Our pre-pageant review continues with the delegates of Group 2:
Angola – Ermelinda De Matos
The land that brought us Leila Lopes finally makes its Miss Earth debut and is, in fact, one of two newcomers this year. Although she only won a Silver medal for National Costume, Ermelinda continues to make a favorable impression with her strong stage presence and trimmed figure. But with the candidates from Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Nigeria slowly gaining ground, her status as the African-most-likely is anything but secure.
Belarus – Polli Cannabis
She already visited the Philippines last year as her country’s first ever Miss Asia Pacific International representative. Now, she’s back under similar circumstances, this time as her country’s first ever Miss Earth delegate. She isn’t expected to go far, though she did gain public sympathy when news of her cellphone being stolen broke out. Her eco-video, which perfectly encapsulates the culture and scenery of her country, is also one of the best of the batch.
Belgium – Lauralyn Vermeersch
She’s stronger than most of the other Belgians sent to this pageant, and had she competed in 2001, she could have given Catharina Svensson (the first Miss Earth titleholder) a run for her money. But now that the pageant has significantly stepped up in terms of contestant quality, this delegate is a dark horse contender, at best. Her highlights: Having one of the best eco videos and one of the worst national costumes (Belgian fries, really?).
Belize – Iris Salguero
In select angles, she comes across as a petite version of Miss Universe 2003 Amelia Vega. She was a non-finalist in Miss World 2016. The same is expected to happen here.
Cameroon – Verucha Kossinda
Not much was expected from her before her arrival, other than being her country’s first Miss Earth representative since 2010. That immediately changed after her impressive performance in her group’s swimsuit round. She also earned Bronze medals for her National Costume (Africa) and her compelling eco video.
Canada – Jacqueline Marsh
If this were the 90s, this half-Filipina could pass as an early member of ABS-CBN‘s Star Circle. She’s attractive enough, but her only highlight was winning a Silver Medal for her spectacular maple-themed national costume. It’s been 10 years since Jessica Trisko earned Canada’s first and only Miss Earth crown (and placement); looks like she’ll bear that distinction for another year.
Chile – Sofia Manzur
Her country placed in 2013 and 2015. Much as she delivered a fiery performance in evening gown, it looks like the odd-numbered trend will abruptly end this year.
Chinese Taipei – Amelie Zhao
She’s a long shot, but she did manage to show sparkle in crucial moments. She earned a Bronze Medal in her group’s Talent Competition.
Colombia – Juliana Franco
Her country achieved its first elemental finish last year, so it’s only logical that she’d come in as a favorite. However, she didn’t earn medals in categories where she was expected to excel, namely Swimsuit and Resorts Wear. Her prospects remain bright (she won a sponsor award and placed second in the Online Miss Photogenic poll), but she now faces fierce competition from other Latinas, like…
Costa Rica – Fernanda Rodriguez
She became a crowd favorite after she displayed her killer abs in her group’s swimsuit match. The extra attention might have contributed to her second place evening gown finish. Not much of her was heard of since then, but she’s still a Latina to watch.
Dominican Republic – Ingrid Franco
She almost made the Top 20 of Miss Supranational 2015 (she reportedly ranked 26th). Now, fans are expecting her to both improve on that showing and to end her country’s decade-long placement drought in this pageant. It’s still possible, but again, she will have to claw her way through other strong Latinas. She earned a Bronze Medal for National Costume (Central/North America).
England – Charlotte Brooke
Prior to the pageant, this bubbly redhead was expected to at least top the UK contingent. Now, she’s being overpowered by her Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts.
France – Melissa Strugen
Her father is German, which explains her surname, and her mother is from Guadeloupe, which explains her sharp, exotic features. Many would find her latter trait an acquired taste, and her aloof personality seems more befitting of a fashion model than a pageant contestant.
Hungary – Viktoria Viczian
She was among the first few delegates to arrive in Manila and was initially pegged as the Eastern European to beat. She’s still projecting strongly, but her position might be usurped by the likes of Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. Her lack of medals suggests as much.
Japan – Yasumi Saito
She was the Miss Friendship winner of her group. Outside of that circle, though, there isn’t much buzz surrounding this candidate. She’s one of the underrated stunners this year and she also earned a bronze medal for National Costume (Asia).
