Monday, March 31, 2014

Miss World 1998: From Rape Victim to Women’s Rights Advocate

Advocacy projects that winners of high- profile international beauty pageants support & promote during their year of reign usually focuses on women’s  issues& rights, reproductive health, cancer& AIDS, education & environment.

But for Israeli beauty queen Linor Abargil who was crowned the 1998 Miss World in Seychelles, hers was totally unexpected for it involved a social taboo.

Linor unwittingly became the poster girl for rape & violence against women victims when she revealed to stunned authorities and pageant organizers that she was abducted and raped in Milan, Italy two months before being crowned Miss World in 1998

On hindsight, she realized that her participation and eventual victory in Miss World was meant to be. Aside from helping her to be distracted from the looming legal battle & the ensuing publicity, her triumph would give her more leverage in the trial against her attacker.

She said winning the 1998 Miss World crown would have meant nothing to her were it not for the platform it provided to speak out.

Unlike most victims of sexual assault, Abargil refused to keep quiet. She pressed charges, spoke out publicly and testified at a trial that sent her attacker to prison for 16 years. Her ordeal inspired other Israeli women to break their own silence and in the process, she became a national symbol who helped destigmatize rape in the country.

Now a globe-trotting victims’ advocate, Linor encourages others to stand against sexual violence by putting an end to their silence. She travels to speak with teens in South Africa, where girls are statistically more likely to be raped than educated. 

She visits U.S. college campuses where women describe a campus culture that fails to take assaults seriously. From rape crisis centers worldwide, to Hollywood’s living rooms, Linor is met with emotional support, but the advocacy work causes her own trauma to resurface.

Today, the 34-year-old mother of three's crusade against sexual violence is going global, thanks to an international speaking tour and new documentary, "Brave Miss World," in which she details her ordeal and speaks to dozens of other victims, many of whom shared their tales of terror for the first time. 

"There is something about Linor that gives credibility to rape survivors. They know that they will be believed, it helps relieve that burden of shame," said director Cecilia Peck, whose previous work includes "Shut Up and Sing," a documentary about the US country singers the Dixie Chicks.  

Peck, daughter of legendary actor Gregory Peck, said the film's name was a subtle allusion to Aldous Huxley's famous novel "Brave New World," in which the government tried to control even citizens' sex lives. 

 Abargil the model. 2008 (Photo: Anat Mossberg)
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, America's largest anti-sexual violence organization, one out of six American women has been the victim of rape or an attempted rape, with 60 percent of them unreported to police. The figures are similar in Israel and other Western nations and far higher in the developing world.

Peck said the film's website has become a focal point for victims to speak out. More than 300,000 people already have visited the site, with many writing about the abuse they experienced. Hundreds of emails arrive each day, she said.


Abargil's own story was just as horrific. She was in Milan, Italy, in October 1998 auditioning for modeling jobs when she asked Uri ShlomoNur, an Egyptian-born Israeli who ran a travel agency there, to arrange a flight back to Israel.

Nur told her there were no flights from Milan to Israel and offered to drive her to Rome where she could catch a plane. During the ride, Nur pulled the car into a thicket, stabbed her, strangled her and raped her at knifepoint. She managed to escape and call her mother.

Her attacker eventually landed in jail & is serving a 16 year prison term

Throughout the trial, Abargil refused to have her name concealed or her face or voice distorted in media coverage, insisting that there was no reason to be ashamed.

Miriam Schler, the director of the Tel Aviv rape crisis center, said Abargil gave rape a "human face" and her trial spurred a big boost in the number of women who sought help.

"She gives women legitimacy to come forward, to say 'I am not crazy, it's not my fault, if people believe her maybe someone will believe me,'" Schler said.

