By Dolly Yasa
DON SALVADOR BENEDICTO, Negros Occ. – Mayor Laurence Marxlen Dela Cruz of this frontier town said that the Kali-Kalihan Festival’s activities, especially the ‘Diwata Sang Kali’—one of its highlights—have “leveled up.”
Dela Cruz told reporters on Friday that he made it a point to ensure the festivities were better than the last.
The mayor further said that he was challenged when, in one of the previous provincial beauty pageants where local government units sent their representatives, his town’s candidate seemed to have “balled up” when pitted against other candidates.
‘I noticed that our ladies were not that ready for such competition, so I was challenged; we have to be competitive,’ he added.
Dela Cruz also said, ‘We have to have a candidate who is competent enough to well represent our town.’
He expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the Diwata sang Kali pageant held Thursday night, which was one of the most crowd-drawing events of the festivities that began on February 3, 2024, and will culminate on February 9, 2024.
Crowned Diwata sang Kali 2024 was Jeremae Panganiban, who represented the Liga ng Barangay of the town. The first runner-up was Princess Grace Pontillano, the second runner-up was Azriel Zeri Mallorca, the third runner-up was Jona Mae Tanchinco, and the fourth runner-up was Legie Mae Talledo.
‘Last night (Thursday) was the best so far, just like our theme, “the best at 41st”; we got the best. Compared to before, I can say that we are now at the sky-level of pageantry,’ Dela Cruz said.
He added that all fifteen candidates vying for the title underwent training under Aces & Queens, a Philippine beauty camp that provides training and coaching to beauty pageant contestants.
Dela Cruz further stated that the local government provided all the necessities, like clothes and shoes, among others, to the candidates.
He said the production was also handled by a local team that ensured there was no monotony or dragging in the segment.
‘It was also live-streamed on the local government unit’s social media page,’ Dela Cruz added.
He pointed out that the production team highlighted the pool party in the pageant teaser, with DSB boasting the most number of pools among the towns and cities in the province, being the summer capital of Negros Occidental.
‘We were able to promote our tourism industry through this pageant as well,’ Dela Cruz said.
Judges for the pageant included Dominique ‘Nikki’ Lopez Benitez, wife of Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo ‘Albee’ Benitez; Miss Universe 2021 Top 5 Finalist Beatrice Luigi Gomez; Binibining Pilipinas International 2022 and Miss International 2023 Top 15 Hannah Arnold; Miss Universe Philippines 2021 Bellie Hakenson; model-actor Zack Precale; Mister National Universe Philippines 2023 Ruskan Kolikov; Philippine Motorcycle Ambassadress Jet Lee; and Man of the World Philippines 2023 Kenneth Cabungcal.
One of the emcees was Pauline Cucharo Amelinckx, a Filipino model and beauty pageant titleholder who was crowned Miss Supranational Philippines 2023.
‘We are very happy with the results,’ Dela Cruz said as he also thanked all the local officials, his brother, Vice Mayor Nehemiah Dela Cruz, and members of the Sangguniang Bayan for their support and cooperation, which ensured the success of the festivities.”