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End Of The Year Review 2019

Pageantry in 2019: Black Girl Magic, Fake Virgins, End of Philippine Supremacy

Credit...Paras Griffin/Getty Images; Steven Ferdman/Getty Images; Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today Sports, via Reuters; Paras Griffin/Getty Images

#BLACKGIRLMAGIC:  For the first time in the history of pageantry, the winners of all five major titles have been won by black or partially black women. Nia Franklin, representing New York, was crowned Miss America 2019 on September 9, 2018.  Kaliegh Garris of Connecticut, whose mother is white, was crowned Miss Teen USA 2019 on April 28, 2019. Four days later, Cheslie Kryst of North Carolina, whose father is white, was crowned Miss USA 2019. Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa was crowned Miss Universe 2019 on December 8 in Atlanta. Tunzi is also the first black South African woman to win Miss Universe. And finally, Toni-Ann Singh of Jamaica, who is part-Indian, was crowned Miss World 2019 in London on December 14. Honorable mentions include Emanii Davis of Georgia who was crowned Miss Earth 2019 in Las Vegas on June 30 (she would later relinquish her national title after winning Miss Earth Air 2019); Regina Gray of Wisconsin was crowned Miss Supranational USA 2019 on August 10; and Clémence Botino, representing Guadeloupe, was crowned Miss France 2019 on December 14.

Supporters of the women state that the recognition reflects today's evolving perception of beauty; it is beyond Barbie-lite, or an era when contestants were desired solely for straight hair, light skin complexion, and an hour-glass figure. “Finally the universe is giving value to black skin,” read an Instagram post from Leila Lopes, a former Miss Angola who was crowned Miss Universe in 2011.  Oprah Winfrey also praised Zozibini Tunzi for her leadership.The new Miss Universe put it best in her closing statement on December 8. “I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me, with my kind of skin and my kind of hair, was never considered beautiful,” she told the rapt crowd. “I think it is time that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face. And I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.”


FROM HIGH TO LO:  During the Binibining Pilipinas 2019 pageant last June, Samantha Ashley Lo was crowned Bb. Pilipinas Grand International 2019 which gave her the right to represent the Philippines at Miss Grand International 2019 pageant held in Caracas, Venezuela on October 25.  Lo left Manila on October 9 to travel to Caracas; however,  her fans were surprised when she failed to show up in any of the competition's pre-activities. Neither did she give any updates on her whereabouts. According to the official statement released by BPCI (Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc.), Lo "was detained by immigration officials in Paris and was eventually sent back to Manila due to issues with her Philippine passport" which "had been altered with and tampered."  Lo's parents had admitted that her passport had been issued through a "fixer." According to Lo, the local organizer failed to equip her with the proper transit visa that could have enabled her to complete her earlier trip to Venezuela. She eventually arrived in Caracas on October 25th and was able to compete in the preliminaries, but failed to advance in the finals even though she was among the top 10 most popular in votes. Netizens attributed her loss partly to her seemingly over-the-top signature  "Maria Clara Walk" during the evening gown competition. On November 27 - a month after she competed in Miss Grand International - Lo submitted her letter of resignation to BPCI.


PIA WURTZBACH "WINS" AGAIN:  Former Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach felt like a winner again as she unveiled in Manila last March her wax figure for Madame Tussauds Hong Kong. Wurtzbach is the first and only Filipino celebrity to have a figure at the popular wax museum chain’s flagship attraction in Asia. “It’s so surreal. I cannot explain how happy I am now. I feel like I won again,” said the beauty queen and actress who turned 30 last September 24. If we are not mistaken, Wurtzbach is also the first major beauty queen to have a wax figure made for Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong. Note that Indian beauty queens Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra have their wax figures at Madame Tussauds in London.


