The Philippines has hosted the Miss Universe Pageant three (3) times ever since the first one in 1974 – an all-out Philippine-inspired edition that was motivated by the victory of Margarita Moran in Athens, Greece the year before. The candidates were billeted at the Philippine Village Hotel near Nayong Pilipino. And they were all given the warmest hospitality that included different cities “adopting” ladies as part of the pre-pageant activities. (Miss Jamaica 1974 Lennox Anne Black was assigned to Las Piñas where a street was eventually named after her.)
Life during the mid-70s was comparatively simpler than now. But trust the Marcoses to spare no expense in making the event lavish. And that included building a new finals venue from scratch. Only for Miss Universe 1974.
Spain won its first ever Miss Universe title here. Sadly, the late Amparo Muñoz surrendered the crown midway through her reign with no replacement named. She simply had a hard time conforming to the rules and regulations of the organization.
It took two decades before the second staging in the country would take place.
While the 1994 event was doomed to lose money right from the get-go, the government – through the Department of Tourism – did not leave any stone unturned to insure that everything would go smoothly from start to finish. The tourism thrust for the Philippines was very much evident. And the official residence – Manila Hotel – gave all the candidates the royal treatment. The then-upcoming singer-comedian Ogie Alcasid was even commissioned as “Manolo” – the tour guide/mascot of sorts who accompanied all the ladies in their tours. (That was also the time when flickers of his romantic relationship with Miss Australia Michelle Van Eimeren started.)
Personally, I reckon that the efforts and expenses that went into the 1994 commitment were the least indulgent in terms of giving in to all the financial trappings of an international pageant. True, the bottom figures were all in red after everything was completed. But nothing that would scare wealthy financiers or rock an entire government for that matter.
India won its first Miss Universe crown. Thanks to Sushmita Sen who upended all the heavy favorites like Minorka Mercado of Venezuela, Carolina Gomez of Colombia and Lu Parker of the USA.
After that, the turn of the new millennium plus more than one and a half decade will pass before the Philippines would aggressively bid hosting for the third time. It took the help of Governor Chavit Singson and a string of big private-sector sponsors to push for the 65th Miss Universe to happen in Manila. It could not be popularly marketed as Miss Universe 2016 because of the skip in year. The finals was scheduled January 30, 2017 at the Mall of Asia Arena. Conrad Manila took over the sponsorship of housing the candidates throughout their entire stay after the rooms in the originally-planned residence – Okada Manila – could not be finished in time for the start of the pageant.
Among the three hostings, this was the glossiest of them all – from accomodations to pre-pageant venues to charity balls to out-of-town trips. The happenings in both Doral (2014) and Atlanta (2019) will be put to shame by its non-stop red carpet and sponsor engagements. Be that as it may, though, any team of auditors will have the most trying time analyzing and balancing the mountain of expenditures that went into the three-week extravaganza.
And our third Miss Universe, Pia Wurtzbach, crowned her successor Iris Mittenaere of France right here.
Let us watch the three finals now so you can see the evolution.
Miss Universe 1974 at the Folk Arts Theater
Miss Universe 1994 at the Philippine International Convention Center
The 65th Miss Universe at the Mall of Asia Arena