ONE of the highlights of the Panaad sa Negros Festival is the Lin-ay sang Negros (Muse of Negros).
It is one event where the Panaad Stadium is filled to the brim, with each Lin-ay candidate having a throng of supporters, usually from her own town or city.
The cheerers shout at the top of their lungs whenever their candidates come out, parading in swimsuits, sashaying in long gowns, or answering the tough questions in the Q & A.
The pageant usually starts with the introduction of each candidate, garbed in festival costume, and escorted by her mayor or an appointed official.
At this early, the race for the crown already heats up. This is also where a sense of pride of one’s origin is more noticeable: when a candidate introduces herself she looks to the general direction of her supporters and then shouts her town or city, and you can almost hear the drumroll (even if it’s not there) and the loud affirmation of her constituents. What a show of pride!
Equally interesting is the swimsuit portion, where the candidates are expected to be as poised and as confident as a beauty queen should; in this case, poise and confidence are being measured by gliding happily in high heels wearing just a one-piece or two-piece in front of a large crowd.
The long gown competition is a showcase of sheer talent and artistry of our local fashion designers. The long gown usually comes after the swimsuit competition: from previously showing a lot of skin, the ladies this time are fully clothed. Which is more considerate, since the Q & A immediately follows it. Can you imagine explaining the merits of 'Negros First' in your two-piece suit, in front of the audience, majority of whom (the supporters of your competitors) wishes you will not fare well?
Overall, the Lin-ay sang Negros is a regal pageant that can rival even the national pageants in terms of beauty and production. The pageant has produced 19 beauty queens so far.
The Lin-ay sang Negros pageant started in 1994. There was no Lin-ay pageant when Panaad Festival started in 1993, while there was no Panaad Festival in 1995, an election year.
Of the 19 Lin-ay sang Negros winners, Bacolod has the most number of queens: Jan Nicole Puentevella (2006), Christer Mari Taclobos (2007), Allysa Marie Villarico (2012) and Samyah Al-Dossary (2013).
Challenging Bacolod’s lofty spot is Hinobaan, the southernmost town of Negros, with three queens: Jerene Vinco (1998), Blanch Marie Brown (2004), and Ann Marie Malayo (2011); with two queens each are Hinigaran: Maita Enteria (1996) and Karlyn May Bautista (2008); Silay City: Leizl Belonio (2001) and Kareen Ty (2010); and Sagay City: Jennifer Legaspi (1997) and Riza Liz Catigan (2005).
With one queen each are: Himamaylan—Beatrice Lopez (1994), La Castellana—Wilva Anne Cadianza (1999), Victorias City — Ma. Victoria Durana (2000), San Enrique — Ritchie Mediavilla (2002), Murcia — Sharon Mallorca (2003), and Talisay City—Vickie Marie Milagrosa Rushton (2009).
If my memory serves me right, and if I have Googled enough, two of them won the Miss Western Visayas Tourism crown: Jan Nicole Puentevella in 2006 and Vickie Marie Milagrosa Rushton in 2009.
Rushton went on to win the 2011 Mutya ng Pilipinas-International crown.
This year, there are 22 ladies competing for the coveted Lin-ay crown, says pageant committee chair Ian de Ramos.
Catch the ladies during their Press Presentation and Skills Competition at Robinsons Place on March 29, a Saturday, at 4 p.m., and during their Festival Costume and Fashion Show, also at Robinsons Place, the next day at 5 p.m.
Who will be the new Lin-ay sang Negros? Let’s all welcome her at the Grand Coronation Night on April 4, 7 p.m. at the Panaad Stadium.