For victims of sexual assault, the journey toward wholeness never ends; still, Linor Abargil, the BRAVE MISS WORLD, continues her unflinching efforts to keep the nightmares at bay.
In 2010, Abargil married manager Oren Halfon

MJ Lastimosa: Our 2014 Miss Universe Philippines

I got goosebumps the moment MJ Lastimosa was declared Bb Pilipinas Universe 2014. It was the high point of her emotional rollercoaster ride for the Bb Pilipinas Universe crown

She was 2nd Runner Up in 2011, Top 15 in  2012 and finally the top crown this year. She is indeed the poster girl for determination and persistence

MJ Lastimosa during the 2011 Bb Pilipinas where she placed 2nd RU
A lot of people in the audience including fellow beauty queens like Shamcey Supsup, Bea Santiago & Mutya Datul were tearing up and getting emotional during the crowning moment for MJ because they knew how hard she worked to get the crown

Even MJ cried a river and lost whatever was left of her composure and just let go. It was a humbling victory for her. Moments before the Bb Pilipinas Universe crown was announced, the camera already caught MJ shedding a tear or two when she realized that there was only one crown left and Pia Wurztbach, the other crown favorite was right there with her. 

It was now down to MJ and Pia and MJ must have felt that it was now or never

The stars were indeed aligned that night for MJ who gave the performance of her life 

Congratulations MJ! You deserve it!

Battle of the Beauties: It's MJ over Pia
Photo Credits: Ron Titular for  Adventures of a Beauty Queen

Prior to the big announcement, she was declared Best in Swimsuit but still, she wasn't very confident and it was not an assurance that she will take home a crown that night. Remember her heartbreaking loss in 2012? 

She was Miss AVON and Miss Philippine Airlines and yet went home without a crown

During the Coronation Night, MJ did everything right and she got the most deafening cheers from the crowd most especially after giving one of the most heartfelt answers in the Q & A

Miss Universe 2013 Gabriela Isler asked her what the greatest advantage of being a woman is. MJ's answer: 
"The greatest advantage of being a woman is being able to compose herself. Just like here, we're standing in front of thousands of people, not knowing if they're going to cheer for us or boo us. 
But we try to compose ourselves. We keep the emotions and show the beauty that is in us and tonight, thousands of people are standing here, celebrating the beauty of women."
# 4 Parul Shah is Bb Tourism
# 22 Bianca Guidotti is Bb International
# 35 Yvethe Marie Santiago is Bb Supranational
#13 Kris Tiffany Janson is Bb Intercontinental

For the complete results:


Bb Universe                : # 25 MJ Lastimosa
Bb International           : # 22 Bianca Guidotti
Bb InterContinental      : # 13 Kris Tiffany Janson
Bb Supranational          : # 35 Yvethe Marie Santiago
Bb Tourism                  : # 4   Parul Shah

1st RU                           : # 11 Laura Lehmann
2nd RU                           : # 27 Hannah Ruth Singson

1st Set of Special Awards:

Best in National Costume    : # 13 Kris Tiffany Janson
Miss Talent                        : # 33 Gabe Tilokani
Miss Photogenic                 : # 13 Kris Tiffany Janson
Miss Friendship                  : # 21 Raquel Kabigting
Manila Bulletin’s Choice      : # 39 Ladylyn Riva
Bb Avon                            : # 35 Yvethe Marie Santiago

2nd Set of Special Awards:

Best in Swimsuit                : # 25 MJ Lastimosa
Best in Gown                     : # 22 Bianca Guidotti
Miss Jag Jeans                   : #   8 Pia Wurztbach
Miss Philippine Airlines       : #   8 Pia Wurztbach
Miss Creamsilk                   : # 35 Yvethe Marie Santiago

I still feel elated that I got all the Top Seven in my Final Prediction Top Ten list.

Here are the links:

Friday, March 28, 2014

My Sentimental Favorite for Bb Pilipinas 2014


At the conclusion of the 2013 Bb Pilipinas Gold Edition, I was elated that I was able to get four of the Top Five winners even if I didn’t include in my prediction their final placements. In fact, last year’s batch was a bumper harvest that I ended up with eight girls for my final prediction list

Ara's piercing eyes that got me hooked
Last year, my ultimate favorite to take it all was MutyaDatul who as we all know made history as the first Filipina and Asian to be crowned Miss Supranational.

