FINALLY, the local franchise to the oldest-surviving international beauty pageant is back in the hands of a Filipino!Miss World Organisation chief executive Julia Morley flew in to Manila to personally award the exclusive licensee agreement of Miss World Philippines to wellness guru and World for All Foundation chairman Cory Quirino. And this milestone in Philippine pageantry was witnessed by members of the press at the Rizal Ballroom of Makati Shangri-La Hotel recently.
She was, of course, accompanied by reigning Miss World Alexandria Mills of the United States and first princess Emma Wareus of Botswana. “It was the first time in the 60-year history of the Miss World Organisation to visit the Philippines,” Morley enthused, “and the awarding of license to Cory [Quirino] was one of the highlights of our tour.”
The pageant, established by her late husband, Eric Morley, now celebrates its sixth decade of “Beauty with a Purpose.” It has raised more than $400 million in support of children’s charities across the globe to date. Also present at the event were Evangeline Pascual (first runner-up in 1973) and Ruffa Gutierrez (second princess and Asia’s Queen of Beauty in 1993).
During their almost two-day stay in the country, Morley, Miss World events director Stephen Douglas, Miss World-Asia consultant Paul Lee, Mills, Wareus alongside Quirino visited Ospital ng Makati—to which the organization “adopted” two heart patients—the Philippine General Hospital in Malate and Tuloy Street Children’s Foundation in Muntinlupa City.
“My heart bled when we went to PGH,” she said in an interview with Standard Today. “Upon seeing the depressed situations of children [in PGH] I realized the need to give your country a lot of opportunities. The Organisation vows to raise funds for the impoverished and sick patients [in PGH] for antibiotics, additional medical equipment and even for their ventilation.”
End of Stella’s regime
The Philippines first competed in Miss World back in 1966, with a charming Muslim princess named Emraida Kelly Kiram (her Christian name is Vivien Lee Austria) as the maiden representative. From that year to 1976, local bets were chosen through the Miss Republic of the Philippines tilt. The franchise was transferred to Mutya ng Pilipinas from 1977 to 1991, then to Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. from 1992 to 2010.
The country hasn’t won a Miss World crown up till now. The closest we have achieved was Pascual’s second-place finish in 1973. Crowned beauty Marjorie Wallace, the first winner from the United States, was forced to resign after 104 days due to her failure to cope up with fame and engagements in series of high-living exploits with prominent music and sports figures that brought disgrace to her title. Only the duties—and not the Miss World crown—were offered to Pascual to which she “respectfully declined” in favor of a budding movie career.
The unexpected changing of guards for the Miss World franchise gave rise to previous speculations that Morley was indeed “unhappy” with Araneta’s scheme of choosing Filipina delegates. A pageant web site moderator who requested anonymity disclosed: “Julia [Morley] really wanted Madam [Stella Marquez de Araneta] to conduct a separate contest. She didn’t like a smorgasbord search—a grand coronation night that produces multiple winners—that Araneta’s been practicing since 1970. It was in 2007 that she purportedly gave BPCI an ultimatum… if Stella’s ‘system’ would go on and on, the Miss World franchise would be revoked from her.”
In a separate interview with the Colombian matriarch during the preliminary screening of Binibining Pilipinas 2011’s top 100 candidates at the Gateway Suites, Araneta refused to elaborate why she lost the Miss World franchise. “It feels so sad that we lost it [it was with us for 19 years], but we have to move on and keep doing what we’re doing.”
Morley explained: “The Miss World Organization has a lot of projects and I cannot do them if it doesn’t have an individual competition. During the years Stella ran [her pageant] with Miss World, I know that she really did a very good job! [However], I want to have my own contest, so I can be more involved, because I want to stand alone for the Filipino children.” She hoped that Araneta would not be offended by her decision to rescind the Miss World license from BPCI.
“It all began when I attended a convention in Kuala Lumpur late last year. Paul Lee approached me and asked, ‘Cory would you be interested to handle the Miss World Philippines tilt?’ I said oh, I didn’t know that you’re looking for somebody… I was told that Morley wanted the Miss World Philippines pageant to be run independently—to have its own identity and personality,” Quirino revealed as to how she became the national director of Miss World Philippines. “I want to challenge myself. So I said yes, why not? If you think that I am the right lady for the job, [then] I will accept!” She emphasized that socio-civic undertakings will be a core activity of the contest.
“I will be hands-on in choosing our representative for the next Miss World contest. We will conduct the pageant sometime in August para naman makabuwelo kami. It’s going to be a meticulous process. A candidate must have a big heart and compassion [toward the poor people]. If she doesn’t have that love for her country and for her countrymen, she would not qualify. But I know we will be able find the best one!”
Even a poor, barrio lass, she said, can participate. “It [being poor] is not a hindrance to succeed. We will encourage the poorest of the poor to join our search.” She, Morley and her party as well as Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim already discussed the possible staging of Miss World tilt in Manila come 2013. “It’s my biggest dream for now. It’s a very huge responsibility, but with the help of God and of our countrymen, why not?”
Quirino wished that Araneta would not take offense at her, too. “Malapit po kami ng dating organizer… I have high respect for Nene (Jorge Araneta, Stella’s husband), he is the godfather of my child. I have a clean heart. I have a great affection for Stella. We haven’t had that talk yet, but that’s one of my plans, I will visit them soon.”
Would a Filipina’s chance of winning the elusive Miss World crown be greater than ever now that senora Stella is ultimately out and Cory is at the helm? We will have to watch out for that.