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Announced last Saturday, February 18, this year’s candidates include beauty pageant veterans, young moms, and women from humble beginnings.

The official announcement for this year’s Miss Universe Philippines candidates was held at the Citadines Bay City Manila.

There, the top 40 finalists were unveiled to the world. “Among these stunning faces are the Phenomenal, Transformational Filipinas that will represent the Philippines on the international stage,” says the competition’s Facebook page.

READ ALSO: Beautiful Motivation: Meet The Two Half-Filipinas Who Graced The Ms. Universe Pageant And Learn Their Life Purpose

Joining the list are MUPh titleholders Michelle Dee and Pauline Amelinckx, who received the Tourism and Charity titles respectively in 2022.

This marks Amelinckx’s third and final shot at the crown. Her final decision came after months of pondering and consulting with those dear to her.

“I’m honestly still super emotional about everything but it’s mostly feelings of happiness, excitement, and a whole lotta GRATITUDE for all the support I’ve been receiving,” Amelinckx shares in an Instagram post.

Other pageant veterans include Samantha Panlilio (Miss Grand Philippines 2021), Emmanuelle Fabienne Camcam (Reinahispanoamericana Filipinas 2021), and Klyza Castro (Mutya ng Pilipinas 2019).

Beauty queen mentor Kali Huff and former UAAP courtside reporter Angelique Manto are also some of the standouts in this year’s competition.

Huff has trained beauty queens such as Megan Young, Pia Wurtzbach, and Kylie Verzosa. This year, she plans to use her expertise to win the crown herself.

“My goal will always be to encourage my fellow Filipino to realize that we all have a platform; no matter your background, age, gender, or degree, you have a point of view that can be transformational and a voice that is always valid,” Huff says as she posts about her candidacy on Instagram.

Meanwhile, Manto dedicates her candidacy to her younger self, her father, mental health, and her hometown of Pampanga.

“This is for that seven-year old girl bullied into believing that she will never amount to the big dreams she has,” she writes in her caption, alongside a close-up portrait featuring her morena skin.

“This is for you silently struggling and battling to be seen, to be heard, to finally be understood.”

Evangeline Fuentes may very well be the transformational leader MUPh is looking for. The beauty queen grew up in a landfill site in Pangasinan, working as a farmer and vendor before she finished her accounting degree.

Right after graduation, she founded her own charity the Smile Program, later changed to Kalakal Charity. Her work aims to “give love, bring smiles and hope for the indigent children in sanitary landfills in the province of Pangasinan and other communities.”

For the first time in history, this year’s MUPh started accepting married women and mothers into the competition. This includes young moms Eileen Gonzales, Clare Dacanay, and Joemay-An Leo.

The winner will have the opportunity to represent the Philippines at the Miss Universe 2023 pageant. The event will be held in El Salvador at the end of this year.

Banner image via Instagram @themissuniverseph.