Ariella Ara Arida was my sentimental favorite though to be crowned Bb. Pilipinas- Universe.  

Ara was under the radar for most of the pageant experts & was just a bubble in most pageant websites’ lists but I found something special in her which I can’t really explain.

But I guess she won the top tiara because of her smoldering & piercing eyes, her type of beauty that is favored by most middle- aged men (majority of them were in last year’s judging panel) and of course, she had one of the best responses during the Q & A

This year, my focus has been consistently on Yvethe Santiago, Parul Shah, Bianca Guidotti, Hannah Rose Singson, PiaWurztbach, Diana Arevalo, MJ Lastimosa, Kym Suiza and Nichole Marie Manalo especially that I have been following & monitoring the Bb Pilipinas Pageant right after the names of the 40 Official Candidates had been disclosed to the public

Binibini # 11 Laura Victoria Lehmann
My sentimental favorite this year however is Binibini # 11 Laura Victoria Lehmann. Laura was not among my early bets nor did she catch my attention during the initial stages of the competition but all that changed when I watched the Bb Pilipinas Primer last Sunday

So strong was her impact on me that I still remember her even if she was the third or fourth girl among the 40 to be featured in their brief video sketches


So why do I love her?

First, she has impressive scholastic & extra- curricular credentialsthat means she is a disciplined achiever. Laura is a product of the International School Manila (ISM) before she flew to the United States to avail of an academic scholarship grant at Occidental College, Obama's alma mater. 

She was pursuing three majors--Psychology, Neuro Science and Spanish Studies before she was lured in joining the pageant. She was the president of her student council.

Laura is also highly skilled in sports. She is a Philippine Softball Team Member and has competed during the Little League World Series of Softball in the US and in Europe during her younger years.
that's Laura Lehmann (2nd from left) 
during her Philippine Softball Team days
Secondly, Laura’s beautyreminds me of Cindy Nell, Miss South Africa who placed as 2003 Miss Universe 2nd RU. 

Exactly the kind of beauty that is not polarizing and if she wins, will not result in an avalanche of protests. She simply exudes this freshness, youthful vitality and ingénue appeal. 

2003 Miss Universe 2nd RU: 
Captivating Cindy Nell of South Africa
Third, she was one of the very few girls who spoke in straight English during the Bb. Pilipinas 2014 Primer: The Road to the Crown. She wowed me and most of those who watched because she effortlessly spoke with conviction and confidence. 

Now that third quality has to draw me in being a university professor who teaches spoken & written English. 

Of course, she faces stiff competition from many deserving girls. Her fluency in English might be a double- edged sword for her. Judges might mistakenly think that she is arrogant, too opinionated and close- minded. Another possible stumbling block would be her nubile and skinny frame.

Would her being mestiza work against her? Possibly if she is eyeing the top plum


Whether or not Laura Victoria Lehmann would snatch a crown from the perceived frontrunners this Sunday would no longer be a big deal for this blogger for she truly has me under her spell right now but I would be utterly disappointed if she would not survive the first cut

Aside from the criteria set by the organizing committee, there are certain unseen factors, conspiracy theories & behind the scenes scenarios in the pageant world that have to be consideredwhen we make our predictions and forecasts for the 2014 Bb Pilipinas Pageant

Finally, let’s remember that the girls who will be crowned as this year’s Bb Pilipinas queens will not necessarily be the prettiest not the smartest.

Luck, Timing and Destiny will always play definitive roles for those whose stars will shine the brightest

Good luck Laura Victoria and to the rest of the girls who will be slugging it out this Sunday!

Photo Credits: Copyright infringement not intended

Bb Pilipinas Charities

Thursday, March 27, 2014

2014 Bb. Pilipinas Fearless Forecast: My Top Ten Choices

The 2013 Bb Pilipinas Gold Edition Queens 
In coming up with my Top Ten list, I based my list primarily on physical attractiveness & beauty that is globally appealing. 

