Queen Isabela 2020 is a belle

First Runner-Up Vjie O. Matias from the Municipality of San Manuel, Queen Isabela Tourism Myra Yzabelle April Rola from the Municipality of Aurora, Queen Isabela 2020 Roseann Camille Lavarez Fernandez from the Municipality of Quirino, Queen Isabela Culture and The Arts Kimberlyn Jane M. Acob from the Municipality of Cabatuan, and Second Runner-Up Mary Alexandra R. Wu from the Municipality of Quezon.

CAUAYAN CITY, Isabela—I’ve never experienced the famous Bambanti Festival in this province, and I’ve always loved the feminine name Isabela. So when my good friend Nilo Agustin, who was also incidentally the head of the festivities, invited me to immerse myself in the “festival of faith and gratitude to God who has been so good to the people of Isabela,” I jumped at the opportunity.

From January 27 to 31, the biggest producer of rice, corn and monggo celebrated the Bambanti Festival, a brainchild of now-Vice Gov. Faustino “Bojie” Dy III (a Christopher de Leon lookalike with a heartthrob son, Faustino V, Sixth District of Isabela representative). This year’s theme was “Patuloy ang Tagumpay ng Pusong Isabela.” I was also curious to soak in the vibrancy of the province that produced international beauty queens Mutya Johanna Datul (from Santa Maria), Miss Supranational 2013; and Izza Gonzales (from Ilagan), Miss Maja International second runner-up.

Isabela—a name that means “pledged to God”—is a Spanish and Italian variation to “Elizabeth” with the Hebrew origin “Elisheba.” I’m fond of it because of the great beauties Isabella Rossellini, Isabelle Huppert and Isabelle Adjani. Younger ones will relate to the fictional Isabella “Bella” Swan, played by Kristen Stewart in the Twilight saga, or to wannabe supermodel Bella Hadid.

One of the highlights of the Bambanti Festival was the beauty pageant, Queen Isabela 2020, held on January 28 at the Isabela Sports Complex in the City of Ilagan. Thirty-one young women (out of a possible 37 from all the cities and municipalities) competed for the title and the P50,000 cash prize (too small, I think, for a rich province).

QUEEN ISABELA 2020 Best Creative Attire Designer: Lui Gascon for Miss Quezon Mary Alexandra Wu with Quezon Mayor Jimmy Gamazon Jr.

An impressive touch during the finals night was when the candidates came onstage during their introduction accompanied by their respective mayors.

The pageant was directed by Ogee Atos, hostedby Miss Earth Philippines 2013 Angelee de los Reyes and actor DJ Durano, with sex symbol Marco Gumabao serenading the contenders. Queen Isabela 2019 was Maria Angelica Dominguez from the Municipality of Ramon.

Roseann Camille Lavarez Fernandez from the Municipality of Quirino won the top plum of Queen Isabela 2020, a first for her hometown. Myra Yzabelle April Rola from the Municipality of Aurora was named Queen Isabela Tourism 2020. Kimberlyn Jane M. Acob from the Municipality of Cabatuan was declared Queen Isabela Culture and the Arts.

Fernandez, 20, from Rizal, Quirino, is a public administration graduate of University of the Philippines Diliman who now works for a US-based company in Mandaluyong City. Longtime New York resident Dr. Antonio Mendoza asked her the question: What would you say to someone who says, “Beauty pageants objectify women?”

Fernandez’s winning reply: “Personally, I disagree. [A] beauty pageant is a celebration of women and femininity. The candidates here in front of you are not just beautiful; we are not proving our physical attractiveness or vital statistics. We are here because we have a purpose. We carry advocacies and we are more than what we look like. We had a lot to prove and we are all empowered women standing in front of you right now.”

Fernandez will represent Isabela at the Miss Millennial pageant aired on GMA’s Eat Bulaga, which sent cohost Ryan Agoncillo to be on the judging panel. The other judges were fashion designer Nardie Presa, jewelry designer Arnel Papa, New York engineer Danny Pagsambugan, Miss Earth’s Peachy Veneracion and Miss Universe 2016 Top 6 Maxine Medina.

The Queen Isabela pageant had a special category, called Queen Isabella II Creative Attire. The best designer award went to Lui Gascon for his creation for Miss Quezon Mary Alexandra Wu, while the best in creative attire, designed by Amor Albano, went to Miss City of Ilagan Kathleen Bellen.

Gascon also created the attire for Miss Aurora Myra Yzabelle April Rola. “Detail is everything! I am really obsessed with details to the point of sickness and affliction.” He described his creation for Miss Quezon as “ethereal,” and “mystical” for Miss  Aurora.

“It took 5,500 hours and 21 people to work on, from inception to completion, these two Queen Isabela costumes. They consumed hundreds of Swarovski crystals, rhinestones, colored stones, kilograms of glass beads, yards and yards of lace, organza, organdy and satin,” he explained in a Facebook post. “One may be the visual contrast of the other, but both are reflection of hardwork and commitment to excellence and art.”

Image credits: GEORGE BUID

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