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Filipino community crowns goodwill ambassador
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BEIRUT: Members of Lebanon’s Filipino community turned out in the hundreds Sunday for the OMT Miss Philippines Lebanon 2013 beauty pageant, organized by the Filipino Cultural Guild and sponsored by OMT Western Union.

The sizable theater at UNESCO Palace in Verdun was filled with friends and supporters of the 12 contestants, dressed to the nines in high heels, sparkling tops and colorful minidresses, who waved homemade signs in support of their favorite candidate, whistling, cheering, applauding and blowing vuvuzelas at the end of each contestant’s performance.

“We work on developing Filipino talent: singing, dancing, public speaking, modeling and beauty pageants like Miss Philippines Lebanon,” explained Nimfa Alvea, chairman of the FCG.

“The purpose of this event is to gather all the Filipinos,” she said, “to celebrate the spirit of Christmas ... For Miss Philippines Lebanon 2013 we educate the candidates and we train them to [take part in] the beauty pageant, to develop their personalities and to promote cooperation, respect and especially self-esteem.”

The reigning beauty queen’s responsibilities, like those of international pageant winners such as Miss World and Miss Universe, include acting as a role model by promoting tolerance and doing good works.

“She will be the ambassador of good will,” Alvea explained, “and perform charitable works at all the activities [organized by] not only the Filipino Cultural Guild, but the Filipino community.”

The pageant takes place on the first Sunday in December each year and consists of four rounds: a display of traditional Filipino dress, an appearance in an evening gown, a three-minute talent show and a Q&A session with the judges. The results of a bikini competition, held in October, also contributed to the final decision.

The large stage was bedecked with cheerful yellow posters advertising the money transfer service sponsoring the event and festooned with a selection of colorful umbrellas, which hung from the ceiling and were artfully arranged at the sides of the stage, providing a fairy tale ambience.

Labatt Irma Valiente and Welof Imelda Gatinao of the Philippine Embassy and Melham Rechdan from OMT Western Union judged the competition, crowning Jecilyn Palangan, who lives and works in Tripoli, as the winner.

Palangan won the audience over in the talent portion of the competition with her soulful rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Hero.” Dressed in a simple green gown that swept the floor as she crossed the stage, she provided a sedate counterpoint to the dance performances given by the three runners-up, all of whom are based in Beirut.

Runner-up Jassly Aceret demonstrated an imaginative blend of hip-hop and belly dance, while Jennifer Benitez was awarded third place for her song and dance number. Dressed in tall black boots, sparkly black shorts and a crop top, her red hair piled on top of her head in a bun, she strutted her stuff to Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” Mila Palingayan, who placed fourth, performed a belly dance number to Shakira’s “Loca Loca,” shimmying her way across the stage in a pink chiffon dress with a silver sequined bust and belt.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 03, 2013, on page 2.
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