This is after all, a beauty contest. I also took into consideration Madame Stella’s penchant for ladies with impressive scholastic credentials. Pedigree & family background were also factored in, a likeable & charming personality, above par oral communication skills and telegenic & photogenic features.

How the girls registered and performed during last Sunday’s Bb Pilipinas Primer shown at ABS CBN Channel 2 also helped seal the deal for me

I also considered how their types of beauty would appeal to a predominantly male judging panel

Finally, I also relied on my gut feel. Last year, I correctly picked four of the five 2013 Bb Pilipinas Gold Edition Winners.

With that being said, for my fearless forecast, I dare say that the five brand- new Bb Pilipinas queens and runners up would come from these ten delectable damsels.

And here now are my Top Ten Choices:

# 4ParulShah, 25 years old, Pangasinan

Half-Indian and half-Filipino Parul Shahis a Registered Nurse. This is her second time to join Binibining Pilipinas, and she believes that this year, people will see a stronger and better Parul. “You know what they say, when it’s a comeback, it’s more exciting. I really prepared for this; I worked on my weaknesses. I got this second change, and I am going to work harder,” she says. 

 # 8 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, 24 years old, Cagayan de Oro

Former ABS-CBN Star Magic artist Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach took up Culinary Studies at Café Ysabel and worked in England for several months before coming back to Manila. 

Pia was last year’s 1st Runner Up but she gave up the title so that she could take another shot at one of the five Binibini9 crowns at stake

 # 11Laura Victoria Lehmann, 20 years old, Makati

Laura was a student of the International School Manila (ISM) before she became an Academic Scholar at Occidental College, Obama's alma mater. She was pursuing three majors--Psychology, Neuro Science and Spanish Studies before joining the pageant. She was the president of her student council. She sacrificed a year of schooling to join the Binibining Pilipinas, but she considers the pageant as a learning experience that will teach her life lessons of discipline and confidence. 

A combination of beauty, brains and brawn, Laura is also highly skilled in sports. She is part of the Philippine Team of Softball and dabbles in touch rugby and has competed during the Little League World Series of Softball in the US and in Europe during her younger years. Throughout all these physical activities, she endured broken arms and legs and 125 stitches in her body.

Laura reminds me of Cindy Nell, Miss South Africa who placed as 2003 Miss Universe 2nd RU

# 13 Kris Tiffany M. Janson, 24 years old, Cebu City

The lovely Cebuana is a Finance Analyst at a packaging company in Manila. Despite her serious job role, she is very fun-loving, free-spirited and adventurous. On her free time, she likes skim boarding, island hopping, travelling and trying out different cuisine.

Her main inspiration for joining the Bb Pilipinas Pageant is her father, who died due to a heart attack. Her father wanted to see her join a prestigious beauty pageant. Despite being away from her family and being away from her comfort zone, she strives to do her best in the competition.

One of her best memories was a trip she took with her family before her father passed away, and in the future, she dreams of travelling at least half of the world.

# 17   Diana B. Arevalo, 25 years old,  Calapan, Oriental Mindoro

Diana Arevalo was a former welcome ambassador in a major hotel in Macau. A survivor and a hard worker, Diana is proud of having established herself in another country, and has gained more respect for struggles of Filipino workers abroad. 

This is Diana’s third and final attempt in Bb Pilipinas. The first time was in 2009 where she finished as semifinalist. Her second try was back in 2011 where she duplicated her semifinalist finish in 2009

# 22Mary Anne Bianca G. Guidotti, 24 years old, Taguig

Statuesque at 5’10”, Mary Anne Bianca Guidotti or Mariannegraduated with a degree in European Studies major in International Relations from the Ateneo de Manila University. She currently works as a Technical Assistant of the Executive Director at the Community and Family Services International. 

