady from Binangonan has the pure Filipina quality that pageant fans are clamoring for a possible MU contender. Charmaine also has a strong fanbase online with her Elimazonas comprising of several key fans from the Pianatics group.

Rachel on the other hand has the Miss Universe body written all over her as her proportions are similar to those of Paulina Vega and Gabriela Isler. This gal can stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the tall girls in the “P group” in MU too. She has legs that goes on for days and days. Her British-Filipina mix brings an aristocratic air to this mestiza beauty that could connect the Eurasian market.
They hardly have similar physical qualities but both of them are transformable and fit the mold that the Miss Universe org might be looking for a winner: strong, natural, feminine and has universal appeal. It is also worth mentioning that both ladies are conversant in English and that I have confidence in their communication skills.

Add to it is the fact that insiders seem to think that both ladies are the flagbearers of their respective camps.
It is going to be interesting as these two ladies are going to pit the two biggest beauty camps once more for the top crown. The competition between these two amazing ladies is gonna bring the Kagandahang Flores and Aces & Queens camp rivalry into surface once again.
While these two might be my picks as the last two slugging it out for the top crown, fair warning comes as a darkhorse named Sirene Sutton can spoil it all and come out just from under their noses.