IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Filipinas who came this close to winning the Miss Universe title
It takes a village to create a queen, but the stars must align to secure the Miss Universe crown. Despite having the potential to go all the way, winning the title is a matter of destiny.
Considered the Super Bowl of pageantry, Miss Universe is a bloodbath among many crown-hungry ladies — particularly powerhouses from the United States, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Mexico, South Africa, and India — where one lucky woman brings home the coveted crown.
Such alignment happened for R’Bonney Gabriel, the Texas-based delegate with Filipino heritage, who was crowned as the winner on its 71st edition on Jan. 14 (Jan. 15 in Manila). This marks the ninth win of the United States, since Olivia Culpo in 2012.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has won a total of four Miss Universe crowns since its birth in 1952. Despite being a favorite among pageant fans, the title remained elusive for many a Filipina candidate.
Here is a list of some Filipina queens who came this close to the finals, nay, even winning the Miss Universe crown.
Beatrice Luigi Gomez, Miss Universe 2021 Top 5
View this post on Instagram
Prior to competing in the 70th Miss Universe, Beatrice made history as the Philippines’ first bisexual candidate to represent the country. She is also considered to be a contender for the crown because of her empowering story and quiet confidence by analysts including established beauty pageant platform Missosology.
At that time, the strongest candidates were Miss Universe 2021 Harnaaz Sandhu of India, Nadia Ferreira of Paraguay, Lalela Mswane of South Africa, and Valeria Ayos of Colombia — but Beatrice wasn’t far behind.
The coronation night was no different. From her breathtaking Francis Libiran gown to “celebrating my womanhood” through her bracelet tattoo, Beatrice’s quiet confidence and tiger-like aura brought her to the Top 5 — ending the Philippines’s two-year drought of entering the finals.
It wasn’t until the topic of a vaccine passport during the pageant’s question-and-answer round that killed her chances of getting the crown. Everything worked out in the end since she proved that beauty queens can turn their dreams into reality, regardless of their gender.
Maria Mika Maxine Medina, Miss Universe 2016 Top 6
Maxine Medina had massive shoes to fill in 2016. The Philippines was still riding high on the victory of Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach — and fans wanted nothing less than the best. Not to mention that she was crowned alongside Miss International 2016 Kylie Versoza during the national pageant, leading her to be considered as one of the candidates who received the most hate during her reign.
View this post on Instagram
Maxine still forged ahead in the 2016 pageant. However, she was criticized by Filipino pageant fans for opting to answer in English even if she was provided with a translator who interpreted the question, “What is the most significant change you’ve seen in the world in the last 10 years?”
She eventually finished in the Top 6, while Iris Mittenaere of France was crowned. Despite the criticisms, including one from National Artist Virgilio Almario, she managed to pull through with her pageant career, and even joined show business on the side.
Ariella Arida, Miss Universe 2013 3rd Runner-Up
Tall, statuesque, and breathtaking — Ariella Arida is the quintessential Miss Universe. She was also noted by international pageant experts on their list of favorites to win the crown in 2013 because of her “beauty and stage presence.”
It’s no surprise that Ariella made it to the Top 5 during the coronation night, thanks to her detailed pasarela, or pageant walk, and fiery stare during the swimsuit round and her elegant presentation at the evening gown portion. Her answer in the Q&A portion about investing in education for the youth was also impressive at that time.
But it was Gabriela Isler of Venezuela who was eventually crowned as Miss Universe 2013, with Ariella taking the third runner-up spot.
Janine Tugonon, Miss Universe 2012 1st Runner-Up
Probably one of the most heartbreaking losses for Pinoy pageant fans to date was Janine’s stunning loss to Olivia Culpo of USA, who was named first runner-up in Miss Universe 2012.
Janine’s performance proved that she has what it takes to win. From her unique light blue evening gown, ideal Filipina looks, to her passionate response in the final Q&A, she was nothing short of claiming the crown. Sadly, the judge settled for Culpo who took home the USA’s eighth Miss Universe title.
