Miss Philippines of Michigan
Miss Philippines of Michigan

In some ways, it was a beauty contest like no other.

First, the 2012 edition of the search for Miss Philippines-Michigan lived up to its billing as a tough contest. It was tough because the six candidates have all the attributes that could qualify them to win the prestigious title. In fact, anyone of the six young ladies is a beauty queen on her own right.

Second, it was well attended with the venue, the St. John’s Banquet and Conference Center in Southfield, packed beyond its capacity. It was so packed that even prominent community leaders like Dr. Ernie Mac and Van Ong had a hard time finding their seats.

Third, the members of the board of judges are all professionals, who are noted for their prestige and unsullied reputation.

That the beauty contest was a tight race among the candidates was confirmed by three of the judges – Attorney Maria Rita Reyes-Stuby, Andrew Humphrey and Gail Anderson. On a query by the Filipino Star News, they said they had a hard time coming up with the scores of each candidate in the various categories of the contest.

The unanimous observation of the three judges was that the candidates are all beautiful, intelligent and talented.  It was ironic that only one can become the winner.

As it was their task, difficult as it was, the judges had to come up with their decision.  During the judgment process, the judges did not talk to each other about their preferences to avoid the possibility of influencing one another in their individual decision. (The judges’ scores of the candidates were tallied by a panel led by Tony Kho and Bong Jaramillo.)

And although the common observation was that the contest was tight, the results indicated otherwise: Kahirup’s candidate Carryle Zaldariaga was the runaway winner. She bested the five other candidates – Krystle Antonio Daiann Darwish, Rachel Sweet, Sabrina Tungol and Stephanie Raymundo– in three of the four main categories, Miss Photogenic, Best in Swimsuit and Best in Talent.

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It was obvious Carryle was going to be the winner after she topped the three categories.  But although her proclamation as the winner was some sort of anti-climactic, it was still met with enthusiastic cheering and excitement.

What was surprising was the selection of Stephanie Raymundo as the runner-up.  It was surprising in the sense that she did not win in any category.

Some people in the audience believed, though, that she had scored high in the interview portion. She gave a very responsive answer to the question, “What is the biggest issue facing the youth today?” In gist, her answer:  The biggest problem is the looming habit of young people to be overly attached to the latest IT gadgets such as iPod and the social media such as tweeter and facebook. This causes their self-isolation. She urges the youngsters to get out, personally meet people and learn other cultures.

Rachel Sweet deserves the “Best in Gown” trophy. She looked stunningly gorgeous in her resplendent, white gown.

Sabrina Tungol likewise deserves the Miss Philanthropy Award.  She is noted for her volunteer service to the Filipino-American community in her capacity as teacher at Paaralang Pilipino.  If I were a judge, I could have also awarded Sabrina the “Best in Talent” plum.  The drum play she performed was amazing.

On loose talks that there might have been hanky-panky in the judging, the suspicion was wild and baseless.  It was unfair to Carryle and the judges.

It is unthinkable that the judges, all of them prestigious and respectable, could have allowed themselves to be influenced in their individual decision. (We’re in Michigan, not in the Philippines.)

The officers of FILAMCCO (Filipino-American Community Council), which staged the biennial (held every two years) Miss Philippines-Michigan pageant, should take in stride such oblique comment. In any competition, particularly a tough one, you cannot please everybody.

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To Miss Carryle Zaldariaga, newly crowned Miss Philippines-Michigan 2012, congratulations. Mabuhay!

To the FILAMCCO officers – particularly Ryan Rosario, Rose Caoagas, Betsy Henry, Willie Dechavez and Rob Dionisio – congratulations for a job well done.