The Guide

Miss Universe in Manila

During the past couple of years, we’ve had a leader of Catholic Church and leaders of the countries belonging to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation grace Manila, and the country as a whole with their visit. This year, we have been graced again with the holding of perhaps one of the most celebrated events that has been beloved by many Filipinos as much as any important international event. I am of course talking about the Miss Universe pageant.

This year’s Miss Universe pageant (technically, Miss Universe 2016 because of the screwed up schedule that pushed it further from the calendar year over time) is going to be held on January 30 this year. And while the Urban Roamer is by no means a beauty pageant expert, this presents an opportunity to do this special feature as we look back at the past Miss Universe pageants that have been held here in the metropolis.. Twice past to be exact.


The first time Manila hosted the Miss Universe pageant was in 1974, in the wake of the victory of Margarita Moran, the Filipina representative to the pageant the previous year. It was said that the former First Lady Imelda Marcos lobbied hard for the country to host the pageant. After all, the Philippines by then had already won two Miss Universe titles: the aforementioned Moran and, of course, Gloria Diaz in 1969.

Miss Universe 1969 Gloria Diaz (photo courtesy of Fabweb)
Margarita Moran, Miss Universe 1973 (courtesy of Missosology)

The Miss Universe 1974 pageant was actually the first international event held in the country following the declaration of Martial Law in 1972. In some aspects, it was a coming out party for the country, an opportunity for the Marcos government to show to the world that everything is a-ok here. And Imelda did all that she could to ensure that it is a success. New infrastructure was built specially for this event with the construction of the Leandro Locsin-designed Folk Arts Theater. The the newly-built Philippine Village Hotel, a government project right beside another Imelda showcase the Nayong Pilipino, was designated to be the official residence of the 65 Miss Universe candidates.

The pageant proper was held on July 19, 1974. Unfortunately for the Philippines, its candidate that year Guadalupe Sanchez only made it to the semifinals. The winner of that pageant and Margarita Moran’s successor was Spain’s Amparo Muñoz, becoming the first Spanish Miss Universe titleholder. Unfortunately, she never managed to finish her reign in the midst of a controversy.

Miss Universe 1974 Amparo Muñoz and her court (photo courtesy of Norman’s Blog)

You can watch the video of the full 1974 Miss Universe pageant proper here:


It would take about 20 years before the Miss Universe pageant would be held again in the country. This time the push to hold the pageant was an effort of the country’s Tourism department as a way to showcase the country in the wake of the Ramos’ administration’s “Philippines 2000” campaign which aimed to transform the country into becoming a newly-industrialized country by the year 2000.

Unlike the 1974 pageant, the 1994 Miss Universe pageant did not bring forth any new infrastructure for the event. The iconic Manila Hotel was to be the official residence of the pageant’s 77 candidates while the pageant proper was to be held at the Philippine International Convention Center, the expansive events venue built during the Marcos years. What made that year’s pageant though were the sidelights and the things it brought forth. There was the beginning of Miss Universe 1993 Dayanara Torres’ brief but fruitful career in the entertainment industry here, Miss Australia Michelle Van Eimeren ending marrying a local singer/actor who acted as “tour guide” during the pageant, and the famous “high tide or low tide” answer in the Q&A courtesy of the country’s candidate that year Charlene Gonzalez.

The pageant proper was held on May 21, 1994, and Charlene managed to land in the Top 6. The winner of the pageant was India’s Sushmita Sen, the first Indian Miss Universe titleholder.

Miss Universe 1994 Sushmita Sen and her court (photo courtesy of Missosology)

You can watch the video of the full 1994 Miss Universe pageant proper here:


After more than 20 years, the Miss Universe pageant is going to be held once more in the country. To be precise, the pageant proper will be held on January 30 Philippine time at the Mall of Asia Arena as 86 candidates vie for the crown that will be left behind by the third Filipina Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach. The Conrad Manila near the Mall of Asia Arena was chosen to be the official residence of the candidates which was originally supposed to be the grand Okada Manila but I suppose the delays scrapped those plans. Still, Okada remains a major sponsor of this year’s pageant.

It will be interesting to see if this year’s Filipina candidate Maxine Medina will get to achieve a two-peat achievement for the country, despite the criticisms against her or if we will see crowned a candidate hailing from a country winning the pageant for the first time, as was the case of the two previous Miss Universe pageants held here. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Exit mobile version