Let’s cut to the chase. The four-hour show was not a winner. At all.
The Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) 2023 Finals took four long hours to get to the crowning moment. It was a big comedown from last year’s colorful, engaging, and energetic show that had several killer moments, from the eye-catching stage visuals and the jaw-dropping gorgeous gowns of the three hosts (Misses Universe Pia Wurtzbach, Iris Mittenaere, and Demi-Leigh Tebow) to the rousing production numbers (Morisette’s soaring women empowernent song) and the satisfactory, unquestionable results.
Not that there was a lack of good ideas. Opening the show with a bevy of male dancers and models was novel but the staging of the entire production number covering the candidate introductions was a monotonous, monochromatic black (stage) on black (LED wall) on black (outfits) wash despite some arresting gliding camera movement.
Then there was Jessica Sanchez’s second song, another women empowerment anthem, that was punctuated by live onstage speeches from MUP leading lady Shamcey Supsup, Jury chair Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez of Tingog Partylist, and reigning Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel and concluded by all 38 candidates joining the four women onstage.
All these hiccups were a disservice to the main stars of the show, the candidates who performed very well through all stages of the competition over the last four weeks.
It was this year’s version of last year’s Morisette number and it sounded more good on paper than it actually did in execution with its stop-start flow (it looked like the number had ended when the music stopped and Jessica exited the stage as Shamcey was walking in, only to be repeated two more times for the other speakers) and unadorned, dry presentation.
It was particularly head-scratching why there were no backup dancers especially during Jessica’s first song, an upbeat hiphop/R&B track, considering that they were in full use during the Evening Gown competition where they only cluttered the stage and unecessarily took some of the attention from the candidates.
The pageant was indeed memorable for these creative missteps. But even more notable were the “technical issues” within the first hour alone. There was the Steve Harvey moment that saw Miss Agusan del Norte announced as Miss Friendship, only to be corrected immediately (kudos to the production team). Fortunately for her, she was the recipient of the second special award, Miss Social Media, so it wasn’t a totally Miss Colombia moment for her.
This mistake, however, was very minor, almost negligible compared to the major, major development that came after the announcement of the Top 10 semifinalists. The lineup contained some big surprises as a couple of crowd favorites failed to advance to the next round despite stellar swimsuit performances. The unusually long break that followed seemed to indicate something was up and indeed there was.
Host Xian Lim revealed that there was a technical glitch in the tabulation of Swimsuit scores and announced that all 18 semifinalists would participate in the Evening Gown competition, thus eliminating the first finals elimination. While this was a welcome move that kept everyone in contention for the crown for another round, the lack of further explanation left this big question hanging: why announce the Top 10 in the first place if there was a technical issue in the tabulation? No explanation has been given.
Miss Makati Michelle Dee was considered one of the top contenders from the get-go, but Miss Bohol Pauline Amelincx had more support from pageant experts, fans, and casual followers going into the finals.
All these hiccups were a disservice to the main stars of the show, the candidates who performed very well through all stages of the competition including the pre-finals challenges and mini-contests over the last four weeks. The Top 18, in particular, injected much needed energy to the show during the Swimsuit competition. It helped, too, that they donned nice fitting two-piece swim wear in eye candy aqua blue that registered very nicely against the dark stage.
But perhaps the MUP 2023 will be most remembered for the final result that surprised many, and not pleasantly. Although the winner, Miss Makati Michelle Dee, was considered one of the top contenders from the get-go, Miss Bohol Pauline Amelincx, had more support from pageant experts, fans, and casual followers going into the finals due to her never-say-die spirit (this is her third consecutive go at the crown) charm, and relatability.
That support was evident in the loud cheers she got throughout the show as she performed just as solidly as Dee. It was an unexpected loss that rankled especially because it came at the end of a mostly listless four-hour-long show.