Report by: Francis D. Calubaquib and Noli Berioso
The recent victory of Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach at the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant held last December 20 in Las Vegas, Nevada ended the forty two long years of waiting for a third Miss U crown for the country. It further fortified the Philippines’ impressive record at the pageant. With three Miss Universe titleholders, two first runner-up, five third runner-up and two fourth runner-up winners, not to mention six semi-finalist placements, one finalist, seven Miss Photogenic winners and a Best National Costume special awards, our country is ranked no. 4 behind pageant powerhouse USA with 8 winners, Venezuela with 6 winners and Puerto Rico, with five winners. Indeed, the Philippines can again rightfully claim to be a “Miss Universe Country, Land of the Beautiful” as first tagged in 1974 when the country first hosted the pageant.
The Filipinos' fascination with the Miss Universe Pageant began early on during the first year of the pageant in 1952 when the Philippines was one of the original thirty country participants, with our bet then in the person of Teresita Sanchez, at the fist-ever pageant held in Long Beach, California. The winner, Armi Kuusela of Finland visited the Philippines afterward then met, fell in love with, and married a handsome Filipino bachelor named Virgilio Hilario. A movie was made based on their love story entitled Now and Forever which became a box-office hit at that time. Armi settled in the Philippines for quite some time and migrated to the US after her husband died. She married again and this time to a diplomat.
During the fifties and mid-sixties, the Philippine representative to the pageant were selected via a Miss Philippines contest organized mainly by some socio-civic organizations. The first Pinay to have made it to the elite semi-finalists circle was Bessie Ocampo in 1954. The Philippines failed to send delegates at the Miss Universe Pageant from 1958 until 1961. In 1963, Lalaine Bennett, a native of Nueva Vizcaya placed third runner-up to Miss Brazil Ieda Maria Vargas.
In 1964, Filipino businessman Don Amado Araneta acquired the Philippine franchise for Miss Universe and organized the Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc. or BPCI, he then passed it on to her daughter in-law, Stella Marquez-Araneta, a former Miss Colombia, who became a Miss Universe semi-finalist and the winner of the first Miss International beauty pageant in 1960. To this day, Madame Stella, as she is fondly called is the chairperson of Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Incorporated (BPCI) which has been the official national franchise holder of the Miss Universe Organization since 1964.
The first major Miss Universe victory of the country was in 1969 when then eighteen-year old Gloria Diaz captured the crown in Miami, Florida. Her winning coincided with the man’s first landing on the moon, which people then humorlessly said that while the “Americans landed on the moon, a Filipina captured the universe”. Gloria’s triumph was followed soon after by minor victories with Vida Doria’s Miss Photogenic win in 1971 and a semi-final finish by Armi Barbara Crespo in 1972.
The second Pinay that was crowned Miss Universe was Margarita “Margie” Roxas Moran, the granddaughter of a former Philippine president, who won the title (alongside Miss Photogenic special award) at the Herod Atticus Theater at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
Margie Moran’s winning led to the Philippines’ hosting the Miss Universe Pageant a year later in 1974 through the efforts and leadership of the then First Lady, Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos. It was the most extravagant and colorful Miss Universe Pageant at that time. It was held on 21 July 1974 at the Folk Arts Theater and marked the first time in the pageant's history that the event was held in Asia. Amparo Muñoz of Spain won the title while the Philippines’ very own Guadalupe Sanchez made it in the semi-finals. The following year, in 1975, Rosemarie Singson Brosas won as fourth runner-up at the pageant held in El Salvador.
All through the 1980’s the Philippines has produced significant victories courtesy of Rosario “Chat” Silayan (3rd R-up, 1980) and Desiree Verdadero (3rd R-up 1984) and sixth place finish of Geraldine “Pebbles” Asis in Singapore in 1987.
After twenty years, in 1994 the Philippines’ again hosted the Miss Universe Pageant for the second time. The 43rd Miss Universe pageant was held on 20 May 1994 at the Plenary Hall of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). India’s Sushmita Sen won the title with top favorites Miss Colombia Carolina Gomez and Miss Venezuela Minorka Mercado placed as 1st and 2nd Runner-up respectively. This is the first time India won the pageant with seventy-seven delegates competing for the crown. Our delegate then, Charlene Bonin Gonzales made it as one of the finalists and won for the Philippines it’s first-ever Best in National Costume Awards. In 1996 and 1997, our delegates won as Miss Photogenic courtesy of Aileen Damiles and Abbygale Arenas. The Philippines almost had its third Miss Universe Crown in 1999 when Miriam Quiambao, (after a spectacular recovery from her preliminary competition fall,) won as first runner-up during the Miss U finals held in Trinidad & Tobago. Miriam also won the Clairol Herbal Essence Award.
As the new millennium came, even as we sent gorgeous Pinay Miss U delegates every year, our country did not get lucky enough to enter even the semi-final cut, a three year feat as Miss Photogenic Winners in 2005 to 2007 were all we could be proud of. Miss U Pinoy fanatics (myself included) never waned on their hope that eventually our country will regain its glorious spot in the most prestigious beauty event in the entire universe.
