By ALex Y. Vergara
Photos by Noel Pabalate
Now, it’s official! Images and stories of them have been hogging both mainstream and social media for weeks now, but delegates to the 65th annual Miss Universe only had their official coming-out party last Monday at SMX Convention Center, as featured guests in the Governor’s Ball in honor of former Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson.
It was through the dogged determination of the sometimes controversial Singson, chair of the LCS Group, which enabled the country to stage for the third time the most prestigious and most watched global beauty pageant in the universe.
Dressed to the nines, Manila’s Who’s Who came out in full force to take a closer look at this year’s competitors. The well-heeled crowd had to pay P250,000 per table to enjoy the dinner prepared by Via Mare and entertainment led by such performers as Jed Madela, Radha, Frenchie Dy, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, and Jona, who sang “Confidently Beautiful,” official theme song of this year’s Miss Universe.
Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and man of the hour former Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson
Misses Australia Caris Tiivel and Barbados Shannon Harris
Miss Philippines Maxine Medina
Miss Brazil Raissa Santana
Miss Indonesia Kezia Warouw
Miss Netherlands Zoey Ivory
Miss Panama Keity Drennan
Miss Singapore Cheryl Chou
Miss Spain Noelia Freire
Miss Thailand Chalita Suansane
Miss Turkey Tansu Cakir
It was the first time Manileños got to see the girls up close and personal. It won’t come as a surprise if they were able to come up with their respective list of top 15 beauties even before they left the huge venue.
Frontrunners Misses Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Thailand drew the loudest cheers. But they weren’t enough to eclipse the home court advantage enjoyed by Miss Philippines Maxine Medina, who looked nonchalantly chic in a strapless red orange number with a dusting of glitter on the skirt and bodice by Rhett Eala.
In contrast, Miss Indonesia and her handlers left no bead, so to speak, unturned, as she slipped into in a semi-beaded and embroidered column that traced the lines of the country’s trademark batik fabric. This six-foot girl is in it to win. Palaban! She may not fit the mold we normally associate Miss USA with, but the country’s representative this year, a brainy African-American soldier, oozed with confidence and stage presence, which made her hard to miss.
The same also goes to va-va-voom Miss Mexico and Asian vixen Miss Singapore, a dark horse who could pull the rug off from the contest’s more celebrated delegates come coronation morning on Jan 30. With the right styling, latecomer Miss Dominican Republic is also another girl who could go far. Also shaping up as girls to watch out for were Misses Netherlands, Ukraine, Spain, Argentina, Germany, Australia, and Turkey.
Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, had some nice words for Singson and the Philippines. She commended Singson who certainly “didn’t need all the headache” for moving heaven and earth to have the pageant staged here.
“The Philippines is home to our greatest fans and the kindest people you’d ever meet,” she said. “Other countries may have beautiful beaches [too], but they don’t have the Filipino people.”
But after all the speeches and thank yous were said, the night eventually belonged to Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, who spoke with sincerity and humor of how proud, overwhelmed, and privileged she was to be given the opportunity to pass on her crown to her successor in the Philippines.
“Two things that I love, the Philippines and Miss Universe, are coming together right here, right now on,” Wurtzbach, dressed in black ’50s-style lace and embroidered ball gown, said. “I’m already so grateful to compete in Miss Universe, let alone win the crown and having to pass on my crown here in my own country. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Basing it perhaps from her own experience, she also mentioned what everybody probably already knew—Miss Universe is a gathering of the “best of the best” girls representing their respective countries. She then went on to tell the audience how important winning Miss Universe, an opportunity given only to one girl every year, was. And, as if trying to be conspiratorial about it, she spoke a line in Filipino, which further endeared her to her countrymen.
“Miss Universe is all about empowering women. Behind that sash is a girl with a story of inspiration, empowerment, and that’s what Miss Universe is all about. It’s not just a pretty girl on stage who’s fit, who’s wearing a beautiful designer gown…I could already feel that all eyes are on me and my crown. Gusto na nilang kunin ito sa akin,” she said goodnaturedly, to the delight of the majority Filipino audience.
Wurtzbach showed to the world that were many reasons, apart from her beauty, why she became Miss Universe. She’s going to be one tough act to follow.