This, as the multi-talented Gabriele Raine Baljak was crowned as this year’s Miss Cebu 2016 during the pageant’s coronation night on Wednesday at the Pacific Grand Ballroom of the Waterfront Cebu Hotel and Casino.
The apple certainly did not fall far from the tree as the 18-year old TV host, radio DJ, model and musician won the title that was worn exactly three decades ago by her mother. Merce Abellana won Cebu's Five Prettiest, a precursor of Miss Cebu, back in 1986.
But clearly, the Filipino-Croatian set about blazing a path of her own as she stood out from the 11 stunning damsels with her fair, soft features that nestled a quiet calm, remarkable grace and a quick yet calculated wit.
Apart from winning it all, Baljak also bagged the Best in Evening gown award in a sepia-toned creation crafted by Dino Lloren. She also added the ABS-CBN Kapamilya Star of the Night award to the two other special awards that she won during the pre-pageant night held last weekend – Miss Epson and the Best in Funwear.
No stranger to the spotlight, Baljak punctuated her victory with a reflective answer to the final question that quizzed the contestants what they would tell Miss Colombia to convince her to come visit Cebu – the latter being Ariadna Gutierrez Arévalo, the Miss Universe contestant who was mistakenly announced as the winner of this year’s pageant by host Steve Harvey.
“As a proud Cebuana I would tell her to visit Cebu it is where the heart sings. Cebuanos have genuine passion; we love to share and we care about our people. Miss Colombia is gorgeous, but she has too much confidence and sometimes that goes the other way. Coming here to Cebu, Miss Colombia will learn to enjoy simple things in life because Cebuanos are happy no matter and that’s what makes Cebu, truly where the heart sings,” Baljak said to the roaring applause of her raucous supporters scattered across the ballroom.
Completing Baljak’s court were fresh-faced Argao-native Tracy Maureen Perez who won 1st runner-up, aspiring dentist Shaila Mae Rebortera who was the 2nd runner-up, future pilot Merl Gayo who won 3rd runner-up and spa owner Felina Joyce Lim who won 4th runner-up apart from bagging Miss Friendship and Miss Photogenic special awards earlier in the evening.
The winners were decided by a panel of judges led by chairperson and celebrated fashion legend Christian Espiritu, actor and director Rowell Santiago, super photographer and model, Joanne Bitangcol, stage designer and author Gino Gonzales and Frederick Go of Robinsons Land Corp.
Though clearly missing the pomp and pageantry of earlier editions of this annual celebration of the Cebuana’s beauty, passion and grace, the night delivered some high points with powerful song renditions by Danielle Mae Ozaraga, Awit Awardees Tria Bascon and The Voice finalist’s Etore “Thor” Dulay. Several video productions by outfit Digital Minds that featured the contestants at different cultural and heritage sites in Cebu also wowed the crowd as did the creations of Cebu’s top fashion designers.
Jonas Rey N. Panerio
Contributor - Lifestyle
*Photo & Video by Dr. Jo Anne Rivera