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I’m back in the Philippines after the first visit two months ago. Back then, it was to meet health and wellness guru Cory Quirino for a networking lunch. Today, I’m invited as a guest to watch the Miss World Philippines 2011 live at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

There has been tremendous buzz in the Manila media regarding the Miss World Philippines 2011. Year in, year out, there will be beauty pageants one after another. But considering that this is the first Miss World Philippines to be crowned under the Miss World franchise in town, it’s definitely something everyone is looking forward to with much awaited breath.

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My Row A VIP seat ticket
 
To be shown on the GMA network immediately after the live recording at PICC, I was immediately awed by the sheer glamour of the stage which literally took my breath away. It was regal and opulent…befitting of a new queen who would be crowned Miss World Philippines later tonight.

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Awed by the opulence of the staging...

From the standees displayed outside the venue, one got a quick glimpse of the 24 candidates. Coming from the different provinces of Philippines, this must surely also rank as one of the most cash-rich pageant I’ve witnessed thus far. With the generosity of the sponsors, the winner tonight would walk away an instant millionaire as she would win one million pesos in cash prize, not forgetting a brand new condo unit and other fabulous prizes as well.

And when the hosts Dingdong Dantes, Carla Abellana and Isabelle Daza opened the coronation night, the crowd went wild. To be honest, I simply loved the energy of the crowd. They cheered each time the name of their favourite contestant was mentioned. They shouted, whistled and waved banners, whistles and horns enthusiastically. When the girls finally appeared, the energy level was sent rising several notches higher. In short, the noise level was deafening. But for the girls on stage who saw their supporters’ love and encouragement, it was a translation of the support and much more into a strong, invincible aura of confidence as each strutted her stuff on stage…and hopefully into the hearts and minds of the distinguished panel of judges.

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Opening dance segment

The distinguished panel of judges ran the gamut from the beauty experts to the GMA folks to leading actresses to the reigning Miss World 2010 Alexandria Mills. How much grander can the panel get? But there was only one who really caught my eye and he was ten-time world boxing champion Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao. It’s one thing to read about Manny’s victories in the papers but it’s a completely different ballgame altogether seeing him in the flesh. I simply had to take a photo with him...which I did :)

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A once in a lifetime photo with Manny Pacquiao
I particularly enjoyed the theme song! And mind you, it’s no mean feat having a Miss World Philippines theme song but the Filipinas did just that. Kudos! And I swear the same melody is still ringing in my ears as it’s infectious and easy to hum along.
 
As with all beauty pageants, there will always be three main highlights on coronation night. First up, the evening gown competition, followed by the swimwear and finally, the question and answer segment.

With this same format replayed so many times, it was little wonder each girl seemed to be well prepared as they sashayed across the huge stage and flashed their pearly whites.

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I liked it that the organisers had different designers to design and tailor-make different gowns for the girls. Just think about it – if all had to wear the same gown from one designer, how more boring can that get?

With different designers coming together to contribute different creative juices, the evening gown competition round was indeed a feast for the eyes as creativity knew no bounds. As long as the girl had the assets to carry it off well with confidence, she was already a winner that night.

As the temperature in the massive hall heated up as the girls made their turns in their swimming costumes, my eyes remained fixed on one girl. Number 13. Gwendolyn Ruais.

Seated just two rows of chairs away from the stage in the VIP box at Row A, I had an excellent view of the pageant proceedings. Judging from her body proportion and natural poise, Gwendolyn won my vote to win Best in Swimsuit. And she certainly didn’t disappoint as she claimed this subsidiary award.

If you ask me, life is always cruel and in any competition, much less a grand pageant like this one, the decision whether you stay on to compete in the next round or exit the stage is solely based on the judges. If the majority of the judges feel you deserve a chance to progress, then congratulations.

And from the original 24 girls, the semi-final round witnessed only 12 names being called. And from that same 12 names, a further wittering to the top 5 lucky girls.

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The Top 5 - one of them will be crowned Ms World Philippines...

And Gwendolyn made the cut, together with hot favourite of the night (judging from the number of wolf-whistles she received) Nicolette who looked like a split-image of the Pussycat Dolls.
 
Yes, they had flaunted their beauty and poise in the earlier rounds. But now to be considered winner material, one had to impress with sheer intellect. And this is usually the moment of truth as only one can be crowned Miss World Philippines 2011. And that moment of truth is which girl gives the best answer that strikes a chord with all seated on the judging table and in the audience.

The Filipina-French Gwendolyn nailed down the crown when she confidently answered her final question "What would you do with your P1 million cash prize if you win the title?" Her reply: "Part of it I will put into the bank for the future. Then I will throw a thanksgiving party for everyone who supported me in this experience. The rest I will use to put up my own charity foundation for Tuloy Streetchildren, the official foundation of Miss World Philippines."

Now who said Number 13 was an unlucky number? It certainly was super lucky for Gwendolyn as not only did she win the coveted crown, she also won 2 subsidiary titles – Best in Swimsuit and Miss Puerto Princesa-World in a preliminary event in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan last week.

Congratulations Gwendolyn…A whole new world awaits you as you fly to London to represent the Philippines in the 61st edition of Miss World 2011 pageant to be held on 6 Nov 2011. 

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Winners all - newly crowned Miss World Philippines 2011 Gwendolyn Ruais with the 4 princesses

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Miss World Philippines 2011 with Miss World 2010 Alexandria Mills
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I’ve learnt about the market innovativeness of this Japanese model back in my school days. I’ve also driven one of them before. And in case you are still wondering, I’m talking about Toyota.
 
And here I am tonight at Toyota Motor Asia Pacific for their very first grooming talk. Held in conjunction as part of the staff welfare programme, the talk kicked off with a Japanese bento dinner. 
 
I loved the arrangement of the tables in the room in island styles as it meant plenty of interaction space between the participants and myself. Many a times, I don’t see myself as a trainer. Instead, I see my role more as a friend who helps others become more confident of themselves in my own little, non-threatening ways. And tonight was no different.

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Setting the pace of the night with an ice-breaker activity, followed by the heavier materials packed behind, the crowd responded with their enthusiasm, laughter and smiles galore. The discussions and activities were attended to with precision and seriousness, just like the hallmarks of the car. In short, there was something for everyone. And their faith in me was rewarded as the hour spent was definitely worth their time. 
 
Weaving between the male and female aspects for grooming, there was little cause for worry as the males could learn more about female stuff and vice versa. I also spotted one couple who attended together in the audience. Learning should never be rote learning. It’s about taking useful, practical grooming tips and getting the participants to put them into practice into their everyday lives. 

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If not for my flight to catch later tonight, I would have loved to share more with this lovely crowd who despite their long day at work, bubbled with energy and enthusiasm.
 
Thank you Toyota Motor! And till we meet again, for our next grooming session :)

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