FIVE out of the fifteen intelligent, talented and beautiful Dabawenyas were finally chosen as finalists of this year's search for the Mutya ng Dabaw during the semi-finals round at the SM City of Davao on March 6.

I was one of the seven judges during a closed door, no-holds barred interview in Royal Mandaya Hotel. The tough questions we threw the 15 young ladies did not faze them one bit, as they convinced us of each personal advocacy for changes in the community. Three of them graduated magna cum laude.

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My co-judges were lawyer Marvin Melodias, Dr. Rick Audan, lawyer Neil Cariaga, Dr. Zeny Ortega, Mrs. Brenda Barba, and Ms. Irene Aquino. All of us were very impressed with this year’s batch.

The top five were chosen at around 5 p.m. at SM Event Center, as they competed for the casual, corporate wear and evening gown. On the same event, Kristine Angiela Bulan, a 21-year-old registered nurse, received the Best in Talent award after performing against the 15 semi-finalists last March 4, 2010 at the Gaisano Mall of Davao.

The lucky five are Samantha de Leon, a 22-year-old customer service representative; Esperanza Odulio, an 18-year-old second year International Studies student; Cherry Mae Manning, a 21-year-old registered nurse and former airline cabin crew; Johanna Monica Yu, a 22-year-old industrial engineer working as the only female in her division; and Janelle Tee, a 19-year-old third year B.A. Mass Communication student.

The ladies presented their respective community projects last March 9 at the SM City Davao. The 2010 Mutya Ng Dabaw Coronation Night is set on March 15, starting at 7 p.m., at the CAP Auditorium.

If you want to vote for your 2010 Mutya ng Dabaw Surfers' Choice Award, simply pick your chosen candidate at www.mutyangdabaw.com. For more information about the festival, log on to www.arawngdabaw.com and www.davaotourism.com.

On Mutya ng Dabaw details, contact the Community Relations Program Team, Room 27 of the City Mayor’s Office, City Hall, Davao City or call 227.9729 (look for Oca Casaysay).

On a personal note, whoever wins among the girls will make Davao mighty proud. Like I said, this year's batch is an impressive group of brainy, beautiful young women. I now share my photos of them as we did a fun portrait pictorial in our studio (Rhonson Ng Portrait Studio) at Metro Lifestyle Complex.

Each candidate brought their makeup artist and hair stylist. Glittering accessories were provided for by good friend and writer, Jinggoy Salvador, who generously lent his Argento del Salvador blings.

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Write to jojiealcantara@gmail.com or visit her website www.witerary.com.