CONSERVATIVE QUEENS DETHRONED:  In July, Kathy Zhu, a pro-Trump commentator, was stripped of her title as Miss World Michigan because of her conservative views.  Pageant officials told her that “offensive, insensitive and inappropriate” posts she made on social media about blacks and Muslim women violated the organization’s rules and conditions, according to screenshots Zhu had shared on Twitter. Zhu pushed back at the organization by claiming that the tweets were just “statistics and facts” and that she was discriminated against. In August, Katie Williams claimed that she lost her Ms. Nevada crown due to her conservative views as well.  According to Summit News, the director of the pageant, Susan Jeske, sent screenshots to Williams showing which pictures she needed to delete. They included pictures of her wearing a Trump 2020 hat, as well as photos of her professing her love for America, and her opposition to radical leftist group, Antifa. She says the director's message made it clear these pictures all needed to be erased. However, Jeske, with legal assistance, denied Williams's allegations and posted a lengthy rebuttal on the Ms. America website which can be summarized in this statement: "ALL the pageant asked of Ms. Williams, in writing, is to keep separate social media accounts. (ie: Facebook) One is for politics where she can voice her own opinion as Katie Williams and the other is a new Facebook page for the pageant representing Ms. Nevada State 2019." Incidentally, both Zhu and Williams will be judging a new pageant sometime in January called Miss MAGA which will cater to young single women with conservative beliefs. That should be interesting!

(DIS)HONORABLE MENTIONS: Kalo Funganita, Miss Heilala (Tonga) 2018, was stripped of her title in July for failing to fulfill her duties; however, before handing the crown to the new winner, she delivered a fiery speech which accused the pageant organizers of not supporting her, accusing them of cyberbullying and said the experience had been traumatic for herself and her family. Funganita's speech was not well received. She spoke to a chorus of jeers and some support, before her microphone was cut off and music was played to drown out her speech. 

On April 19, the Bolivian modeling agency Promociones Gloria announced on Facebook that Joyce Prado, who had won the group's Miss Bolivia and Miss Santa Cruz pageants in 2018, was dismissed from her role as result of a "breach of contract." While the modeling agency did not explicitly describe the nature of Prado's breach to safeguard a "confidentiality clause," Promociones Gloria did share more information on Instagram. The following dat, the agency shared a photo of an El Día Digital newspaper headline which read, "Joyce Prado is left without a crown because of her pregnancy." 


"SHE DOESN'T REPRESENT ME":  When the new Miss Panama 2019 was crowned on June 20, many Panamanians were not happy with the new queen, Mehr Eliezer. Why? Because Eliezer was born in India of Indian parents who emigrated to Panama when she was a young girl. Apparently, she was not considered to be a "true Panamanian" even though she speaks Spanish fluently and is a Panamanian citizen. On June 13, Madison Anderson was crowned Miss Universe Puerto Rico, much to the horror of many Puerto Rican fans who didn't consider her as a real "Boricua" because she was not born in the island but in Florida; she could barely speak Spanish and she looks like a blond Barbie doll. After she was crowned,  the hashtag #NoMeRepresenta, which means “does not represent me,” quickly gained traction on Twitter, with users listing all the things that Anderson doesn’t do or is not familiar with because she did not grow up in Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, her critics eventually warmed up to her and ended up fully supporting her especially after she placed second in Miss Universe 2019 contest. 


 One can't say the same thing with Andrea Piecuch, who was crowned Miss Universe U.S. Virgin Islands 2019 on August 17. Piecuch, along with the four finalists in top 5, were heavily criticized for having no ties whatsoever to the islands. Apparently, all women, who were all born and raised in mainland United States, had moved to the islands to establish six months of residency which is required to compete in the national pageant. Piecuch was dubbed as a "pageant hopper," having competed in Texas and Utah, before moving to the islands. None of the four island girls who had competed made the top five, which resulted in some members in the audience yelling "fraud" followed by an altercation between the official pageant photographer and some of the attendees.  Some islanders called the results a "disgrace to the territory." Janeisha John, a Virgin Islander who participated and won the Miss Universe U.S. Virgin Islands in 2010, expressed her dissatisfaction with this year’s pageant outcome. “I have to say that this is absolutely absurd and unacceptable!!! I’m all for a great competition and good sportsmanship but WHO ARE THESE WOMEN that you guys have appointed to represent our TERRITORY?!?!” Ms. John wrote on her Facebook page. The scandal prompted critics to demand the dismissal of national director Lulu Orange Tyson who was unable to provide legitimate proofs of residency of the top five finalists, and to question the loosening of the residency requirements. But a more important question to ask is this: Should the islands be represented at all by stateside washouts from the mainland?