Then came 2010 when Maria Venus Raj started the winning streak for the Philippines with a “major, major” performance that landed her a fourth runner-up finish. The whole country is in jubilation as if we already won our third Miss U crown. The year after, in 2011 Shamcey Supsup with her phenomenal tsunami walk further leveled up by finishing third runner-up at the pageant held in Brazil. Not to be outdone in 2012, Janine Marie Tugonon again almost snatched our most-awaited Miss U crown by placing first runner-up in Las Vegas while Ariella Arida maintaining our top five placements in 2013 by placing third runner-up in Moscow, Russia.
Pageant aficionados eagerly awaited the outcome of the 63rd Miss Universe Pageant early this year in Doral City, Florida where Mary Jean MJ Lastimosa competed for the crown. The excitement and anticipation turned into disappointment when MJ failed to make it to the top five, but it was still a Miss U achievement nevertheless having gone as far as top ten placement.
Persistence being the major qualities of a winner, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach first competed in Binibini Gold Edition in 2013 where she emerged as first-runner up, the only lady without a major crown among their batch since there was no second runner-up that was chosen at that time. Pia gave her all out support to her batch mates who all placed in their respective international competitions.
The following year, 2014 Pia again joined Bb. Pilipinas but only managed to barge into the semi-finals. But the fighter in her never stopped, she finally captured the 2015 Miss Universe Philippines title after three straight years of trying and earned her the right to represent the Philippines at the Miss Universe Pageant. What followed was a long and arduous preparation for the biggest fight of her life, and rest as they say, is history.
Now, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach is the reigning Miss Universe, her winning and proclamation as the Universe’s fairest happened in a very controversial and unconventional way, but nevertheless very dramatic and inspiring. Thank You, Pia for giving the Philippines its third Miss Universe crown after forty-two long years! It was indeed very awesome, the whole nation is in jubilation. Now we can again rightfully claim that we are a 'Very Miss Universe Country'!
Philippine Delegate to the Miss Universe Pageant
1952 - Teresita Sanchez
1953 – Cristina Pacheco
1954 – Bessie Ocampo - Semi-finalist
1955 – Yvonne de los Reyes
1956 – Isabel Rodriguez
1957 – Mary Ann Corrales
1958 – 1961 – No Delegate
1962 – Josephine Estrada
1963 – Lalaine Bennett – 3rd Runner-up
1964 – Myrna Panlilio
1965 – Louis Vail Aurelio Semi-finalist
1966 – Ma. Clarinda Soriano – Semi-finalist
1967 – Pilar Pilapil
1968 Charina Zaragoza
1969 Gloria Diaz - MISS UNIVERSE 1969
1970 Simonette delos Reyes
1971 Vida Valentina Fernandez Doria - Miss Photogenic
1972 Armi Barbara Crespo- Top 12 Semi-Finalist
1973 Maria Margarita Roxas Moran - MISS UNIVERSE 1973 and Miss Photogenic
1974 Guadalupe Sanchez-Top 12 Semi-Finalist
1975 Rose Marie Singson Brosas-4th Runner-up
1976 Elizabeth de Padua
1977 Anna Lorraine Kier
1978 Jennifer Cortez
1979 Criselda "Dang" Flores Cecilio
1980 Maria Rosario Silayan - 3rd Runner-up
1981 Maricar Mendoza
1982 Maria Isabel Lopez
1983 Rosita Capuyon
1984 Maria Desiree Verdadero 3rd Runner Up
1985 Joyce Ann Burton
1986 Violeta Naluz
1987 Geraldine Asis -Top 10 Semi-Finalist
1988 Perfida "Limpin
1989 Sara Jane Davis Paez
1990 Germelina Padilla
1991 Maria Lourdes Gonzales
1992 Elizabeth Berroya
1993 Melinda Joanna Gallardo
1994 Charlene GonzalesTop 6 Finalist and Best
in National Costume
1995 Joanne Zapanta Santos
1996 Aileen Damiles -Miss Photogenic
1997 Abbygale Williamson Arenas - Miss Photogenic
1998 Jewel May Lobaton
1999 Miriam Quiambao - 1st Runner-up and Clairol Herbal Essence Style Award
2000 Nina Ricci Alagao
2001 Zorayda Ruth Andam
2002 Karen Loren Agustin
2003 Carla Gay Balingit
2004 Maricar Balagtas
2005 Gionna Cabrera - Miss Photogenic and Thai Airways Silk Award
2006 Lia Andrea Aquino Ramos - Miss Photogenic
2007 Anna Theresa Luy Licaros - Miss Photogenic
2008 Jennifer Barrientos
2009 Pamela Bianca Manalo
2010 Maria Venus Raj - 4th Runner-Up
2011 Shamcey Supsup- 3rd Runner-Up
2012 Janine Marie Tugonon - 1st Runner-Up
2013 Ariella Arida- 3rd Runner-Up
2014 Mary Jean Lastimosa - Top 10 Finalist
2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach - MISS UNIVERSE 2015