A teacher from Sultan Kudarat was crowned Miss Asia-Pacific International 2018 during a taped broadcast held at Resorts World Manila in Pasay City early yesterday morning Friday.
Crowd favorite Miss Philippines Sharifa Areef Mohammad Omar Akee edged out 48 other candidates in the 50th edition of the beauty contest, said to be the longest-running pageant in the Asia Pacific region that highlights beauty in diversity.
Sharifa, 21, graduated in elementary education from the Notre Dame of Salaman College. She revealed that she has not taken the board exams for teachers. “I am not a professional one. I will take the exams soon. Maybe after the pageant next year.” She is in a relationship these days.
The Filipino-Qatari beauty queen hurdled competitions in swimsuit, evening gown and the question-and-answer portions before she finally notched the crown.
First runner-up honors went to Miss Brazil Gabriela Palma. Other winners were Melania Gonzales, Costa Rica, 2nd runner-up; Misheelt Narmandakh, Mongolia, 3rd runner-up; and Mariani Nataly Chacon Angarita, Venezuela, 4th runner-up.
Other candidates who finished in the Top 20 were delegates from Puerto Rico, USA, South Africa, Thailand, Panama, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bangladesh, Peru, Netherlands, Colombia, Nigeria, Uruguay and Portugal.
Earlier, Sharifa defended her move to wear swimsuit in the competition following criticisms from some fellow Muslims.
“Let’s not focus on religion. I just want to be fair to the other candidates. I want to be competitive and be fair with them. I hope everyone can look beyond swimsuit and realize that what I’m doing is more significant,” she says.
Sharifa, 21, says wearing swimwear in public had the blessings of her parents and close friends.
The last time the Philippines won in the Miss Asia Pacific International pageant was 25 years ago when actress-model Michelle Aldana was crowned in 1993.
Case of sabotage?
Moments after she was crowned Miss Asia Pacific International pageant, Sharifa reportedly told Hemilyn Escudero-Tamayo, president of Mutya ng Pilipinas pageant, that the lower part of her red evening gown which she wore in the Top 20 was cut or destroyed.
“That’s why you can see her shoes when she wore the red evening gown. The red evening gown should be floor-length. Still, she wore the gown like a pro,” according to a friend close to the beauty queen who refused to be identified.
Backstage pranks are common among rival candidates in popular beauty contests. The most publicized case of sabotage happened to Miss Puerto Rico Universe 2008 Ingrid Marie Rivera who claimed that her evening gown and makeup were doused with pepper spray, causing her to break out in hives.