Perhaps no other country in the world right now can claim a more intimate relationship with Miss Universe than the Philippines. After an unbroken streak that started in 2010 plus a crown in 2015, the country decided to play host for the 65th Miss Universe pageant. The recent hosting is something different from the earlier editions held in the Philippines. The 2016 organizing committee is an initiative of the private sector and not of the government. In fact, the government barely shelled out any money for the event which is in direct contrast of what transpired in 1974 and in 1994.
The ability of Philippine businesses to foot the millions of dollars of bills for hosting the Miss Universe pageant speaks in volume about the keen interest of Filipinos towards the pageant. After all, most beauty pageants nowadays have trouble finding a willing host country. But now that the Philippines experienced its longest unbroken streak at Miss Universe, hosted the pageant for three times with 3 crowns in the bag, what’s next?
There is no doubt that the Philippines is currently experiencing a golden era in the world of pageantry especially at Miss Universe. Not so long ago, the country was basically struggling at the pageant. From the well-hyped Nina Riccia Alagao in 2000 up to the equally much-hyped Bianca Manalo in 2009, the Filipinos hoped and prayed but everything came to naught. The situation dramatically changed in 2010 when Venus Raj competed in Las Vegas. Venus’ became the Mpule of the Philippines.
The ascent of the Philippines at Miss Universe was nothing short of spectacular. In the early 2000, the country struggled to find the winning formula. There was this prevailing notion back then that Miriam Quimbao lost because she messed up her final interview. Since 1999, the focus of Bb. Pilipinas, the national organization handling the Miss Universe in the Philippines, was on contestants who are quick thinking and can eloquently express themselves. It was a massive failure as evidenced by the drought that plagued the country from 2000-2009.
In 2010, after Venus Raj stumbled in the Top 5 Q&A, a lot of people criticized her interview skills. Melanie Marquez, Miss International 1979 and famous for her gaffe-prone statements, came to the defense of Venus saying, “Maraming tayong pinadala na magaling magsagot-sagot pero Luz Valdez.” (We sent a lot of delegates that are good in answering questions but they lost [failed to be in the semis]). That was actually a spot-on comment yet somehow, after Venus Raj, Bb. Pilipinas managed to strike a balance between brains and beauty.
Shamcey Supsup (2011), Janine Tugonon (2012), Ariella Arida (2013), Mary Jean Lastimosa (2014) and of course, Pia Wurtzbach were all well-rounded contestants who did well on catwalk as well as on the interviews. But with the recent change of management and consequently the change in focus and emphasis at Miss Universe, there is an urgent need to review the winning formula of Bb. Pilipinas. Maxine Medina’s Top 6 Q&A performance at Miss Universe 2016 stirred the hornet’s nest so much so that Bb. Pilipinas has recently announced that they will now give more points for interview skills.
On where this will take the Philippines in the future is highly debatable. The renewed focus on interview skills brings back the painful memories of 2000-2009. Will Bb. Pilipinas make the same mistake all over again? Will 2017 be the year when that unbroken streak will finally come to an end? There is no question that one should adapt to the changing times but one should remember – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!