THRILLMAKER: Five unhappy runners up

Published October 30, 2020, 5:17 PM

by Joee Guilas

Anyone who enters a competition always works to eventually emerge on top.  There is probably no one who will put oneself in a contest wishing to end up either losing or in second place. 

In beauty pageant lingo, the position of the first runner up is always said to be an important position since “should the winner fail to fulfill her responsibilities then it’s the first runner up who will take-over.” 

However, the one coming in second almost always never makes it to the top.  It is very seldom that the winners resign (why would they?) or get disqualified for some technicalities. 

In the end, the first runner up and the rest of the court members are often relegated to the sidelines to make up the roster of the competition’s top losers. 

Even in the 68-year history of the Miss Universe pageant, considered the world’s most prestigious, there was only one instance, in 2002, when a first runner up was asked to take over the actual winner. 

For a few months, Panama’s Justine Pasek was able to call herself Miss Universe after Russian Oxana Fedorova resigned from her title (or was she fired?).

The noise coming from the recently concluded Miss Universe Philippines brings back to mind some runner up stories that are not as happy as other “near-winner” stories can be told. 

Michele Gumabao

This year’s top favourite for the crown, Quezon City’s Michele Gumabao, came short of winning the top plum and had to settle for second runner up honors, two places below her target.  While managing to flash a smile after her name was announced as third place winner, you would feel it in her expression that she was not at all happy with what she got in the end. 

To make matters worse, her absence in the events that succeeded such announcement fueled rumors of her walking out and backing out from her new title. 

People would not have blamed her if she actually did. 

She is, after all, already a national winner going into MUP 2020, having been Binibining Pilipinas Globe in 2018.  While she has denied having done both, it could not be hidden that the runner up finish was something she thought was unacceptable.

Rewind to 2015, the big winner was obviously the Philippines’ Pia Wurtzbach. 

In both her international and local pageants that year, Pia’s second placers ended their pageant journeys with tears in their eyes. 

In Binibining Pilipinas, it was Janicel Lubina who was lording it over when the special awards were being handed out. 

Lubina won as Best in Swimsuit and Best in Evening Gown, the two “most telling” awards on the Binibining Pilipinas coronation stage. 

When she was called as Binibining Pilipinas International, the second highest title that evening, Lubina was able to give the audience a courteous smile for the reward that was given her.  However, she just couldn’t hide her disappointment from the cameras by the time the program’s closing billboards were rolling as she was seen sobbing beside the other winners.

Ariadna Gutierrez

Only a few months later, it was Colombia’s Ariadna Gutierrez’s turn to weep when Pia was given the Miss Universe crown only after she was initially declared, albeit erroneously, the winner.  We all know this to be the biggest scandal to have ever rocked the Miss Universe stage, but we also do know how that incident catapulted our third Miss Universe as the pageant’s most famous winner of all time.

Let us move back further to the year 2003.  This time, the unhappy first runner up is not from a beauty pageant but from a national singing competition.  The first season of the “Search for a Star in a Million” had Cebuana Sheryn Regis leading the entire season’s competition with her powerful belting skills. 

People saw in her a true diva in the making.  When the competition reached its final round, Regis found herself standing beside the vocally weaker Marinel Santos and wildcard entry Erik Santos.  Brimming with confidence, Regis anticipated an easy win. 

To her dismay, host Edu Manzano announced her as the second placer and Santos as the eventual champ. 

Totally unbelieving of what she had heard, Regis showed her true emotions on national TV and cried unabashedly. The reaction prompted the gay community to coin the term: “Nag-a la Sheryn Regis,” for people who show disappointed reactions on their faces when they don’t get what they want.

Finally, back in 1994, when the Philippines hosted the Miss Universe Pageant for the second time, 6-foot tall Minorka Mercado of Venezuela was the hands down favourite of the media to win the crown.  More than carrying a powerful sash to the competition, her towering height and sheer elegance were seen as powerful enough to propel her to the top spot. 

Finding herself in a tight battle with India’s Sushmita Sen and Colombia’s Carolina Gomez in the top 3, all that Mercado could give was a tight lipped smile after she was declared second runner up.  It was India’s time to claim its first Miss Universe crown that year.  Mercado went home disappointed.

I know that being a runner up gives mixed feelings.  You are a winner on one end, a loser on the other.  It also brings to mind a time when a Filipina beauty queen was asked: “Ma’am sino nga po ang first runner up nyo noon?” And she answered: “Oh, I have forgotten.  People only remember the winner.”