MOST AWAITED CONTEST PHASE Eighty-six beauties from various countries and territories appeared in swimsuits in the most awaited portion of the Miss Universe pageant at a Cebu resort. Among those who drew the loudest cheers was the Philippines’ Maxine Medina (left). —JILSON SECKLER TIU
LAPU-LAPU CITY, CEBU—For the most awaited portion of the Miss Universe pageant, Cebuanos pulled out all stops as they lined the streets as early as 6 a.m. on Tuesday to welcome 86 beauty queens from all over the world.
Waving flags and colorful balloons, and wearing cardboard Miss Universe crowns distributed by the Lapu-Lapu City government, students and teachers had anticipated a splashy swimsuit competition at the Abalone garden of JPark Island Resort and Waterpark on historic Mactan Island.
It was on the island that a native chieftain, Lapu-Lapu, killed the Portugese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, in the so-called Battle of Mactan in 1521.
But overcast skies pushed organizers to move the swimsuit presentation inside the resort’s Triton Grand Ballroom, where an overflow crowd of over 800 squeezed into the venue meant for only 600.
Drawing the loudest cheers and applause was hometown favorite, Maxine Medina, a former model who owned the catwalk in the swimsuit fashion show.
Earning lusty applause as well was Miss Korea Jenny Kim. JPark is a well known holiday destination for Korean families.
Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo lauded the combined efforts of private and public sectors to put the Philippines on the world map through the Miss Universe pageant.
Former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, one of the partners of the pageant, said the Miss Universe was back to where it rightfully belonged.
The Philippines hosted the international pageant in 1974 when Margie Moran of the Philippines relinquished the crown, and in 1994 when Sushmita Sen of India bagged the title.
“That is why it is right, in a very real sense, that we greet our guests, ‘Welcome home,’” Singson said.
The Miss Universe 2011 third runnerup, Shamcey Supsup, said Medina’s catwalk skills would push her chances to be among the top 5 in the pageant.
“Her experience as a model makes her feel very comfortable on the runway so I am confident that she will do really well,” Supsup said.
In his speech, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña acknowledged 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach’s victory as having brought the crown back to the Philippines after a 42-year drought.
The country’s last Miss Universe title was won by Moran in 1973. In 1969, Gloria Diaz won the country’s first Miss Universe crown. In the last five years, except in 2014, the Philippine representative consistently placed in the top 5, with Janine Tugonon almost winning the crown in 2012 when she placed first runner-up to Olivia Culpo of the United States.
‘Let her fly’
Shawn McLain, vice president for marketing of the Miss Universe Organization, lauded the Filipinos for coming together to host the 65th Miss Universe pageant after 23 years. Regretfully, she said, the pageant now has to “give up Pia and let her fly.”
“We have seen how much she has grown as Miss Universe representative. We wish Pia well. She is an amazing representation in spreading the message of good will. We thank you for giving us Pia for more than a year and now, you can have her back,” McLain said.
For her part, Wurtzbach said she had offered prayers to the Infant Jesus at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño before flying to Manila and onward to Las Vegas to compete in the 2015 Miss Universe pageant.
“I feel I owe my luck to the Sto. Niño,” she said.
In Baguio City this morning, the Miss Universe candidates should brace themselves for nippy weather, as the mercury dropped to 11.2 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, the second coldest so far this year. On Jan. 9, the temperature dropped to 11 degrees.
Wurtzbach and 32 beauty queens from various countries will be given a silent drill exhibition by Philippine Military Academy cadets when they land at Loakan Airport.
They will also take part in Panagbenga, Baguio’s Flower Festival, when they are paraded on four floats decorated with Benguet flowers along a portion of the city.
Baguio Country Club (BCC), which is hosting Wurtzbach and the candidates, commissioned the floats to represent the cultural heritage of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, said Anthony de Leon, BCC manager and president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio, the main organizer of the visit.
Best of Cordillera
The candidates will parade on Session Road at 10 a.m. before proceeding to the country club via South Drive. For security reasons, all activities for the candidates will be held at BCC, De Leon said.
To showcase the best of the Cordillera, the candidates will be taken to an organic strawberry farm, an ikat weaving shop, and an exhibit of solar paintings by visual artist Jordan Mangosen.
Classes on all levels here are suspended today, while Session Road and Loakan Road will be closed to traffic early morning until noon to make way for the candidates’ arrival and parade. —WITH REPORTS FROM GABRIEL CARDINOZA AND GOBLETH MOULIC