26-year-old Binibining Pilipinas is all set to win the Miss Universe crown
Binibining Pilipinas talent scouts invited Maria Mika Maxine Peñaranda Medina to join the country’s foremost beauty pageant as early as 2012, but an existing advertising contract prevented her from entering the contest. Apparently, her endorsement brand was a direct competitor of one of the pageant’s major sponsors, making it impossible for then 22-year-old beauty to vie for the prestigious title.
She finally relented to the constant prodding of friends from the modelling industry and threw in her hat into the Binibining Pilipinas ring in 2016, winning no less than the Miss Universe-Philippines crown.
And in just two weeks’ time, Medina will compete anew for the ultimate title of Miss Universe, now proudly held by her predecessor, Miss Universe Philippines 2015 Pia Wurtzbach.
With such big stilettos to fill at January 30’s grand coronation night, right here in Manila to boot, the press naturally had a field day at Medina’s “good luck send-off” this past week at Novotel Manila Araneta Center. The foremost question on everyone’s mind was how the Philippine bet was feeling amid all the pressure.
Surrounded by those closest to her —her mom Marife, sister Ferica, boyfriend Marx Topacio, her fellow beauty queens, and the Binibinining Pilipinas organizers, led by chairman Stella Marquez-Araneta—Medina was far from nervous nor anxious as expected.
On the contrary, she radiated with confidence and shared she is excited at the possibility of a back-to-back win with Wurtzbach in the presence of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Filipino people.
After almost a year of rigorous training under the guidance of Aces and Queens mentors, and personality development experts Dale Carnegie and John Robert Powers, Medina described herself as “empowered,” ready not only to do the flag proud at the pageant, but also to become a gracious host to the 80-plus strong delegation of candidates from all over the world.
Beautifully fulfilling her responsibilities so far—both literally and figuratively—Medina was asked if she sees a downside to being the host country to the pageant. There are those who say that playing host automatically earns a candidate plus points, thus making a less credible finish, impression-wise.
“I still think it’s fulfilling to have the competition here in the Philippines,” she replied, choosing to brush aside the suggestion. “Everyone knows I’m fond of the outdoors, and happily, we’re going around the Philippines. This has actually been my goal that before I travel the world, I’ll go around the Philippines first.”
One thing the model-cum-interior designer especially wants to let her fellow candidates experience—besides the warm hospitality of the Filipinos, the unique culture and traditional values—is the boodle fight.
“The best thing is, I will get to share with them the best food choices in our cuisine as well as the boodle fight. I’d like for them to try it! Eating without utensils—that’s going to be very challenging!” Medina enthused.
Meanwhile, asked how she feels over the President’s mandate for all government agencies to support the staging of the Miss Universe pageant but without spending a single centavo, she replied, “The fact that the
President has said he will personally watch the coronation is the best indication of the government’s support.
Will I be nervous he is there? Oh no, I’m very honored that the President will be there and he will be witnessing a back-to-back,” she confidently added.
A Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI) staffer told The Sunday Times Magazine that Medina has shown exceptional improvements since she was crowned Miss Universe-Philippines in April, and that her confidence level has “doubled” through her training. Her fellow Binibining Pilipinas queens agree.
Miss Grand International 2016 First Runner-Up Nicole Cordoves [who feels vindicated for her choice of Donald Trump during the US election campaign during her Q&A in October now that the business mogul has been elected the 45th President of the US]further noted that Medina’s facial transformation is amazing with a new signature makeup that is perfect for her.
“Our makeup artists, our trainers can’t find the one look for her because she knows how to project [from her modelling experience], as she fits all styles. Also, in terms of communication skills, she’s [really]much more confident now. She speaks with lot of conviction, even about politics,” Cordoves told The Sunday Times Magazine.
Miss International 2016 Kylie Verzosa on the other hand related, “Everyone can see her improvements overall, and I know she knows it herself.”
Acknowledging the fruits of her hard work, Medina said, “I never thought of myself being a beauty queen, and now that I have embraced it to prepare for Miss Universe, I feel very empowered. Besides competing, I really want to inspire the youth through my own experiences, and I believe I can do a better job of that if I become Miss Universe.”
She further revealed that she has chosen the same advocacy as Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, that of AIDS/HIV awareness and prevention, but one that is more focused on the youth.
