3 Bb. Cebu title-holders among 52 Miss Universe Philippines candidates
(The Freeman) - February 15, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Competing against more than 50 other finalists is nothing new for the three Cebuanas who were unveiled yesterday as official Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) 2020 candidates.

The three ladies, all Binibining Cebu title-holders, have already proven they can stand out from a huge roster in the province-wide pageant. Will they also manage to shine side by side 50 plus other Filipinas in the national stage, one where only one crown is at stake?

Among the 52 MUP candidates that were revealed at Thursday’s Red Carpet Presentation at the Maynila Ballroom of the Manila Hotel were Binibining Cebu 2017 Apriel Smith for Cebu Province, Binibining Cebu Charity 2018 Tracy Maureen Perez for Cebu City and Binibining Cebu Heritage 2018 Lou Dominique Piczon for Mandaue City.

Smith, the inaugural winner of Bb. Cebu, is a Fil-Am model and former varsity volleyball player who was a Top 15 finalist at Bb. Pilipinas 2016.

In an Instagram post, she said she loves joining pageants because “I want to show everyone that a girl who has constantly been bullied can also make history. Make my family and hometown proud. I also want to show everyone that being dark or black will never be a reason to not reach and achieve your dreams.”

With Miss Universe 2019 crowning South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi – the first black woman since Leila Lopes was crowned Miss Universe 2011 – some Pinoy pageant fans have surmised that it’s about time the Philippines also sent a black beauty to the premier pageant, and Smith has been foremost in that list.

“In a society where skin color dictates your status in life and where bullies and oppressors eat you alive, I moved forward and never let the color of my skin limit me from reaching my goals. As an athlete, defeat has taught me to get up eight when I fall seven times. Being a model and a beauty queen, I’ve learned to see the beauty in failure. I am Apriel Smith, bullied, defeated and failed. Today, I am moving forward!” Smith wrote on her Instagram.

Also joining in the fray is Perez, an industrial engineer who is a Miss World Philippines 2019 Top 12 finalist and Miss Cebu 2016 first runner-up. Perez, a member of Cebu’s Origin Models Management, appeared at the MUP headquarters on the last day of screening, surprising followers since she initially told The FREEMAN after the Bb. Cebu 2020 coronation night that she had no plans of signing up this year.

Completing the trio is Piczon, who is vying for a national crown for the very first time. Piczon, a Miss Mandaue 2014 title-holder, is a model who also currently works as an account executive.

Smith, Perez and Piczon will be up against familiar names such as volleyball star and Miss Globe 2018 Top 15 finalist Michele Gumabao (Quezon City), former Bb. Pilipinas finalists Sandra Lemonon of Taguig City (notorious for honestly answering that she had no idea about the ‘Build build build’ question during the Q&A), Alaiza Malinao of Davao City and Maria Isabela Galeria of Sorsogon.

MUP 2020 has set its coronation night on May 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena. This is the first year that the country’s representative for Miss Universe will be chosen in a stand-alone pageant, after MUO no longer renewed its franchise with Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc.  VAB

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