Kyrgyzstan – Begimai Nazarova
Another underrated beauty, she’s the sole Central Asian delegate this year and she conducts herself with quiet confidence and sophisticated charm. She has no medals; her stunning national costume should have at least earned her one.
Lebanon – Elsa Antoun
She’s pretty and eloquent, but more attention is directed towards her two other Middle Eastern counterparts. She at least won a Silver medal for Talent.
Mauritius – Yanishta Gopaul
Not much is said about this island girl of Indian descent, though she is a solid performer. Also bear in mind that this country has surprised us twice within the last five years.
Moldova – Veronica Buzovoi
Her predecessor won the Eco Video award last year, and while her submission was up to par, it didn’t enjoy the same lofty reception. She’s another overlooked Eastern European stunner.
Myanmar – Tin Sandar Myo
Prior to the pageant, fans anticipated her to finally bring forth the Burmese breakthrough. However, her prospects dimmed a bit as the events started to unfold and she’s now being overshadowed by her Thai and Vietnamese neighbors. She’d still be a worthy pick, granted they save room for one more ASEAN girl.
Nepal – Rojina Shrestha
Her face is gorgeous, like a cross between PBA court side reporter Erika Padilla and the late Rio Diaz. She also has one of the most voluptuous figures in the bunch, which of course, is no longer deemed detrimental to a candidate in this day and age. It all boils down to whether or not she stands out in the judges’ eyes.
Nigeria –Eucharia Akani
Her African country secured its first ever Miss Earth placement 10 years ago, and while she’s still leagues behind Agbani and Chinenye, she showed impressive form in both swimsuit and evening gown. The additional ace up her sleeve is the Bronze medal she won for the latter.
Pakistan – Ramina Ashfaque
She lives in Florida, which explains her twang. She’s also very striking, like a cross-dimensional Aishwarya Rai who emigrated to the U.S. in her teens instead of joining Miss World. Had she been old enough to join the pageant in its early, less competitive years, she’d be an elemental shoo-in. But this is 2017. Her best prospects now would be an upset placement.
Peru – Karen Rojas
Her compatriot won Miss Grand International last week, and she’ll likely bring additional honor to her country. While not the most facially stunning Latina in the bunch, she has more energy than all candidates from that region combined. Her vivacious catwalk accounts for her Gold and Silver medals in Evening Gown and Swimsuit, respectively. She’ll likely sashay into the Top 16.
Philippines – Karen Ibasco
At this point, nothing’s stopping this Marina Benipayo clone from vindicating last year’s non-placement. She currently tops the medal tally with three Golds and two Silvers. She topped her group’s Swimsuit challenge, her continent’s National Costume competition, and the overall Darling of the Press citation. She also placed second in Evening Gown and Resorts Wear. She conducts herself like she’s already the titleholder, but totally not in a cocky and assuming manner. That’s just how professional and diligent she is. And whether or not you’re into her unconventional beauty, her confidence, determination, and grace cannot be discounted.
Russia – Lada Akimova
She might as well be crowned “Miss Earth-Echague”, because she topped both challenge events held in that Isabela municipality. Apart from that, she also earned a Bronze medal in the swimsuit competition held in Versailles, Alabang and a Gold medal for National Costume (Eastern Europe). This bodes well for this curly-haired ingenue. Now can her overall performance substantiate those awards?
Samoa – Olivia Howman
Her South Pacific “sisters” from Tonga and Cook Islands were both show-stealers at some point. This girl just faded into the background.
Slovenia – Sara Gavranic
She did everything right, though her facial features may be deemed too strong for certain tastes. She’s also the only candidate from a former Yugoslav nation to earn a medal – she won Bronze for National Costume (Eastern Europe).
Spain – Ainara de Santamaria
This girl could pass as reigning Miss World titleholder, Stephanie del Valle‘s sister, but with stronger facial features. Her confidence and competitive fire are undeniable. But in a competitive year such as this, the judges would likely favor other conventionally pretty Latinas. It’s great to see her bringing her A-game nonetheless. And extra props for her diplomacy in answering her pressing interview question about Catalonia.