“My advocacy is about the youth who has HIV to be able to give them hope and help them live the life they should have despite their disease, especially in terms of education.” she said.
Should she win the crown, Medina also said she is very much willing to leave her life in the Philippines to fulfil her obligations in New York and around the world.
“It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I will devote myself to the title, for the country, for people everywhere as this is something that can really inspire others to dream big.”
With the pre-pageant activities in full swing by this week, Medina shared the ways she continues to prepare for the grand coronation night—not to mention the swimsuit and gown competitions—as well as how she de-stresses from all the pressure.
The De La Salle University-College of Saint Benilde (DLSU-CSB) and Philippine School of Interior Design graduate said first of all that sleep is essential, and that she makes sure to have at least seven to eight hours of shuteye.
“To de-stress, I always have candies with me, my favorite is the sour patch. So when I’m stressed, I always eat them,” she giggled.
With regard to the question-and-answer portion, someone asked if she ever considered the advice of the Philippines’ first Miss Universe, Gloria Diaz, who said candidates should consider using an interpreter so they can answer confidently in their own dialect.
According to Medina, this is not an option for her explaining, “We are proud, as Filipinos that we can speak English fluently. And I’m making sure that mine will be great on stage. To practice for the Q&A, they’ve been throwing a lot of questions my way and I answer each one in English. We can do this, one hundred percent!” she averred.
Meanwhile, as for Medina’s wardrobe, top designer Rhett Eala chatted with The Sunday Times Magazine revealing a little bit about the national costume and evening gown he designed for the beauty queen. Eala revealed he created a costume “devoid of tails and fathers” and one that highlights Medina’s 34-24-35 figure.
“The evening gown is very crucial,” he continued, “because it’s really hard to choose a gown for the finals that is sure to look stunning on stage. But thankfully, Ms. Araneta was there in helping us come up with the right one.”
Love and support
As the big day draws closer, Medina said she continues to draw strength from the love and support of her family and closest friends.
Her boyfriend Marx Topacio told the The Sunday Times Magazine Medina is prepared for any outcome.
“If she doesn’t win the crown, she plans to have a very long vacation,” he shared, but only smiled when pressed if such a vacation would lead them to the aisle.
Her mom, bank executive Marife and dad Philippine Airlines purser Maximo, and siblings particularly Ferica, are also behind Medina in full force.
“The only thing we can give her is prayers and full support. We’re there for her, anything that she needs, every time she calls us up,” said the beauty queen’s mom who herself was a model in her younger days. She chose a career in banking over joining pageants, however, and added that she has always made it her rule for her children to finish their studies before taking a chance at opportunities like these. Ferica, Medina’s younger sister, by the way, is already being scouted to follow her beauty queen sibling’s footsteps.
Happily, Medina has also amassed a loyal following by pageant followers and in fact is currently ranked most likely to win the Miss Universe crown in the net-based forum Missosology.
Medina is grateful for the overwhelming support of her fans but like Wurtzbach, appeals to everyone to refrain bashing other candidates on social media.
“Maraming salamat, siguro masyado lang akong focused sa training ko, hindi ko nanu-notice pero maraming salamat sa suporta. [But] let’s be fair, let’s just wait for the pageant kasi ‘dun naman lahat nai-score. ‘Dun natin makikita ang kakayahan ng co-candidates ko, as well with me, so sana let’s be fair, let’s tame it a bit, para pagdating ng pageant’ dun na lang tayo magpasabog.”
She acknowledges that Filipino fans are very passionate about Miss Universe and have a tendency to go overboard sometimes.
“Hindi naman natin maalis yun, kasi lahat [Filipinos] are rooting for a back-to-back win and they’re expecting a lot. Siguro, let’s be happy, let’s make it light para pagdating ng pageant, okay tayo lahat.”
Answering one final and very important question, the Philippines’ representative to the 2016 Miss Universe pageant was asked: “Are you going to wear your hair up or down?
Her reply, “Secret,” as she blew everyone a grateful kiss and said thank you’s goodbyes.
COVER PHOTO BY DOOKIE DUCAY INSIDE PHOTOS BY RUY MARTINEZ, BINIBINING PILIPINAS AND FROM MAXINE MEDINA’S INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT