The 2018 batch of Binibinis is said to be the brainiest by far, from left: Michele Gumabao, 25, 5’9”, Bb. Pilipinas Globe, from Quezon City; Eva Patalinjug, 25, 5’7”, Bb. Pilipinas Grand International, Cebu City; Ma. Ahtisa Manalo, 20, 5’8”, Bb. Pilipinas International, Quezon Province; Catriona Gray, 25, 5’10”, Miss Universe Philippines, Albay; Jehza Huelar, 23, 5’8”, Bb. Pilipinas Supranational, Davao City; and Karen Gallman, 25, 5’5”, Bb. Pilipinas Intercontinental, Bohol. — Photo by Ver Paulino

More than skin deep
CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - March 25, 2018 - 12:00am

The opening question was: Do you have a boyfriend?

The girls gave honest answers:

Michele (volleyball player, daughter of actor/Ex-Q.C. Rep. Dennis Roldan, sister of actor Marco Gumabao): Yes. His name is Aldo Panlilio (assistant coach of Phoenix), boyfriend of two years.

Eva (niece of director-producer Carlo J. Caparas and his late wife Donna Villa whose real name was Marian Patalinjug): Yes, he’s Francis Lim, also from Cebu. We’ve been dating for a long time. Late last year, he proposed and I said, “Yes!” But with my Bb. title, he has to wait until my one-year reign is over.

Ahtisa (an accountant): None. No boyfriend since birth (NBSB).

Catriona (fashion and commercial model, singer-songwriter, spent years in Australia where her father hails from): Yes. He’s Clint Bondad (a Century Superbod runner-up and a Viva contract artist).

Jehza (B.S. Finance graduate): Yes. He’s PJ (Peter June) Simon, a PBA player.

Karen (also spent time in Australia): Yes. His name is Ian Garton, from Australia.

Staged at the Big Dome Sunday (March 18) last week, the 2018 Bb. Pilipinas pageant started with 40 hopefuls, with the number winnowed down to 25 and then to the Top 15 finalists who beautifully (read: sensibly and substantially) acquitted themselves in the Q&A that covered issues ranging from fake news to rebuilding Marawi. They proved that beauty is more than skin deep.

On stage, the girls showed grace under pressure. Let’s see how they fare in this Conversation off stage, conducted at the 24th-floor lounge of Novotel (at Araneta Center in Quezon City) on Tuesday, two days after the pageant.

Catriona: I would love to do a badass role, a girl who comes from nowhere and kicks ass. I can use my Black Belt Taekwondo for that.

If you ventured into showbiz, what role would you like to do and who would you pick as leading man?

Michele: Actually, I’ve been hosting for the past year and I’ve tried acting. I’d love to do a kontrabida role with Xian Lim who is tall. Most of my showbiz friends are shorter than me.

Eva: My Uncle Carlo always included me in his movies. If ever, I’d choose Coco Martin as my leading man. He’s a good actor.

Ma. Ahtisa: A spy role, something like Charlie’s Angels, I want to be a police officer so maybe I can incorporate that into the role. My leading man? Jericho Rosales.

Catriona: A badass role, a girl who comes out of nowhere and who kicks ass. I have a Black Belt in Taekwondo and I could make use of it. I would have to agree with Michele…yes, with Xian Lim. Height is a big factor because I’m 5’10”.

Jehza: Something na chill lang, like the roles played by Cara Delevingne…with Ian Veneracion, I’m super in love with him, hahaha!!! Hindi nakakasawang tingnan ang kaguwapuhan niya.

Karen: I love action movies, like Tomb Raider; and also, drama, like Thalia in Marimar and Rosalinda which I watched when I was growing up in Bohol. Leading man? Dingdong Dantes!!! (Karen did an indie called Bad Romance. As a kid, she joined Eat, Bulaga! Little Miss Philippines search.)


Ma. Ahtisa: I want to play a spy, like Charlie’s Angels. I want to be a police officer and that would be fine. My choice as leading man? Jericho Rosales

Sexual harassment is very much in the news. What would you advise women so that they could avoid or stop being victimized?

Michele: It’s important that they are aware of the people around them and what their boundaries are. They just have to be strong and know where they stand. Don’t be scared to voice out how you feel because there are always people who will help you. I have attended self-defense classes but I don’t think it would be of much help when you are in that situation, so…you just have to run fast!

