A Recent History of the Miss Universe Pageantry in the Philippines

By: Martin Luigi Lagustan
A Recent History of the Miss Universe Pageantry in the Philippines

In the middle of your search for an RFO house and lot, you might’ve heard that our very own Beatrice Luigi Gomez concluded her Miss Universe journey as one of the top 5 finalists of the pageant.

Although a bummer for some, this still isn’t a loss, as she managed to reach that even when there were 80 contestants.

Since we’re on the subject, let’s take a short trip down memory lane and look back at the recent history of Miss Universe in our country. 

The End of the 42-Year Miss Universe Pageant Drought

photo of the philippine flag

Since 1973, the Philippines had become estranged from the Miss Universe crown, as it had been four decades since the country produced a queen who will take it home. Fast forward to 2015, and we finally bagged the crown.

But just in case you don’t know what happened, that was the year Steve Harvey announced the wrong winner, Miss Colombia. After she was crowned and sashayed, Steve walked to the stage to make an announcement and confessed his mistake — Miss Colombia didn’t win the competition. He showed the card that said Miss Philippines as Miss Universe 2015.

Although in shock, Pia immediately got to her senses and went her way to receive her crown. Miss Colombia, however, wasn’t very happy with what happened, but Pia was seen trying to console her once the cameras went off. 

Iconic and historical.

That’s how people would describe what happened when Pia Angela Alonzo Wurtzbach apparently lost but then won the Miss Universe pageant. Some people might suggest that it was also scandalous, but at the end of the day, she marked the end of the 42-year drought of a Filipino win in the pageant.

It’s worth noting that Pia joined Binibining Pilipinas three times before she won in her third attempt. So if you can’t find the perfect RFO house and lot for you just yet, don’t give up. You can contact a real estate expert to help you.

From Binibining Pilipinas to Miss Universe Philippines


Photo taken from : https://www.bbpilipinas.com/about-us

Little did people know, from 1964 to 2019, Binibining Pilipinas was the pageant that the Philippines had to franchise for Miss Universe. It was the competition where Filipino women would be selected to represent the country in the national Miss Universe pageant.

However, in 1974, it was renamed Binibining Pilipinas Universe up to 2011. The year after that, it was then renamed Miss Universe Philippines (still under the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc.). The first queen to receive this title was Janine Tugonon, and it has been the title given to the queens after her.

Now, in 2019, the Miss Universe franchise became a separate, standalone pageant, which paved the way for a new Miss Universe Philippines. This explains why Catriona Elisa Gray (Miss Universe 2018) is the last queen on the official website of Binibining Pilipinas

The national director of the independent Miss Universe Philippines pageant is Binibining Pilipinas Universe 2011, Shamcey Supsup-Lee. Its Women Empowerment Chair is Binibining Pilipinas Universe 2006, Lia Andrea Ramos. They have yet to produce a national Miss Universe winner, but they still don’t disappoint, as they haven’t broken the 12-year streak of the Philippines reaching at least the top finalists of the competition.

New Management. New Rules.

Just like what happens when you move to your new RFO house and lot, since its independence and new management, Miss Universe Philippines now also follows a new format

The Miss Universe Philippines Organization created the Miss Universe Philippines Associated Partners Program to ensure that the cities and provinces in the country are all well represented. The organization decided to follow this format so that more areas of the country will be better represented and, in turn, will encourage greater participation from different parts of the country. 

They also started screening the queens virtually, so that it will be more accessible for more Filipinos who are not near Metro Manila. This significantly reduced unnecessary travel expenses for all Miss Universe Philippines hopefuls.

After the online voting through the Miss Universe Philippines app and their judges, the participants will then be narrowed down to 75 women, and then a top 50 will be announced. These 50 women will then go to Manila for a live interview with the Miss Universe Philippines board of judges. They will be further narrowed down to 30 candidates, all of whom will take part in the Miss Universe Philippines pageant.

As the organization and its new management progress, they also continue to make revisions to make the competition even more inclusive.

Just recently, last June 2021, Miss Universe Philippines removed its height requirement. This was lauded by pageant fans and queens alike. Even Miss Australia, Maria Thattil, was happy about it, being a queen who made it to the top 10 of the national Miss Universe pageant despite being 5 foot 3, the shortest candidate in during her time.

The national Miss Universe competition has also had its fair share of short queens, including Miss Universe 1958, Luz Marina Zuluaga from Colombia, and Miss Universe 1965, Apasra Hongsakula from Thailand — both standing at 5 feet and 3 inches.

How to Join Miss Universe Philippines


If you or someone you know wants to compete for Miss Universe, it’s actually very simple. Miss Universe Philippines will post a link to a form that has all the details that you need to sign up and qualify. All you really have to do is follow the steps and you’re all set.

These are the requirements to qualify:

  • Must be at least 18 years old and not over 28 years of age at the time of the Miss Universe Philippines pageant
  • Must be a Filipino citizen with a Philippine Passport
  • A female who’s never been married or borne children
  • No minimum height requirement

In a separate interview, national director Shamcey Supsup-Lee mentioned that they are willing to accept transgender women as long as they can provide legal proof and have gone through gender reassignment surgery.

Filipino Miss Universe Queens

Since that’s mostly what we have for recent history about the Miss Universe pageant in the country, let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember all our previous queens.

Gloria Diaz, 1969

1969 was quite a historical year for the Philippines and for NASA. It was the year the first man walked the moon when American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin touched the moon’s face on the Apollo 11 mission.

