#VERYWANG: Will Philippines score a back-to-back win at Miss Universe?

That’s possible and that’s what we’ve been hoping for.”

These were the words of Jonas Gaffud when interviewed by Manila Standard during the Miss Universe 2016 kick-off party held at the S Maison Mall at the Conrad Hotel last Saturday that was spearheaded by Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach along with Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart and the executives of the pageant’s major partners and sponsors.

Gaffud, or popularly known to pageant fans as “the beauty queen maker,” was positive on the chances of Maxine Medina, the Philippine delegate to the pageant, in clinching the Miss Universe crown on Jan. 30.

He said that the 5-foot-8 stunner is 100 percent prepared and is focused on making her countrymen proud. Prior to the kick-off party, Medina went through rigorous training at the gym to work on her core to achieve her perfect figure in time for the pre-pageant events. She’s undergone personality development and Q-and-A training to prepare her for the more technical aspects of the beauty contest.

“The are a few little things that she needs to improve on but now when we see her onstage, we are confident that she will deliver. She looks classy and very stunning,” Gaffud said.

Reigning Queen Pia Wurtzbach (second from left) welcomed the 11 candidates handpicked by the Miss Universe Organization who will tour the Philippines ahead of the 65th Miss Universe pageant next month. Photo By Sonny Espiritu

In previous interviews, Medina shared that she’s taking down notes and seriously following the advice of the reigning Miss Universe, which is to calm her nerves amid the mounting pressure as the pageant looms. She added that she is grateful for the support her predecessor is giving her.

Gaffud and his team of pageant contestant trainers have been credited for the successful placements of the Philippine representatives at international beauty pageants. Most notable of them, of course, were Miss World 2013 Megan Young, Miss International 2016 Kylie Versoza, and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach.

His team believes Medina has a big chance to win as the 26-year-old interior designer has been doing her homework seriously. Though most pageant fans are not sold to Medina’s performance during the Question and Answer portion at the Binibining Pilipinas early this year, Gaffud acknowledged Medina’s waterloo and said they made sure the Philippine bet would overcome this hurdle.

“We always tell her, ‘you just need to answer from your heart.’ People expect that candidates would give pageant patty answers during Q and A but when you answer from the heart, you can answer the question well,” Gaffud shared.

Medina along with Miss USA Deshauna Barber, Miss Japan Sari Nakazawa, Miss Australia Caris Emily Tuvel, Miss New Zealand Tania Pauline Dawson, Miss Korea Jenny Kim, Miss Thailand Chalita Suansane, Miss Malaysia Kiran Jassal, Miss Vietnam Dang Thi Le Hang, Miss Indonesia Kezia Roslin Warouw, and Miss Myanmar Htet Htun were presented to the media during the kick-off party.

Miss U is officially on

MUO’s Paula Shugart, in her speech during the kick-off party, said that she was grateful for the Philippines hosting the prestigious pageant describing it as a “dream come true” for both her and Wurtzbach.

“I’m really, really excited. I’ve worked for so many years to bring the pageant here,” Shugart told the crowd. “It’s not just Pia, it’s a dream come true for me, too. In less than a month over 90 countries are going to see the Philippines and its incredible hospitality.”

After her speech, former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson presented Shugart with a jacket with the words “Miss Universe” printed on it.

“Miss Universe is on!” he said as he put the jacket on Shugart.

The Mall of Asia Arena will be the official venue of the 65th Miss Universe on Jan. 30 (Jan. 29 in the US). The arena, which has a capacity of 15,000 will also host several pre-pageant events including the Governor’s Ball, National Gift Auction, National Costume Show, Fashion Show, Designer Showcase, Preliminary Competition for swimsuit and evening gown, and the After Party for Miss Universe 2016 winner. The rest of the delegates are expected to arrive on Jan. 13.

As part of the jampacked schedule of the candidates, the early birds along with Miss Philippines flew to Siargao over the weekend then toured Intramuros on Monday. They also had a photo shoot in Cebu the following day.

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