 DESI DESTINY:  This year's Miss Universe contest saw the most number of contestants who share the same ethnic background - they are all Indians: Vartika Singh of India, Shweta Sekhon of Malaysia, Mehr Eliezer of Panama, Ornella Lafleche of Mauritius, Pradeepta Adhikari of Nepal, and Mohanaprabha Selvam of Singapore. If we were to include Shirin Akter Shela of Bangladesh to the group - since technically she is also a "Desi" (a term that loosely describes anyone coming from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh - all parts of the Indian subcontinent) - then she would be the seventh "Indian" member of the group. 


MISS-ING AMERICA:  The Miss America 2020 pageant (ooops! Sorry! They now call it "televised job interview"). Let's start all over again - the Miss America 2020 Televised Job Interview was held on December 19, 2019 at the Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut.  The lucky woman who got the job was Miss Virginia, Camille Schrier, a biochemist and a pharmaceutical student. Despite the changes in the contest that includes eliminating the swimsuit competition, that physical appearance would no longer be judged, the resignation of CEO Gretchen Carlson after 17 months of leadership, and returning to NBC after a year of stint on ABC, the pageant scored a 0.6 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic and 3.61 million viewers for its two-hour run - marking the second consecutive year the pageant hit all-time lows; last year’s ABC show was off 42%. The pageant's new format also drew harsh criticisms on Twitter: "This feels like the most cheap, homemade, low-budget mess and these women deserve better." (@steph_castro)  "So instead of swimsuit, they decided to humiliate the semi-finalists by telling them why they aren't finalists???" (@charharreveld) ""Miss America 2.0 is trash. This is a train wreck, crashed into a dumpster and caught on fire. But just like every disaster, I can't look away. It can't get worse, but I refuse to change the channel and risk missing it go down in flames." (@simonsayssmile) Read more here.


MISS EARTH VENEZUELA SCANDAL:  Michell Castellanos (above) representing the state of Guarico, was crowned Miss Earth Venezuela 2019 last August 25. Her victory was marred with scandal as the majority of the contestants walked off the stage and refused to congratulate her. According to this Spanish-language article  two contestants - Ly Casanova (Miss Costa Oriental) and Andrea Cesin (Miss Monagas) -  came out to the press and accused Castellanos of taking too many liberties, like for example, arriving late at certain events whereas the rest of the girls were always punctual. They also said that the other girls who share their sentiment were afraid to speak up due to threats that they have received. Also, the representatives of Navicu, a major sponsor, were also part of the jury and they stated that their choices did not match those that were read by the announcer. They also said that Stephany Zreik, Miss Miranda who was crowned Miss Earth Fire, is the girlfriend of the president of Navicu. And according to some Venezuelan missologists, it looks like Prince Julio Cesar, the president of Miss Earth Venezuela, has engaged in fraudulent activities and they have stopped supporting the pageant.


BPCI LOSES MISS UNIVERSE FRANCHISE: For over fifty years, the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI), spearheaded by Stella Marquez de Araneta, has owned the Philippine franchise for several international pageants including the biggest and most prestigious one, Miss Universe. Under Stella's belt, the Philippines won four Miss Universes, six Miss Internationals, one Miss Supranational, one Miss Intercontinental, one Miss Globe, and countless runners-up and semifinalists. However, IMG Universe, the owner of Miss Universe, decided not to renew its contract with BPCI and offered the franchise instead to the newly created Miss Universe Philippines Organization whose core team consists of former Miss Universe Philippines 2011 Shamcey Supsup as the national director, Miss Universe Philippines 2007 Lia Ramos as head of Women Empowerment Committee and Charity, Albert Andrada as the Design Council Head,  and Jonas Gaffud as the Creative Director. With the Miss Universe franchise gone from its hands, BPCI must now focus on producing the next Filipina winners for Miss International, Miss Supranational, Miss Globe, Miss Intercontinental, and Miss Grand International which is yet to be won.



