A Filipina first made it to the Miss Universe winning circle when Lalaine Bennett was third runner-up to Ieda Maria Vargas of Brazil in 1963.
The previous year, Josephine Estrada was the country’s representative to the pageant, and there were no Filipinas competing in the world’s prestigious beauty pageant in 1960 and 1961, won by Linda Bement of USA and Marlence Schmidt of Germany, respectively.
In 1964, Maria Myrna Panlilio bannered the Philippines in the year Corinna Tsopei of Greece won the crown.
The next two years, however, proved auspicious for Filipinas successively placing in the pageant’s Top 15. They were Louise Vail Aurelio in 1965 [Miss Universe was Apasra Hongsakula of Thailand], and Maria Clarinda Mariano in 1966 [Miss Universe Margarita Arvidsson of Sweden].
Pilar Delilah Pilapil, who would later join show business, was the country’s representative in 1967, where USA’s Sylvia Hitchcock won the crown.
The following year, Rosario Zaragoza competed for the Philippines in a pageant won by Martha Vasconcellos of Brazil.
Then came 1969—the biggest year for the Philippines in the Miss Universe pageant.
Just as American astronauts landed on the moon for the very first time, 19-year-old Gloria Aspillera Diaz mesmerized the universe with her wit and beauty.
Diaz was a student at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila when she was scouted for the sixth edition of Binibining Pilipinas.
Coming from a large family of 12 children, she said later that she was convinced to join the contest to “escape home” amid restrictions imposed on them by their parents.
An early favorite as soon as she arrived in Miami Beach, Florida, USA, Diaz did not disappoint and successfully sailed throughout all the pageant’s events, making it to the Top 5 at the glitzy coronation night at the Miami Beach Auditorium.
In the final Q&A, host Bob Barker, best known in these islands as the host of iconic game show Price is Right, asked Miss Philippines, “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?”
Wittingly, the lovely Filipina answered, “Oh! Uh, just the same things I do. I think if he has been on the moon for so long, I think when he comes over he wants to change, I guess.”
Diaz wrote history for the Philippines in the international beauty arena with her win on July 19, 1969.
She pursued an acting career soon after her reign and is remembered most for her breakthrough performance in Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop Sa Balat Ng Lupa (The Most Beautiful Animal On The Face Of The Earth). It was in that movie she popularized the wet-look scene on the big screen in 1974. She was nominated as Famas Best Actress for her role as Isabel the following year.
The beauty queen finally got her first acting award as Best Supporting Actress in the 1998 Metro Manila Film Festival as Teodoro Alonso in Jose Rizal. Her succeeding awards include Famas and Urian Best Supporting Actress for her role in Batang West Side in 2002; PMPC Star Awards for Movies Best Supporting Actress for Nasaan Ka Man in 2006; and Famas Best Supporting Actress for Sagrada Familia in 2010.
Diaz is also known as the mother of TV host-actress Isabel Daza and the sister of the late beauty queen-TV host-actress Rio Diaz.
The Department of Tourism proudly announced that the 65-year-old beauty queen has agreed to be present in all the important events of the Philippines’ hosting of the ___th Miss Universe coronation night in Manila.
Sources: www.missuniverse.com. wikipedia