By Sara Grace C. Fojas
Video by Jay Cedric Bustamante and David Clarence Rivera
Portrait by Pinggot Zulueta
With a needed budget of $12 million, having the coronation of the 65th Miss Universe held in the Philippines seemed to be unattainable. With a lot of changes happening in the country and the problems we are currently dealing with—a change of administration, typhoons left and right, the war on drugs, and the fight against poverty, it seemed that we simply could not afford that huge kind of an event.
When Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Teo told President Rodrigo Duterte about the offer of hosting the prestigious pageant, as much as he wanted to say yes, he initially refused because it would cost the government a lot of money.
“When I took over, Chavit Singson talked to me about the pageant being held here and requested the DOT to handle it. I immediately agreed because I knew it would be a big promotion for the country,” says Teo. “But when I told the President about it and informed him of the budget, he said that he’d rather give that huge amount of money to the poor. I was also slightly discouraged because of the amount needed. It’s $6 million in cash and another $6 million for the accommodation and food of the candidates.”
But the tourism secretary was determined to have the pageant in the Philippines, seeing a door of opportunity on how it would promote the country and boost the tourism economy. So she made a big promise to the President that the government “is not going to spend a single centavo” for the pageant.
It was a big promise to make: With 88 candidates, along with 10 to 30 companions each, who are in need of accommodation, food, and other expenses while staying here for the pageant, how are we going to do it?
But a promise is a promise, so Teo with the help of former Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson, talked to various companies and businessmen from the private sector and requested for their help, and they willingly obliged, in order to make the most beautiful day in the universe happen in the Philippines for the third time. Fast forward to today, through DOT, Luis Chavit Singson Group of Companies, Solar Entertainment Corporation, Okada Manila, SM Group of Companies, and many other sponsors, the $12 million budget is no longer a problem and the 65th Miss Universe is slated to happen at SM Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City on Jan. 30.
Other government agencies like the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Transportation, the Department of Health, Bureau of Immigration, Food and Drugs Administration, Metro Manila Development Authority, and the Manila International Airport Authority are helping DOT for the security, vehicular traffic, airport and immigration procedures, transport, and accommodations to ensure the successful holding of the event.
“The President said okay after I made the promise. The pageant was okay for him to be held in the country, it’s just that he was concerned about the money. It’s an honor for the country to have this kind of event. During the show, the whole Philippines will be seen by the whole world,” says Teo.
WAITING FOR THIS MOMENT
It’s been 23 years since the Miss Universe coronation was last held in the country. Prior to that, our very time to host it was in 1974 when Miss Universe 1973 Margarita Moran crowned Amparo Muñoz of Spain. In 1994, when it was held in Manila last, India’s Sushmita Sen was crowned by Miss Universe 1993 Dayanara Torres.
DOT Media director Ina Zara said that the president of the Miss Universe Organization Paula Shugart proposed the hosting of the pageant to other countries as well, but the Philippines had been the top choice from the start—and Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach was one of the reasons for that.
The event will be hosted by Steve Harvey while Ashley Graham will be the backstage anchor.
From the time it was confirmed that the prominent pageant will be held here, some candidates have had the time of their lives in the country.
Twelve candidates visited the country last December and had a memorable experience in Oslob, tasted the marvelous lechon in Cebu, walked through history when they toured the “Walled City” of Intramuros, where they even had dirty ice cream, and surfed on Cloud 9 in Siargao. Now, with approximately two weeks before the pageant day, the 88 candidates coming to the Philippines are in for a very wonderful treat as they explore the country’s tourist destinations and learn more about the rich Filipino culture.
TOTAL TOURISM EXPERIENCE
“Imagine, during the time of the Miss. Universe, 190 countries all over the world will be looking at the Philippines. We will feature all the destinations for them even those places that are not part of the candidates’ itinerary. People will know where the Philippines is and would want to come here. They’ll see the beauty of our country and enjoy the hospitality of the Filipino people. My priority is that they see even just a glimpse but the best of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao,” says Teo.
Candidates started to come in last Jan. 12 and 13 and they are scheduled to have photo shoots and fashion shows in Boracay, Vigan, Manila, Cebu, Baguio, Davao, and Batangas.
Vigan will host a terno fashion show while Davao will feature a Mindanao tapestry show. All the candidates will fly to the oldest City of Cebu for the swimwear presentation. They will have a photo shoot in their beach wear while in Batangas and will do some strawberry-picking in Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines.
A Malacañang visit and a courtesy call on President Duterte is likewise slated on Jan. 23
“With this, we expect more tourists to come after the pageant. One candidate will bring along 10 to 30 companions. We will also be hiring locals for the logistics so we will be able to give employment, increase our tourist arrivals, and help our economy. We are very ready for the event. Before the end of the day we always have an update. We’re doing that until the end of the contest. All systems go for the 65th Miss Universe,” says Teo.