MEANEST GIRL: If you're looking for the most hated queen in 2019, look no further. Arayha ("Coco") Suparurk was crowned Miss Grand Thailand 2019 on July 13 which gave her the right to represent her country in Miss Grand International 2019 pageant. After being under fire for calling Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray “fat” on her social media, newly-crowned Arayha told PowerhousePH that she would apologize to Gray only “if Cat will message [her] directly.” During the interview with the pageantry website, Coco referred to the post she had shared to her 117,000 followers with Miss Grand International 2018 Clara Sosa of Paraguay in a swimsuit being labeled as “fit” and Catriona labeled as “fat.” The Thai beauty queen defended herself from criticism, explaining, “I shared the photo of Clara because I’m jealous of her body and want it. I shared the truth and everyone hates me for it. Even when I upload a pretty picture of myself, there’s a thousand angry comments,” adding, “I shared the truth. I know she’s Miss Universe, but the picture just says it all.”  Oh, well... even though she has a mean streak, at least she's being honest. Catriona fans were elated when Coco failed to win Miss Grand International 2019, placing only third.


DISCRIMINATION LAWSUITS:  In early December, a Ukrainian beauty queen who was stripped of her title after pageant organizers learned she had a child is now suing the Miss World organization. Veronika Didusenko, 24, announced her intention to fight the pageant authorities on their “discriminatory” policy that prohibits mothers or married women from participating in the pageants. “I have launched a legal challenge against @MissWorld and this marks the new phase in our joint fight for justice,” she wrote on Instagram. "I want to change [the rules], challenge them. I want to make sure the rules of Miss World move with the times," Didusenko told the BBC. "I want to make them more fit for nowadays and reflect women's reality today - who can perfectly balance between their careers and their personal life."  Miss England competition director Angie Beasley, however, claims that the rules are in place in order to be fair to both the child and the child's family.“It is both unfair on the child and her family to take the mother away from home for the year whilst she travels the globe helping charity causes for children,” Beasley told ITV. “It raises issues about who would take care of the child/children whose mother was fortunate to win.”

During mid-December, a transgender woman from Oregon has filed a lawsuit against the United States of America Pageants, alleging that the pageant company's rule restricting competition to “natural born'' females is a form of gender-identity discrimination. Anita Noelle Green of Clackamas holds the title of 2019 Miss Earth Elite Oregon and competed in the 2018 Miss Montana USA pageant. She applied to participate in the Miss United States of America pageant last year but her application was rejected. “This policy, intentionally designed to exclude the specific class to which plaintiff belongs – transgender females – is discriminatory because it denied plaintiff the full and equal advantages and privileges of defendant's services in violation of Oregon's public accommodations law,’’ the lawsuit says.


LIBERTY OR DEATH: An Iranian beauty queen sought by Tehran on criminal charges has been granted political asylum in the Philippines, an official said on November 8, ending a three-week standoff at Manila airport. Bahareh Zare Bahari, based in the Philippines since 2014, was denied entry into the Southeast Asian nation on Oct 17 when she returned from Dubai, with Philippine authorities citing an Iranian warrant for her arrest. Claiming Tehran wanted to punish her for opposition to Iran's theocratic regime, Bahari then sought refugee status, holed up in a room at Manila's international airport and using social media to rally support from the international community - including a plea to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte"They will kill me", Bahari told Britain's Telegraph newspaper last month, referring to Iranian authorities. Bahari represented Iran at the 2018 Miss Intercontinental pageant that took place in Manila in January 2019.


GOING, GOING, LESS GRAND: When Nawat Itsaragrisil, the president of Miss Grand International, announced last July 25 that the next edition of the pageant would be held on October 25 in Caracas, Venezuela, pageant fans quickly condemned him for taking the pageant to a country that has been suffering from political and economic turmoil for decades and that is considered as one of the most dangerous places in the world. The number of contestants (60) was much lower than last year's (75), due to delegates withdrawing for safety reasons or that they were unable to secure a visa on time. Luckily, no news-worthy incident happened to the contestants who showed up, except for Miss Grand Philippines Samantha Lo who arrived a week before the finals. The production went on smoothly and the live telecast was shown on Televen, a major Venezuelan TV network and other stations. Hometown girl Valentina Figuera was declared the winner, and it was announced that Venezuela will again host the pageant in 2020. However, the pageant was heavily criticized for excessively altering the official swimsuit photos of the contestants like the ones below:


