GABRIELE Raine Baljak won the coveted Miss Cebu 2016 crown last night in the Pacific Grand Ballroom of the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino, 30 years after her mother, too, became a beauty titlist.
Out of the 12 candidates vying for the Miss Cebu crown, Baljak, an 18-year-old disc jockey who attended the Cebu International School, was among the standouts. She exuded confidence.
During the final question and answer portion, the top five finalists were asked, “If you could talk to the reigning Miss Colombia to convince her to visit Cebu, what would you tell her?”
Baljak answered: “As a proud Cebuana, I would tell her to visit Cebu because it is where the heart sings. And with that, Cebuanos have a genuine passion and we love to share. Miss Colombia is gorgeous and confident, but during that night, she might have given a little too much confidence and sometimes that gives another meaning. I believe we can show her how to enjoy the little things. Because Cebuanos are happy no matter what, and that’s what makes Cebu where the heart sings.”
Over three weeks ago, Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez was mistakenly crowned Miss Universe 2015, after pageant host Steve Harvey read the results wrong. The rightful winner is Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach from the Philippines.
Last night, the judges picked Baljak, who also won the special awards Miss ABS-CBN TV Plus, Kapamilya Star of the Night, and Best in Evening Gown. The other winners were Tracy Maureen Perez, first runner-up; Shaila Mae Rebortora, second runner-up; Merl Gayo, third runner-up; and Felina Joyce Lim, fourth runner-up.
Lim won two special awards: Miss Friendship, courtesy of Waterfront Hotel and Casino, and Miss Photogenic, courtesy of NGenius.
The finalists opened the pageant wearing hablon-inspired resort wear. Hinablon, the finished product of the weaving process called hablon, is a woven fabric native in Argao. The fabrics were acquired through the Hablon Extension Program of the Cebu Technogical University Argao Campus, and the creative resort wear outfits were made by various Cebuano fashion designers.
On the panel of judges were actor and TV and events director Rowell Santiago; president and chief operating officer of Robinsons Land Corp. Frederick D. Go; fashion photographer and top model Joanne Bitangcol; stage designer and author Gino Gonzales; and fashion legend Christian Espiritu, who chaired the board.
For Baljak, winning Miss Cebu 2016 means that she represents her island not only to the Philippines but the rest of the world. “I believe that I am a role model who will truly inspire the youth and carry on our history and heritage in whatever future developments we will have. And I guess I am beautiful with a brain!” she quipped.
It’s not the first crown in the family. In 1986, Baljak’s mother, Merce Abellana, was crowned Miss Tourism. The mother-and-daughter pair has appeared in an advertising campaign together.
Miss Cebu is an annual beauty-and-brains pageant organized by the City Government of Cebu through the Cebu City Tourism Commission and is one of the highlights during the Sinulog Festival. It aims to showcase not only the beauty of a Cebuana but also her many brilliant qualities, including confidence and compassion.