With Janine’s first runner-up placement, many Filipinos at that time took the loss hard that even several politicians pointed out that she deserved more during the pageant. “She totally deserved to win. She nailed the final question and she’s the most beautiful… why do we always fall short,” former Marikina City representative Miro Quimbo was quoted as saying.
Shamcey Supsup, Miss Universe 2011 3rd Runner-Up
When Shamcey debuted her famous “tsunami” walk prior to Miss Universe 2011, she took the Philippines by storm.
As she swayed her hips in her swimsuit and evening gown and displayed her intellect during Q&A, she was one of the beauty queens seen to have a fighting chance to bring home the title.
Shamcey eventually made it to the Top 5, while Leila Lopes of Angola was crowned as Miss Universe 2011. Shamcey now is in a delicate position to train and help future beauty queens as president of Miss Universe Philippines.
Venus Raj, Miss Universe 2010 4th Runner-Up
The Philippines was experiencing a 10-year drought in the Miss Universe pageant when Venus Raj competed for the crown in 2010. But her breathtaking beauty and hypnotizing aura proved that she has the ability to make it through the finals.
She eventually did, even if her victory was frowned upon due to her now-infamous “major major” response in the Q&A portion. Ximena Navarrete of Mexico might’ve won the title but considering the Philippines’ streak at that time, it was considered to be a victory for the country as well.
Venus made history as the first Filipina to launch an impressive 12-year semi final streak in Miss Universe, which was eventually broken in its 71st edition.
Miriam Quiambao, Miss Universe 1999 1st Runner-Up
Miriam Quiambo wasn’t the first choice to represent the Philippines in the Miss Universe 1999 pageant — Janelle Bautista was. However, she was appointed as the country’s representative after Janelle was dethroned a month later due to a defective passport and issues about her citizenship. Even if she was originally crowned as Binibining Pilipinas World 1999, this was a sign that Miss Universe was Miriam’s destiny.
Similar to Miss Universe Philippines 2022 Celeste Cortesi, she was considered a pageant favorite at that time. But her infamous pageant fall and Mpule Kwelagobe of Botswana outsmarting her peers in the Q&A round proved that even the tiniest of details can cost the crown.
What made Mpule’s win an important feat for Botswana, however, was that it was also the country’s first time to join the Miss Universe. Not to mention that it was also an edition where black women had a back-to-back win.
Maria Desiree Verdadero, Miss Universe 1984 3rd Runner-Up
Maria Desiree Verdadero’s journey in the Miss Universe pageant in 1984 was a noteworthy one since she candidly opened up about modeling being an “unstable” job. But it was Yvonne Ryding who was destined to bring home Sweden’s third Miss Universe crown.
Chat Silayan, Miss Universe 1980 3rd Runner-Up
Chat Silayan was described by pageant fans as a representative who had the quintessential characteristics of a Filipina queen during Miss Universe 1980. Her spontaneity was also a noteworthy factor that brought her to the Top 5.
Chat’s pageant journey will always be remembered by longtime fans even if Shawn Weatherly from the U.S. was crowned as the winner. After all, it was unusual for queens to candidly reveal that it’s “been about nine or 10 hours” since their birthday. Her playful nature also shone when she spoke “kansahamnida (thank you)” since the pageant was set in South Korea at that time.
Rose Marie Brosas, Miss Universe 1975 4th Runner-Up
Rose Marie Brosas, also known as Chiqui Brosas, brought color to Miss Universe 1975 after showing up in striking colors during the pageant. She was eventually named as the fourth runner-up, with Anne Marie Pohtamo of Finland bringing home the title.
Lalaine Bennett, Miss Universe 1963 3rd Runner-Up
In 1963, the format of Miss Universe was a far cry from the present. Even so, Lalaine Bennett gracefully represented the Philippines and was among the first queens to make it far.
By the end of the global tilt, Bennett was hailed as third runner-up while Brazil’s Iêda Maria Vargas was crowned. EDV
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.