The girls stayed mostly inside the hotel and had their outdoor photos taken in relatively safe tourist sites in the city. The pageant did not get much support from the Venezuelan people, especially those who loathe Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro.  Nawat offered free tickets to the public to attend the finals, and made sure the girls were well taken care of during their entire stay in Caracas. He managed to remain cool, despite an earlier incident involving a minor fire at the hotel that was reported initially by Philippine pageant portals, Missosology and Sash Factor; the report angered Nawat to the point of posting a video of himself condemning the portals for spreading "fake news." And some fans even believe that Nawat had chosen Venezuela as the host country not because he wanted to prove that it is a safe country but that he intended to make it as a launching pad to promote his pageant to the Latino market. And this is why the hometown girl won. 


WORST EDITION OF MISS UNIVERSE: 2019 proved to be the worst year for the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) from a logistical perspective. Where do we even start? First, the date and venue was announced on October 31 - barely five weeks before the finals held on December 8. The announcement barely gave some of the contestants enough time to prepare for their trip to Atlanta, especially Miss Russia who ended up going to Miss World instead. Second, the venue - Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta - could only hold 2,200 seats which is very limited for a pageant of such magnitude; this inconvenience resulted in major panic and frustration among fans who had already purchased their airfare and hotel accommodations in Atlanta, and prompted some fans to launch a petition addressed to MUO President Paula Shugart demanding that the show be moved to a much bigger venue. Of course, that did not happen. Third, the tickets for the finals were sold out literally within seconds. Fourth,  instead of live streaming the preliminaries and the national costume shows for free, MUO imposed a $10 pay-per-view fee for each show - which angered the fans many of whom could not afford to pay. 

Fifth, members of the media complained that their e-mails and calls to MUO's Public Relations Department remained unanswered. Sixth, some of the pre-pageant activities fell behind schedule. Seventh, since there was no reserved seating at the prelims and national costume show, the attendees had to stand in line for hours; once the doors were opened, the attendees shoved and pushed each other in the crowded line and rushed to get good seats (many of which had already been reserved for VIPs and national directors). Eighth, there were no visible signs advertising or promoting the pageant at the hotel where the contestants were staying, or even at the venue where the finals was held. Ninth, no program books or memorabilia were sold, not even on the website. And tenth, the telecast was the worst production I have ever seen - which I elaborate in my review 


BUH-BYE, PHILIPPINES. HELLO, THAILAND: For the last five or six years, the Philippines has maintained its title "Country Of The Year" because of its highly successful performance and prolific victories in various international pageants. However, in 2019, the country failed to win even one of the major pageant titles and has to settle for either a top 10 or a top 20 position.  Filipinos fans were hoping for a back-to-back Miss Universe victory with their representative, Gazini Ganados who failed to reach the top 5. Meanwhile, Thailand- which was the second best country in 2018 - surged to the top with a phenomenal performance in 2019 that included winning Miss International (Sireethorn Leearamwat) and Miss Supranational (Anntonia Porsild) titles, a top 5 spot in Miss Universe (Paweensuda Drouin), a top 20 spot in Miss Earth (Teeyapar Sretsirisuvarna), and a top 40 spot in Miss World (Narintorn Chadapattarawalrachoat). It remains to be seen if Thailand can continue its winning streak in 2020. Other countries that did fairly well in 2019 include Puerto Rico winning Miss Earth with  Nellys Pimentel and placing second in Miss Universe with Madison Anderson, and Mexico trailing behind with a second placer at Miss International, Andrea Toscano, and a third placer at Miss Universe, Sofia Aragon.



Model Gabriela Mendes Viegas, crowned Miss Ilhéus 2018, was found dead on May 4 in Bahia. According to family members, she was struggling with depression. Several online Brazilian sites are reporting that Viegas had committed suicideShe was a medical student at UFBA (Federal University of Bahia). The death was announced by the college's Athletic Association, which released a note on social networks.


