December 10, 2022

Seven candidates from the Cordillera are vying for the inaugural Great Man of the Universe Philippines pageant title after they went through the grueling screening process out of the 108 male contenders nationwide to enter the top 40.
Four of the seven bets from the region are from Benguet namely Lucas Empiso of Kapangan, Delefher Comising of Itogon; Miguel Jarre Bas-ilen of La Trinidad; and Stephen Harold Lilley, Jr. of Sablan.
The three other bets are Irvin Tan of Baguio City, Wendell Bona Guway of Ifugao, and John Rowel Recile of Mountain Province.
It is the first national pageant of all Cordilleran contenders.
Lilley, 23, said his only exposure to pageants was during his senior high at Kings College of the Philippines in La Trinidad, Benguet in 2016.
He has since been urged to join other national male pageants in the past, but it was only now that he decided to join. 
A third year civil engineering student at the University of the Cordilleras, Lilley joined the male pageant to further his boundaries. 
“Iyong pageant talaga madaming maibibigay na benefits sa atin, as long as we grab the opportunity. But we should know our limits, kasi kapag sumobra iyan mapupunta rin sa masamang bagay,” he said. 
Lilley bagged the best model award during the gala and charity night owing it to his 5’10” frame and mixed race from his British father and Igorot mother from Sablan.
He earlier topped the online runway challenge.
Great Man of the Universe PH Regional Director Ephraim Paul Paran, a native of Wangal, La Trinidad, Benguet, said the Cordilleran contenders are also fan favorites in social media, where some of the scores are also the basis for the finals.
Baguio City and Benguet hosted the pageant last week where the top 40 contestants were hosted at the Baguio Country Club and Lafaayette Hotel.
They also went to Benguet State University for the fashion show, Avong nen Romy for the cultural night, and Mt. Yangbew in La Trinidad.
They likewise reached out to school children in Palali, Sablan and experienced the hot spring in Tuba.   
During the three-day exposure of the participants in Benguet, they experienced the Igorot culture such as the proper wearing of the bahag, experienced cooking pinikpikan, and modeled the Cordilleran-inspired fabrics.
Paran, the Mr. Philippines runner-up in 2018, with his team was responsible for bringing the 40 contestants to be exposed to the rich cultural heritage of Benguet.  
He thanked the local governments of Baguio City and Benguet as hosts, as well as individuals who aided their respective Cordilleran bets in the pageant.
Empiso, on the other hand, was awarded the sports and wellness challenge winner for his well-toned and muscled body.
The Cordillera Cultural award was surprisingly bagged by Leyte’s Apple Lao while the Darling of the Press was given to Bohol’s Joshua Lillehagen and Best Runway Model was given to Zambales’ John Henry Villanueva.
The coronation night is set on Nov. 13 at the Novotel Manila with the titleholder representing the country to the Great Man of the Universe international pageant next year. – Ofelia C. Empian