Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Pamela Bianca Manalo, who represented the country in the recently concluded Miss Universe tilt in the Bahamas, received a warm welcome from the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc., even if she failed to reach the pageant’s semifinals.
“In our hearts Bianca is a winner,” said Bb. Pilipinas chair Stella Marquez de Araneta during a homecoming party at the Araneta Coliseum Gazebo last Saturday.
The last grand welcome for a titleholder was held in 2005 for Precious Lara Quigaman, the country’s fourth Miss International winner. That same year, Gionna Cabrera was given a simple homecoming party to toast her special awards from the Miss U pageant held in Thailand.
Bianca, 22, told Inquirer she was glad Venezuela’s Stefania Fernandez won. “She is very fresh, very cheerful, very young... only 18.” She dismissed an online petition protesting the pageant’s results, saying she would choose Fernandez any time over runner-up Ada Aimee dela Cruz from the Dominican Republic. “[Dela Cruz] was not a nice person,” Bianca said.
But while admitting that she felt bad about not making the cut, Bianca said, “Maybe God did not intend for me to become Miss Universe.”
She recalled being approached backstage by fellow Asians who thought she would land in the Top 15. “Miss Singapore asked me, ‘What happened? No Asians?’”
She said delegates from Mexico and the Bahamas were inconsolable. “Halos himatayin si [Miss] Bahamas.”
At worst, Bianca was incredulous. “When the semifinalists were announced and I wasn’t among them, I could not look at my family in the audience. I kept asking myself, ‘What went wrong?’”
Family members who were there included her sister Katherine Ann Manalo (2002 Miss World finalist) and aunt Nini Ramos-Licaros (1968 Miss International semifinalist).
But Bianca said she wouldn’t change anything in the way she conducted herself: “I did everything I knew was right and necessary.”
She also defended the blue-and-silver evening gown she wore for the preliminaries. The ensemble by Colombian designer Alfredo Barraza drew flak from pageant fans on message boards online. “I picked that gown myself,” she said. “I loved how it moved [with my body].”
Bianca was “humbled” by the support of Filipinos worldwide. “Pinoys in the Bahamas were in every program,” she said. “Many others from LA, New York and Miami flew over to cheer me. They all spent so much — that’s no joke. And the fact that many Filipinos believed we had a chance was good enough for me.