MANILA, Philippines - The Miss Philippines-Earth pageant may be spreading awareness of the ill effects of global warming, but candidates pushed the mercury to scorching levels in last Tuesday's press presentation in Makati City.
A total of 41 girls from all over the country and Filipino communities abroad paraded in the regulation white two-piece Champion bikinis at the poolside of the Hotel Intercontinental, showing off curves that rival the contours of Philippine coastline.
Lenses trained on lovely faces, tight waists and lengthy gams, photographers had a field day. During a pocket session with their top picks, temperatures peaked with a feud between the managers of two perceived front-runners.
Candaba's Kristelle Lazaro, posing hands on hips, inadvertently covered Cebuana Karla Henry. The latter's handler instructed his ward to come forward and be better seen.
Lazaro's trainer ignored this at first. But Henry's coach proceeded to imply that the Kapampangan lass had intentionally covered his candidate. Annoyed, Lazaro's trainer ordered his ward to hold her pose.
(The two girls were also early favorites in the controversial Bb. Pilipinas pageant last March; both went home empty-handed.)
Incidents such as this would be hard to prevent, especially now that the roster has almost doubled from the total of only 24 in every one of the pageant's past seven editions.
Lorraine Schuck, executive vice president of pageant organizer Carousel Productions, said that, instead of holding regional competitions and conducting screenings in Metro Manila as in the past years, the group invited local government units to send delegates this time.
Initial crowd picks are: Venus Raj of Legazpi City, Ilocos Sur's Diana Viray and Zamboangueña Sharina Deriza. Dipolog's Razel Eguia has enchanted onlookers with her lovely face, while Obando's Michelle Oblea, former Mutya ng Pilipinas semifinalist, impressed the crowd with her stage presence.
Not to be missed are other Binibining Pilipinas alumnae Mhyrtle Bugarin (Mandaluyong) and Edfer Lyn Quintero (Malabon), and Joanna Rumohr from the Municipality of Bulakan.
Among the overseas-based candidates, Nikki Martin and Melanie Felix from the US seem to be the most formidable.
Not only is the roster growing; there are also more crowns at stake. Aside from the traditional titles Miss Philippines-Earth, Air, Water, Fire and Eco-Tourism, this year the pageant will proclaim a Miss PAGCOR Tourism. The winner, sponsored by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., will travel here and around the world to promote the Philippines as a destination.
Miss Philippines-Earth will represent the country in the Miss Earth pageant. Miss Philippines-Air will be sent to the Miss Tourism Queen International contest.
All winners will be crowned on pageant night, May 11, at the Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila, Ortigas Center. ABS-CBN broadcasts the ceremonies on the same night. (With reports from Yna Nivero and Pam Sevilla, trainees)