It was truly an evening of beauty and grace at the Miss Universe Governor’s Ball on Monday night as 86 candidates to 65th pageant gathered for their official welcome to the Philippines at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay, with organization president Paula Shugart expressing deep admiration and appreciation for the nation.
Responding to the welcome speeches of former Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson and his son incumbent provincial chief Ryan Singson (whose family’s LCS Group is privately funding and producing the international event in the Philippines); as well as those of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo and SM Lifestyle Entertainment Inc.
president Edgar Tejero, Shugart said: “To all our contestants, enjoy every moment to participate in Miss Universe [not only because]it is a life-changing experience [but because]you are doubly blessed to be here in the Philippines, home to our greatest fans and the kindest people you will ever meet—it is such a pleasure to be here.”
Shortly after, the now famous Filipina, who won the crown in describing herself as “confidently beautiful with a heart,” had her much-awaited moment on stage. Stunning in a gown made of delicate black lace, and in full Miss Universe regalia, she delivered an impromptu speech, expressing thanks for her dream come true.
“Two things that I love—the Philippines and Miss Universe—are coming together right here, right now and on January 30 where we will crown the new Miss Universe.”
Wurtzbach shared how she learned after winning the pageant that Shugart had also wanted to hold the contest in the Philippines again after 22 years.
“I asked her how do we get the ball rolling, and she said, ‘Why don’t you throw the idea out there and some people might take an interest in it and we can make it possible.”
“I’m really proud it’s happening here. I can’t think of a better way to end my reign as Miss Universe.”
Wurtzbach drew laughter from the well-heeled crowd, when after saying she hopes the next Miss Universe is ready to inspire the world and carry on the organization’s advocacy, she teased, “We have 86 of the most beautiful women here from all around the world, and I know these girls—I can feel them looking at me, looking at the crown. Gusto nilang kunin ito!”
Enjoining the public to support the rest of pre-pageant activities, the beauty queen finally said, “Let’s show the world that it is indeed more fun in the Philippines.”
The Governor’s Ball, obviously named after Singson, was designed as an exclusive gala to provide an opportunity for “members of high society… to have a close encounter” with the candidates of the 65th Miss Universe. The event saw a mix of government officials, among them Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao (who proudly recalled to The Manila Times he was a Miss Universe judge in 2014); and several congressmen, governors and mayors, led by Manila’s Joseph Estrada; business leaders including Kazuo Okada, San Miguel Corp.’s Ramon Ang and Century Properties’ Jose Antonio; the Philippines’ Miss Universe queens Gloria Diaz (1969) and Margie Moran (1973); generations of Binibining Pilipinas winners led by MJ Lastimosa (2014); and showbiz celebrities Gretchen Barretto, Dawn Zulueta and Alice Dixson.
Over a sit-down dinner served by Via Mare, musical numbers were provided by the multi-awarded Madrigal Singers, and OPM artists Jed Madella, Radah, Frenchie Dy, and power belter Jona Viray, who ended the night with the 65th Miss Universe theme song, “Confidently Beautiful.”
The Governor’s Ball also served as a fund-raising event—with a P25,000 per plate ticket—for the projects of Pass It Forward (PIF), a philanthropic outfit that acts like a charitable “market place,” facilitating engagement between givers (individuals, corporations, and foundations) and receivers (charities). The organization was represented by PIF Managing Director Terry Alan Farris.
Noting that many tables were unoccupied despite the event’s success, The Manila Times asked organizers how much money was raised in total, but as of press time, LCS’ publicity group still had no figure available.