Eva: My advocacy has something to do with anti-harassment and sexual exploitation. A lot of children are victimized right at their homes. So everybody…not only women and children but also men…has to be vigilant because it can happen to you anytime. Education is really very important and, like what Michele said, awareness.

Ma. Ahtisa: I don’t think it’s the women’s fault that they are being harassed. We should teach boys and men that we should have respect for everyone, especially women. It’s sad that women, and even boys, are victims of harassment.

Catriona: I think we should divert the conversation to what women can do to avoid being in such a situation, to stop people from committing the actual crime. There are people who say that women shouldn’t go out at night or shouldn’t wear this kind of clothes, but it shouldn’t be us women trying to avoid it, it just shouldn’t happen. It’s the victim mindset and I don’t believe in that. Education should start early on, especially in schools. In Nigeria, they put up a “no means no” program where they teach self-defense to girls and that can give you the confidence that you are strong enough. They also teach the girls how to tell boys how to respect relationships and to ask permission from the girls…that no means no and empowering the boys to make the right choice which is not to commit harassment.

Jehza: The education should start at home. I grew up with solid family values. I have five brothers so, more or less, I know and I understand how men think. Friends tell me that how you project yourself is how people see you. Dapat if you have respect in yourself, people will also respect you. It’s true not only among women but also men and transgender…everybody! We should focus not just on one gender but all genders.

Karen: The girls have said it all. You have to be really aware; education is very important. You have to know how to stand up, it’s a courageous thing to do, and if you don’t, there could be consequences. You set a standard not only for yourself but also for everyone around you. Men should also realize that cases of harassment shouldn’t be tolerated.

Michele: I’ve been hosting and I’ve tried acting. I would love to do kontrabida roles, preferably with Xian Lim who is tall; most of my showbiz friends are shorter than me.

In beauty contests, candidates always talk about gender equality. If you were a man, what kind would you be and who would be your role model?

Michele: I would be like my dad. He’s a good provider, a good person; he’s very good with people. He taught me how to fight in life, to always win and to always give my best. My mom (former Pitoy Moreno model Lollie Imperial) is a great balance but my dad was my inspiration as I grew up. He treated the family very well; he love(s) my mom. I saw true love in them. My parents brought us up the right way.

Eva: My dad (businessman and Lapu-Lapu City Councilor Eduardo Patalinjug). He was my first love. I always go to him for advice.

Ma. Ahtisa: I don’t have someone in mind but if I were a man, I would be caring, independent and true.

Catriona: I am an only child and my dad (Ian Gray, an Australian) was the only man that I really got to know. I’ve learned from my dad so many things. If I were a man, I would be a provider who always looks after his family; I would be sensitive like my dad who is tough on the outside but with me and my mom, he’s like a Teddy Bear.     

Jehza: My dad is an OFW, a seaman, and I would be like him. He has a compassionate heart. He taught us how to have faith, and if you have faith you will be contented with what you have. As a whole, you are happy with small things.

Karen: I’m getting emotional. My dad (Gavin Gallman, an Australian) passed away two years ago. I love him to bits. He instilled in me the self-awareness that nothing is ever handed to you for free, that you have to work hard for it. I also look up to scientist Elon Musk. And, yes, (Australian actor) Hugh Jackman. He’s handsome, super talented and an amazing father.

Eva: Carlo Caparas is my uncle and he always included me in his films. The real name of his late wife, Tita Donna Villa, was actually Marian Patalinjug. For leading man, I’d pick Coco Martin.

You are all ambassadresses of beauty. Given a position in government, what would you choose and why?

Michele: I would love to be the President of the Philippines. I’ve always been competitive; I’m used to being a leader. In the family, I am the breadwinner. If I had to shoot for a position, it might as well be the highest position.

Eva (a registered nurse and second year Law student): I would be a councilor of Lapu-Lapu City like my dad, then Lapu-Lapu’s congresswoman. From there, maybe I would be the President of the Philippines after that. (“After me,” joked Michele.)

Ma. Ahtisa: I would be part of the Philippine National Police (PNP)…or the head of PNP, why not? Since I was a kid, my dream is to be a policewoman. In fact, I have applied for the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA).

Catriona: Honestly, I don’t have any idea because I really don’t know enough about politics. I don’t think I would be fruitful in that position.

Jehza: The Speaker of the House. And also, since I love to travel, I would love to work with the DOT (Department of Tourism).

Karen: I would be with DepEd. My advocacy is to improve education, especially in the Philippines’ rural areas. I would be useful in that department.

(E-mail reactions at For more updates, photos and videos, visit or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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