Marianne is a pageant newbie who was encouraged by friends and family to try her luck in BinibiningPilipinas. “I’ve had a lot of people telling me to join because of my height. I’ve thought about it many times, but I kept on putting it off first. But I realized that I’d be bettering myself not just in the pageant, but life in general. I realized I want this, I want to win one of the crowns,” she says. 

She is trilingual; she fluently speaks Portuguese, English, and Filipino. She loves learning about different foreign cultures. She is also a humanitarian, and a cat lover.

# 25 Mary Jean Lastimosa, 26 years old,  NorthCotabato

Mary Jean Lastimosa is an entrepreneur. A personal advocate of staying fit, she successfully established her own slimming center in Davao.

Growing up in a war-torn province, she developed values of determination and courageousness, and this is something she brought to her personal life, her career and her journey to the BinibiningPilipinas crown. 

BinibiningPilipinas’ MaricarBalagtas is her inspiration for joining the pageant again, because she joined three times before winning. Whenever she feels down, she looks up at her and thinks that if she was able to do it and so can she.

On her free time, she loves working out at the gym, travelling, modeling, dancing, and surfing social media websites.

# 27 Hannah Ruth Sison, 25 years old, Makati City

Hannah Ruth Sison is a part time multimedia arts teacher at De LaSalle College of St. Benilde, freelance multimedia artist and model. 

Hannah is inclined to the arts and is into singing, music, arts and fashion. On her second time to join the pageant, Hannah is more determined than ever to take home the crown. 

She wants to become a motivational speaker in the future and share how she became successful.

# 30 Joy Marie Gangan, 19 years old ,Isabela

Joy Marie Gangan is among the youngest participants in the pageant. With her eyes set on the BinibinibingPilipinas crown, she took a break from her studies and focused on the competition. 

Among the proudest moments in her life was when she won Best Model of the World in Istanbul, Turkey last year.  

#35 Yvette Marie A. Santiago, 20 years old, Daraga, Albay

Yvette Marie Santiago is a Certified Public Accountant. Prior to becoming Binibini number 35, she represented the Philippines in the World Miss University in Korea when she was 17 years old.  She was selected as Best in National Costume

Bubbling under:

# 14 Emma Mary F. Tiglao
# 15 Kimverlyn O. Suiza
# 18 Ellore Noelle Punzalan
# 23 Nichole Marie Manalo
# 28 Carla Jenina Lizardo


The Grand Coronation Night on March 30 is expected to host a wide array of past beauty queens who have brought immense pride to the country. This hotly-anticipated pageant will be hosted by Anne Curtis, Xian Lim, Venus Raj, and ShamceySupsup, and aired live on ABS-CBN.


Reigning Miss Universe 2013 Maria Gabriela Isler & Emin 
MUO Pres. Paula Shugart & Ara Arida during last year's Miss U Pageant
Miss Universe 2013 Maria Gabriela Isler of Venezuela, Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart and Russian pop star Emin will be three of the special guests in the BinibiningPilipinas 2014 Grand Coronation Night.

Gabriela will be one of the judges during the pageant and will help crown this year’s winners, while Emin will lead the list of the hotly-anticipated performers in the 51st edition of the most prestigious beauty contest in the country.

Tickets are available through Ticketnet Online or inquire at (02) 911 5555.


The BinibiningPilipinas 2014 pageant is presented by the Araneta Center, ABS-CBN, Cream Silk, PLDT Home, JAG Jeans, AVON, PAGCOR, Titan Watches—the official watch sponsor, PAGCOR, Manhattan Garden City, Pizza Hut, Lactacyd White Intimate, Philippine Airlines, Sofitel—the official residence, Manila Bulletin—the official print partner, David’s Salon, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Gold’s Gym, J.A.C. Motors, Picture City, Dale Carnegie Training Center, Entrepreneur School of Asia, Charter Ping An Insurance Corporation, and Raymond Saldaña Photography

Photo Credits & Information sources: Bb Pilipinas website & Rappler

Extra Special Blog Feature

Part 1: The Tragic Story of Amparo Munoz

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