The Hari ng Negros pageant is considered to be the most popular male pageant in the country. The annual parade of princes is part of the celebration of the charter anniversary of the island of Negros’ city-in-the-sky: CANLAON.
It was on May 16 when I was invited to be in Canlaon City to conduct personality enhancement, speech improvement and handling Q & A workshops for the candidates of the 2009 Hari ng Negros pageant. The session gave me the opportunity to experience the daytime presence of the princes from the different towns and cities of the island of Negros. They were in their casual and comfortable weekend fashion and no one was wearing make-up. The workshop taught them how to achieve a strong manly presence while on a ramp walk, a review on the non-verbal and verbal considerations when in a panel interview and finally, a long session on common beauty pageant questions.
The session was an opportunity to make my own secret judging of the possible winners. My top 10 after the exposure were: the prince with the classic look and sizzling shirtless flaunting Prince of Talisay FERDINAND SAN FELIX, the prince with the over-all star presence Prince of Pamplona RAMI GALLEGO, the prince with the-perfect-gentleman bearing Prince of San Carlos RHAMRIC SIMPRON, the prince with the top model allure Prince of Bacolod CHARLES ANITO, the prince with the exotic appeal and perfectly-chiseled body Prince of Tayasan PHILIP MANUBAG, the prince with the sweetest smile Prince of Canlaon ALJUNREY TAUBAN, the prince with the rugged, muscular and raw magnetism Prince of La Libertad MARK GARGOLES, the prince confident of his boy-next-door appeal Prince of Dumaguete JAY-AR GANDOLA, the prince with the Oriental pretty boy charisma Prince of Bais CONAN AYUDA and the prince with endearing innocent aura Prince of Bindoy MELRICK CALIJAN. Others whom I forecasted to make a surprise cut were: the prince with the subtle handsome charm Prince of Calatrava VINCENT CALAPTI, the prince with the fighting spirit and face value to bank on Prince of Amlan LORD CHESTER TAN, the prince with the serious-business-in-a-contest zeal and the one with the most expressive eyes Prince of Vallehermoso JESSE CENIZA.
The final pageant night on May 27 in Canlaon City had my favorite Prince of Tayasan walking like a hip-hop kid in the Barong Tagalog portion and for this, he failed to make it to the Top 10 cut. Prince of Bacolod was in trouble with the new braces he had after a dental cosmetology, he was without the expected winsome smile. He also did not make it. The remaining semi-finalists were the princes from Talisay, La Libertad, San Carlos, Canlaon, Calatrava, Dumaguete, Pamplona, Bais, Bindoy and Vallehermoso. With almost all of my bets making it to this level in the competition, I did so well in my facebook forecast.
Body-painting champ Prince of Vallehermoso gave the best answer in the semi-final round but his facial make-up made him look arrogant and a bit less masculine. Mister Photogenic awardee Prince of Pamplona missed the second point in his answer to a question on the two roles of a Hari ng Negros. Prince of Calatrava also failed to share a complete thought. The screams of the young ladies in the audience did not save their favorite Prince of Bais when he failed to expound on his answer. And hometown favorite and the one with the best smile Prince of Canlaon also failed to give a confident answer.
The Final 5 round had The Prince of La Libertad in the lead with outstanding over-all performance especially in the swimwear portion, Prince of Talisay who harvested a good number of special awards with his high energy street-dance glory as the clincher, Prince of San Carlos who gave an impressive answer on the question about Philippine tourism, Prince of Dumaguete whose aura of confidence was beaming all-night long, and the one with the humble presence Prince of Bindoy who started to impress the judges when the Guest of Honor Miss Earth 2008 Karla Paula G. Henry asked him, "What is the common weakness among men?” The Prince of Bindoy, a sophomore Accountancy student from Silliman University, answered "it's pride that leads men to a common weakness: not being able to handle rejection specially when they try their very best to get a girl's approval and only to be rejected....”
In the Top 5 round, Prince of Talisay struggled to answer the question from Prince of Bindoy, “If you will be become a rock, how hard would you want yourself to be?” After a long dead air, Prince of Talisay managed to express, “I want a diamond.” With this delay in answer, the crowd’s favorite to win the crown failed to be among the Top 3 princes. Prince of Dumaguete also failed when asked by Prince of San Carlos to describe Canlaon to a blind person, he sounded like a politician talking about Canlaon being a paradise, a land of progress and a place of friendly people.
In the Top 3 were Best in Swimwear and Best Ramp Model awardee Prince of La Libertad MARK GARGOLES, the youngest and the tallest bet Prince of Bindoy MELRICK CALIJAN and the Best Personality for Commercial modeling awardee Prince of San Carlos RHAMRIC SIMPRON. Both Mark and Rhamric considered knowing God as the point of rebirth in their own life stories when asked to reflect on the pageant’s theme “Arise the Phoenix.” Melrick pointed-out a simple Phoenix-like experience in his life and that was being on stage as a Hari ng Negros aspirant. He explained, “This is a totally new experience for me and being here feels like being reborn to a new challenge.” With all three tackling well the final question, the pageant ended with a triple-tie in the final tally of points. The Chairman of the Board of Judges, acclaimed film director Mario J. de los Reyes, had to break the tie and the youngest phoenix was chosen. With his humble presence and gift of innocence, Melrick Calijan arose to be king so unexpectedly.