The audience were silent in Quezon City's Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday night as they waited, anticipating, the judge's decision at Binibining Pilipinas International 2022.
The lights were dimmed and it took a minute before Cebu's Nicole Borromeo was named the winner by hosts Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray and Miss Grand International 2016 runner-up Nicole Cordoves.
The contest is one of the most prestigious in the Philippines, a country well known for its love of beauty pageants.
Popular Filipino band SB19 opened the show, performing the pageant's theme song Win Your Heart while dressed in all-white suits. They also sang hits Bazinga and SLMT.
What is Binibining Pilipinas International?
The national competition has been running since 1964, and sends Filipina representatives to compete in Miss International, one of the Big Four international beauty pageants, which also includes Miss World, Miss Universe and Miss Earth.
Established in 1960 in Long Beach, California, Miss International is a global search for the “most elegant woman in the world”. The pageant, from Japan, is organised by The International Culture Association under the slogan "correct understanding of Japan in the international community".
The reigning queen is pharmacist and actress Sireethorn Leearamwat of Thailand. The 2021 pageant was cancelled because of Covid-19 and has been rescheduled for autumn 2022.
Binibining Pilipinas International also selects winners to participate in minor international pageants: Miss Grand International, Miss Intercontinental and Miss Globe.
There have been five Miss International winners from the Philippines in the past: Aurora Pijuan (1970), Melanie Marquez (1979), Lara Quigaman (2005), Bea Santiago (2013) and Kylie Verzosa (2016).
Who is Nicole Borromeo?
Borromeo, an interior design student, beat 40 other candidates to the crown. A seasoned pageant queen, she's also held various other titles, including Miss Millennial Philippines 2019, Miss Millennial Cebu 2019, Sinulog Festival Queen 2019 and Reyna Ng Aliwan 2019.
Borromeo impressed judges in the question-and-answer portion of the pageant, when actor Donny Pangilinan asked her how she's a responsible citizen of her home country and to rate herself out of 10.
"As a responsible Filipino citizen, I'd like to give myself a good eight, because I know that there's always room to improve," she replied. "There's so much I don't know. But there's so much I'm willing to learn. And I hope to do that with you."
Other winners on the night
The other winners include Binibining Pilipinas Intercontinental Gabrielle Camille Basiano, Binibining Pilipinas Globe Chelsea Fernandez and Binibining Pilipinas Grand International Roberta Angela Tamondong.
Stacey Daniella Gabriel was named second runner-up, while Herlene Nicole Budol, the crowd favourite, was named first runner-up.
Judges included Miss Globe 2015 Ann Colis and Miss International 2018 first runner-up Ahtisa Manalo.