An exultant Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach waves to well-wishers on her arrival on Saturday morning at the same Manila airport where, just a month ago, she left virtually unnoticed. The 2015 Miss Universe comes home to a grand homecoming that includes a ticker-tape parade on Monday, a courtesy call on President Aquino and a congressional medal of distinction from lawmakers. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA
“I was so excited, I wasn’t able to sleep last night,” confessed Wurtzbach during a press conference shortly after her arrival.
In an interview later aired over TV, the beauty queen said she brought home the real crown, not a replica that was sometimes used when the Miss Universe had to visit “rough” neighborhoods.
“(The organizers said) the Philippines deserves the real deal so we brought (home) the genuine crown,” Wurtzbach said, referring to the $300,000 diadem studded with diamonds, topaz, sapphire, crystal and gold, whose design recalls the Manhattan skyline.
“In my previous interviews I always said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll bring home the crown, and now I (was) finally able to do it,” she added.
Wurtzbach arrived in Manila around 6 a.m. Friday onboard Philippine Airlines flight 538 from Jakarta, Indonesia, where she performed an official function as Miss Universe. She was welcomed home with a bouquet and a hug by Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. (BPCI) chair Stella Marquez Araneta.
“Every time I think about my trip coming back here, I would tear up a little bit because I feel like it has been so long and I have so many things to share with all of you,” said the world’s most beautiful woman who held herself back from speaking further, explaining that she was saving the stories of her experiences for today’s official press conference.
“I appreciate your taking time to come here,” Wurtzbach told the crowd of journalists, airport workers and airline passengers.
When she left for the Miss Universe beauty pageant in Las Vegas on Nov. 30 last year from Naia Terminal 2, Wurtzbach had only two TV news crew who saw her off along with BPCI representatives and a handful of supporters, some of whom wore paper cutouts of tiaras and sashes.
The beauty queen had asked for prayers and promised to do her best to win the coveted Miss Universe title.
Friday, the crowd screamed out her name as her car pulled out of the airport.
Smiling and waving from the car’s open window, Wurtzbach left a trail of breathless people in her wake.
Malacañang on Friday hailed the Filipino-German beauty as a “worthy ambassador” of the Philippines and said her victory as Miss Universe united the whole country.
“It has been four decades and really, there are things that unite our society … I think success like this is one of them,” Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said on state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
“In her interviews with the media in America, which we all followed, we saw that she’s a worthy ambassador of the country (as she) speaks very well,” Quezon added.
Wurtzbach is set to make a courtesy call this week on President Aquino, who was once romantically linked to her.
Asked what the public could expect from the Palace during Miss Universe’s courtesy call, Quezon said her visit to Malacañang “would be enough symbolism that the people’s Palace and the leader of our government and society … represent all of us in praising and giving respect to Ms Wurtzbach.”
42-year title drought
A ticker-tape parade that will take her through Makati and Cubao, as well as a congressional medal of distinction await Wurtzbach during her homecoming, one month after she was named Miss Universe in a highly controversial coronation in Las Vegas, Nevada.
American host Steve Harvey had misread the cue card and mistakenly declared Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez as Miss Universe 2015, only to correct himself four minutes later. The Colombian beauty was actually first runner-up, while Miss Philippines was the pageant winner.
Wurtzbach’s victory ended a 42-year title drought for the Philippines in the popular pageant generally dominated by South American beauties.
The last Filipino Miss Universe was Margie Moran, who won in 1973. Gloria Diaz first won the title for the country in 1969.
Asked whether Malacañang supported a congressional move to grant Wurtzbach a tax exemption from her Miss Universe earnings amid a reminder from tax commissioner Kim Henares that her winnings were taxable, Quezon said: “Well, I’m sure Ms Wurtzbach would appreciate (that) very much (but that is within) the power of Congress, and I’m sure they are thinking of the maximum benefit for all of us.”
Wurtzbach was hailed as a “Modern Filipina whose transformation inspires young women all over the world to follow their dreams and aspirations.”
Unilever PR head, Apples Aberin, cited Wurtzbach’s previous attempts to win Binibining Pilipinas before clinching the title in 2015. “Despite the trials and tribulations she experienced along the way, she continued to believe in herself, knowing she had it in her to transform from good to great, from better to best. Her story and determination to realize her goals … truly makes her a Modern Filipina who is confidently beautiful with a heart,” she added. With a report from Nikko Dizon/ TVJ