[2015 Yearender] Maturity and Filipinas’ patience that conquered the ‘Universe’


MANILA (Edited)—A month before the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas, 26-year-old Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach brought resolve before TV host Boy Abunda. Ferocious but jolly pulchritude beamed on national television.

“Hot or cold?” Abunda asked in a segment called “Fast Talk.” Pia posed sideways then turned her head rightwards, and her red lips pouted confidence: “Cold!” The eyelashes poised in tenacity. Abunda, so did TV audiences, regaled in Wurtzbach’s beauteous fury in Tonight with Boy Abunda.

2015 Miss Universe Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach (photo from the Miss Universe Organization)

2015 Miss Universe Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach (photo from the Miss Universe Organization)

All those bodily gestures, in just answering a simple question and the other questions that followed, show almost three years of a beauty queen’s maturity riping at the right time —in Las Vegas.

Take away the unfortunate faux pas by pageant host Steve Harvey. For the generation-long wait the Philippines wished her woman will conquer the universe, the patience and maturity of today’s Filipina beauty queen —rooted from the national pageants— have finally reached the highest plane.

To open the new millennium, a former Binibining Pilipinas-Universe winner, Maricar Balagtas, did join the local pageant thrice: 2000, 2001 and 2004, the final year being her crowning glory. The Miss Universe 2004 pageant in Quito, Ecuador did not see Balagtas land in the top 15.

But whether succeeding Filipina participants to the Bb. Pilipinas or Miss World Philippines (whose top winner goes on to Miss World) contests took cue from Balagtas’ experience is uncertain. Something, though, gained given Wurtzbach’s coronation in Las Vegas.

It’s the maturity, says beauty pageant analyst Stephen Diaz of the group Missosology, that’s brought about by joining Bb. Pilipinas for three consecutive years:  2013, first runner-up; 2014, only a top 15 finalist; and 2015, Bb. Pilipinas-Universe.

“I think the ‘consecutive years’ factor had to be considered,” said the Missosology member based in Gyoda City near the Japanese capital Tokyo. “Pia’s persistence worked on her favor, and she did work very hard to achieve the right body which she initially did not have,” Diaz observes, with reference to Wurtzbach at the 2015 Bb. Pilipinas contest.

But if some pundits think age is the push for the blossoming of the Filipina beauty queen in world beauty tilts, fellow Missosology member and web editor Mark Andrew Francisco dismisses it.

It is that maturity that Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc. values in recent years, says Francisco. “It (BPCI) is establishing a good reputation by sending girls who have substance and, at the same time, experience.”

Wurtzbach (24 September 1989) is the second-oldest Miss Universe winner at 26 years, two months and 26 days. American and Miss Universe 1998 Brooke Antoinette Lee is the oldest winner at 26 years, four months and nine days. The age limit set by the Miss Universe organization (MUO) for official participants is 27 years old.

Age is “just a number but you can still become Miss Universe,” Diaz tells The Filipino Connection. “It all depends on what the organization is looking for at the right time.”

When Wurtzbach was first runner-up in Bb. Pilipinas 2013, Ariella Arida was third runner-up in Miss Universe. The following year, MJ Lastimosa went to Miss Universe and Lastinosa landed in the top 10. Arida was 25 and Lastimosa at 26 in their Miss Universe stints. (Lastimosa joined Bb. Pilipinas thrice, the maximum number of times a contestant can compete, for as long as she had never won a major local beauty pageant like Mutya ng Pilipinas.)

Wurtzbach when she was first runner-up at the 2013 Bb. Pilipinas pageant (photo from Bb. Pilipinas Charities)

Wurtzbach when she was first runner-up at the 2013 Bb. Pilipinas pageant (photo from Bb. Pilipinas Charities)

Wurtzbach admits she started training for the top beauty pageants on November 2012.

And with five straight years of placing at least in the top ten in the Miss Universe, not to mention victories in other beauty pageants, the Philippines might have found the right formula of not rushing things before plunging into action. (An exception here is the country’s first Miss World, Megan Young, who just joined Miss World Philippines once.)

“Some girls had to rush things up in order to sustain the momentum. Some girls return after two or three years,” Diaz observes.

Which is why those aspiring to become beauty queens have to prepare for the stresses of joining a pageant. “Girls (do) need to be prepared physically, emotionally and mentally,” Francisco says. Given the winning streak of the Philippines in the last five to six years in international beauty pageants, Francisco thinks the queens “who took their time to improve and mature” had reaped their successes.

“There’s a point of readiness and a girl can feel if she has already ripened,” Francisco said. “After all, joining and eventually winning a pageant is not just all glamour. It’s a responsibility, a job.”

So should the “aging” queens wanting to be crowned join while the clock is ticking? Why don’t they keep on trying, Diaz asks.

“Experience teaches us a lot of things. Have faith in yourself, and let destiny take its course,” Diaz advises.

Like what happened that fateful December 20th in Las Vegas. How to handle the human mistake Harvey did may speak of incredible awkwardness for Wurtzbach and eventual first runner-up Ariadna Gutierrez of Colombia on stage and before global television. Days after, on Christmas Day, even if Wurtzbach and Gutierrez never saw each other again, some sense of maturity came out from a social media post.

“We are now bonded together forever by a unique experience,” Wurztbach’s Facebook message to Gutierrez writes. “I saw how strong and beautiful you are inside and out. You represented your country with honor and I know how proud everyone must be of you.”

“Fate has a plan for you, and I’m excited to see what’s ahead.”

And on Twitter to back up that Facebook post? The cheekbones and smile by a fair-skinned Filipina radiated at a fountain in New York City. Maturity and the successful Miss Universe experience had transformed this “aging” beauty queen.


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