On May 2, the body of former Miss Universe Uruguay 2006 Fatimih Davila Sosa was found hanging at a Mexico City hotel which might have had ties to a high-end escort ring, according to Spanish-language news outlets. She was 31.  Spanish media reported that Davila Sosa’s name came up in a 2012 book about an investigation into sex trafficking. Her Instagram account said she had been based in Mexico as a model. On her profile, the 31-year-old shared snaps travelling with friends and inspirational phrases such as, “What we do today matters most.” “Let’s start the year 2019 smiling and with good vibes,” the pageant winner posted back in January.


 Former Miss Pakistan World winner Zanib Naveed died at the age of 32 on December 1st after she was involved in a car crash in Prince George's County, Maryland. According to a press release by the Maryland State Police, Naveed was driving a 2018 Mercedes CL2 eastward on the Inter-County Connector when she attempted to take the southbound curve to Route 1 and struck the curb. The vehicle overturned onto the northbound lanes of Route 1 and Naveed was ejected from her seat.  Naveed won the title of Miss Pakistan World in 2012 and competed at the 2012 Miss Earth pageant. She was also the president of the Miss and Mrs. Pakistan U.S.A. organizations. 
Dijana Milojkovic, Miss Earth Serbia 2009, spent nearly six years battling the cancer after she was diagnosed at just 27-years-old. Following her diagnosis, she started blogging about her journey and rapidly gained thousands of loyal supporters inspired by her positivity and perseverance. Last June, an urgent appeal was made for a blood donor as her health began to decline. Despite managing to retrieve the blood, doctors were unable to save her and she died on July 22.

A former Miss Teen Universe has died after suffering cardiac arrest on a ski trip the day before her 20th birthday. Model Lotte van der Zee, from the Netherlands, passed away after being placed in an artificially induced coma after falling ill while on vacation in Westendorf, Austria, with her family, on February 20. The beauty queen, who won the prestigious pageant in 2017, died on March 6 at a hospital in Munich, Germany, two weeks after the cardiac arrest.
Filipina beauty queen April Love Jordan passed away on June 21 after she succumbed to liver cancer. She was 31.  Jordan competed in several national pageants like Miss World Philippines 2012 where she placed 3rd princess. In 2009, she won the International Beauty and Model Festival queen title. Miss World Philippines 2012 Queneerich Rehman took to Instagram on Monday, June 24, to remember and celebrate April's life. "I'm lost for words April. I just can't accept that you're gone. We won't be able to have this wonderful moments together. I know that you're in good place right now and we will truly miss you. You've fought hard in life till your very last breath. We are truly [grateful] to have met you and of course being one of your close friends during Miss World Philippines and the years after that. We love you and we Miss you so much."


Carley McCord, a TV sports reporter, perished in a plane crash near Lafayette Regional Airport in Lafayette, Louisiana on December 28 along with 4 other people. The plane went down a minute after takeoff. McCord and her fellow passengers were traveling to the Peach Bowl. McCord was also the first runner-up in the Miss Louisiana scholarship program in both 2011 and 2012 and auditioned for The Bachelor in 2013, The New York Times reported. McCord’s husband, Steven Ensminger Jr., opened up about the anguish he is currently experiencing after missing his wife’s final messages. He told Sports Illustrated that McCord had called him that morning before the fatal flight but explained that he could not answer either message because he was at work. Those messages would end up being McCord’s last. She was only 30. (***This entry was added on 1/7/2020)

ISABEL SARLI / CREDIT: Revista Viva 23 de marzo del 2009
Isabel Sarli died on June 25, 2019 at age 89 in her home in Buenos Aires.icknamed Coca, Sardi was known for starring in several sexploitation films by Armando Bó, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. She began her career as a model and beauty queen, becoming Miss Argentina and reaching the semi-finals of Miss Universe 1955.  She was discovered by Bó in 1956 and made her acting debut the following year with Thunder Among the Leaves, in which a controversial nude scene featuring Sarli made it the first film to feature full frontal nudity in Argentine cinema.  As the muse and protagonist of Bó's films, Sarli became the quintessential sex symbol of her country and a popular figure worldwide. With Bó's death in 1981, Sarli virtually retired from acting. Since the 1990s, her films have been revalued for their camp and kitsch content and are recognised as cult classics. She is considered a gay and pop icon.[  (***This entry was added on 1/9/2020).  

By Rafa Delfin, 12/29/2019
Updated 1/9/2020


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