For the Philippines, it was a historic moment as then-18-year-old Gloria María Aspillera Díaz became the first-ever Filipino to win the Miss Universe title.

During the anticipated final Question and Answer portion of the competition, Gloria was asked, “In the next day or so, a man will land on the moon. If a man from the moon landed in your hometown, what would you do to entertain him?”

To which she answered, “Oh, just the same things I do. I think if he has been in the moon for so long, I think when he comes over he wants to change, I guess.” The crowd and the judges loved her simple yet witty answer, which also led to her winning the crown.

However, little did people know, Gloria didn’t even expect to win the pageant. So much so that she also didn’t expect that she’d win Binibining Pilipinas – Universe. She was just a teenager who wanted to have fun and experience the thrills of joining a pageant. 

Today, she’s long outgrown that insecurity, as her acting career skyrocketed in 1974 with her film Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa, where she was also nominated for Best Actress from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS).

Margie Moran-Floirendo, 1973

Another young queen, Maria Margarita “Margie” Roxas Moran-Floirendo was only 19 years old when she joined and won the pageant.

During the final Question and Answer of her time, she was asked, “Let’s make-believe that all of a sudden you had a million dollars. What’s the first thing you would buy and why would you buy it?”

She then had a straightforward and practical answer, “A house and lot, because it’s the most expensive thing and I can’t afford it. If I have a million bucks, I’ll buy a house and lot and live by myself, and other people of course.” Who wouldn’t want an RFO house and lot, right?

After her reign, Margie went on to continue proving that she was more than just beauty, but that she also had brains.

She finished her Business Administration degree at Maryknoll College and Boston University. After that, she also took a master’s degree at the University of London through the School of Oriental and African Studies. 

Moreover, she continued her philanthropic work, as she had been the director of Habitat for Humanity Philippines and also the chair of the Mindanao Commission on Women. 

Meanwhile, her passion for the arts also flourished, as she had been the president of the Southern Philippines Foundation for the Arts, Culture, and Ecology, and the president of Ballet Philippines until 2018. In that same year, she was also appointed as the chairman of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

As if that isn’t enough, she also writes for The Philippine Star. Some of her work included a throwback of her Miss Universe experience titled, “My Miss Universe Story.”

Pia Wurtzbach, 2015

Pia Angela Alonzo Wurtzbach is a German-Filipino born in Germany but grew up in the Philippines where they moved from Iligan City in Northern Mindanao to Cagayan de Oro. 

Aside from her Miss Universe story, she is also well-known for her persistence in trying to win the Binibining Pilipinas crown. Her first try was in 2013, then she kept trying in 2014, and then finally won the title in 2015.

Her final Question and Answer was also one of the most iconic ones. She was asked a simple but difficult question, “Why should you be the next Miss Universe?”

To which she answered, “To be a Miss Universe is both an honor and a responsibility. If I were to be Miss Universe, I will use my voice to influence the youth, and I would raise awareness to certain causes like HIV awareness, that is timely and relevant to my country, which is the Philippines. I want to show the world — the universe, rather — that I am confidently beautiful with a heart.”

Her answer references the pageant’s motto, “Confidently Beautiful.” This very answer was what got her the long-coveted title of Miss Universe, and it’s what also contributed to empowering women to be more than just beauty.

Little did people know, however, her life was far from glamorous since her parents separated when she was 11, as she needed to work to support her family through acting and modeling.

At 17, her family moved to the UK where her mother remarried and she took a break from acting and modeling. There, she worked a thankless job as a waitress, which, according to her,

“humbled me and made me feel that ito yung totoong buhay.”

When she was around 19 to 20 years old, she moved back to the Philippines, hoping to get her acting and modeling career back. Unfortunately, she was out of her comfort zone.

After her win, it helped Pia reach her goals in life, career, and finances. She got her career back as an actress and model, and she also got to finish her studies. She finished her secondary education at the  ABS-CBN Distance Learning Center in Quezon City, Metro Manila. After that, she studied Culinary Arts at the  Center for Asian Culinary Studies in San Juan, Metro Manila.

Catriona Gray, 2018

Catriona Elisa Magnayon Gray is another iconic win in Miss Universe for the Philippines. Only three years after Pia won, Catriona took home the crown in 2018.

She was 24 when she “ate her pride” and went for the Miss Universe title after trying Miss World in 2016 where she reached the top 5.

In her final Question and Answer in the Miss Universe pageant, Steve Harvey asked her, “What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life and how will you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?”

Her answer was another iconic and memorable response, “I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila, and the life there is very… it’s poor and it’s very sad. And I’ve always taught myself to look for the beauty in it; to look in the beauty in the faces of the children, and to be grateful. And I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining, and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. And this I think if I could also teach people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children will have a smile on their faces.”

However, a few people saw this as glamorizing poverty, but Catriona is also known for her charity and philanthropy, working in organizations like Young Focus Philippines, Love Yourself Philippines, and Smile Train.

Aside from continuing her volunteering, she also pursued her passion for music and recorded four songs in 2021, including a duet with Jay R titled “Angel of Mine.”

Miss Universe: More than Just a Beauty Contest


All of our queens have proven that pageantry isn’t just about beauty. It’s also about using their voices to influence people to follow their cause. With that, they’re expected to be intelligent, cultured, and well-mannered, all of which are difficult to maintain when the whole world has its eyes on you.

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