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MJ shines in Miss U preliminary

Miss Philippines, Mary Jean Lastimosa, poses for the judges, during the national costume show during the 63rd annual Miss Universe Competition in Miami, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

MISS Philippines Mary Jean Lastimosa flaunted her spectacular body and earned rave reviews with several other candidates in the preliminary competition of the 2015 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Doral, Miami, Florida Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

Lastimosa was wildly cheered in the audience during the preliminary event, along with delegates from Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, United States, and Venezuela.

The 27-year-old North Cotabato native participated in the evening gown and swimsuit portion. Her elegant white evening gown was designed by Colombian fashion designer Alfredo Barraza and she wore a pink two-piece bikini in the swimsuit competition.

The preliminary competition marks the first time that all of the 88 contestants were on stage competing in both swimsuit and evening gown.

Preliminary judges were entertainment correspondent for Telemundo Network Azucena Cierco, president of Trump Models Agency Corinne Nicolas, television producer Jeneine DoucetteWhite, prominent entertainment and digital media lawyer Jimmy Nguyen, author and style journalist Lloyd Boston, international television personality and philanthropist Michelle McLean-Bailey, and sales-business aviation expert Tyler Tixier.

The Top 15 semifinalists will be announced during the finals on Sunday (Monday in Manila).

Meanwhile, reigning Miss Universe Gabriela Isler of Venezuela yesterday renewed her calls to people around the world to continue helping typhoon victims in the Philippines who, she said, “still needs our help.”

Isler made the fresh appeal at the preliminary competition for the 63rd Miss Universe beauty contest.

It also marked the first time the Miss Universe Organization, owned by NBC network and billionaire Donald Trump, released the video that showed Isler and MUO President Paula Shugart visiting Coron, Palawan devastated by typhoon “Yolanda” in November 2013.

“My experience in the Philippines really changed my life. But the people there are full of life, hope, and joy. But they still need our help,” said Isler during the live stream telecast of the preliminary competition to millions of viewers.

The MUO and Dutch development agency Cordaid have joined hands anew to help the Philippines in its relief efforts to rebuild the lives of the typhoon victims.

“Our belongings were destroyed by strong winds. The typhoon came like an atomic bomb,” a resident of Coron told Isler in the video.

Shugart also appealed for donations during the show. “Our hearts go out to the people of the Philippines, the home to some of our most passionate fans.”

She cited Cordaid, that has done a tremendous job in creating a more resilient area since the typhoon hit and has helped those with inadequate shelter to build and maintain storm-proof homes.

“We are committed to ensuring an immediate response to Yolanda, to continuing to raise awareness and funds for long-term recovery, and to strengthening the resilience of the people in these communities,” Shugart said.

Cordaid has constructed dams, reinforced bridges, and constructed storm-proof homes, nurseries, and community centers over the past year with the help of Filipinos.

Shugart and Isler arrived in the country for the first time in March 2014 and visited Coron.

“It was absolutely heart-breaking and you felt helpless. And we all looked at each other, and we have to do something, and especially because we have a strong tie to the Philippines. We can’t put this off. We’ve got to do it now,” Shugart said.