Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:05:00 11/18/2009
MANILA, Philippines — Two Binibining Pilipinas title-holders left the country early this month to embark on their mission to bring home honor to the country.
MELODY Gersbach for Miss International: Her “Barbie doll” features are expected to stand out in China, where this year’s pageant is being held.
Marie-Ann Umali left Nov. 5 for the Miss World pageant in Johannesburg, South Africa, to try to snag the country’s first victory in the London-based competition. Melody Gersbach flew Nov. 12 to continue the Philippines’ impressive record in the Miss International contest, to be held this year in Beijing, China.
The Miss World crown has proven to be the most elusive to Filipinas. Evangeline Pascual’s first runner-up finish in 1973 is the country’s best showing thus far. Actress Ruffa Gutierrez placed third 20 years later.
The 22-year-old Umali is unperturbed. “My singular goal is to bring home that crown,” declared the 5’7” native of Batangas.
The Miss International tilt, however, has been a fruitful endeavor for Filipino beauty queens. The country has four titleholders to date—Gemma Cruz (1964), Aurora Pijuan (1970), Melanie Marquez (1979) and Precious Lara Quigaman (2005).
Philippine bet Gersbach, a 23-year-old Bicolana, said her bubbly character, positive attitude and passion for helping others will help her clinch the title.
Binibining Pilipinas-Universe Bianca Manalo, one of the favorites in the Miss Universe pageant held last August in the Bahamas, has high hopes for her compatriots.
Manalo said Umali’s cheery outlook will take her far. Umali, who failed to bag a title in her first try at Binibining Pilipinas in 2006, participated again last March and won a crown, plus the Best in Evening Gown and Miss Photogenic.
Manalo also noted that Gersbach’s “Barbie doll” features will stand out in China.
Umali and Gersbach spent more than seven months preparing for their pageants, with Manalo giving them practical pointers. “Everything I learned in the Miss Universe pageant I shared with them,” she said.
Manalo said the Mexican delegates in the two pageants are the biggest threats to the bids of Umali and Gersbach.
Gersbach faces more than 60 other contestants in the Miss International competition, which will culminate on Nov. 28. Umali competes against more than 100 delegates in the Miss World pageant which will conclude on Dec. 12.