When Socorro Alicia “Cory” Rastrollo Quirino enters the room, it is impossible not to notice her. Attractive, graceful and fashionable as ever, it comes as no surprise that she is often mistaken for a former beauty queen.
The error is quite understandable, for indeed, the still popular singleton has everything an aspiring beauty queen can ever hope for: a towering height, a sleek figure, glorious skin, fabulous features, as well as confidence, grace and passion in everything she does.
“Ms. Cory,” as she is called by most, or “Tita Cory” to those close to her, confirmed with The Sunday Times Magazine that she has neither held a beauty title, nor joined a beauty contest in her life.
“My father never allowed me. He’s very strict,” Quirino said nonchalantly. Her father is Tommy Quirino, son of late president Elpidio Quirino.
So instead of making a name for her looks as a beauty queen, the young and stunning Cory chose to establish herself as a triple media threat.
Quirino first came into mainstream consciousness when she started a TV hosting stint on the popular 80’s late-night talk show, Oh No, It’s Johnny! featuring Johnny Litton.
Producers quickly spotted her potential for broadcasting so that she just as soon had her own show titled, Citiline. A well-received weekly travel and fitness show on ABS-CBN, it ran for an impressive 12 years, and re-titled twice as the Cory Quirino Show and The Good Life with Cory Quirino.
Taking her advocacy for health and fitness a step further, Quirino the penned several books, namely, Forever Young: Cory Quirino’s Guide to Beauty & Fitness, Forever Young: Cory Quirino’s Guide to Beauty and Wellness, and Kabataan Habambuhay: Ang Gabay ni Cory Quirino tungo sa Kagandahan at Kalusugan. Of course, not to be forgotten is her very personal chronicle of her infamous abduction during a location shoot for Citiline, aptly titled, Waiting For The Light.
Eventually conquering radio to make up her tri-media exposure, Quirino best known these days for her program Ma-Beauty Po Naman on AM station dzBB, where she personally delivers the tips she had published in her books, as well as her new discoveries in beauty and wellness.
Despite dutifully obeying her father’s wishes to elude beauty contests, one particular pageant managed to pin Cory Quirino down in 2011. This is the UK-based Miss World Organization, which offered the media personality its Philippine franchise.
“I never thought of managing a beauty pageant—this was never in my plans at all,” she exclaimed at the end of her fourth media presentation as head of Miss World Philippines on September 29 at Solaire Resorts and Casino. “It was just an offer given to me by the Miss World Organization in London, and they actually had to convince me to try it out even just for a year.”
The Miss World Philippines franchise was previously managed by the groups behind Miss Republic of the Philippines from 1966 to 1976; the Mutya ng Pilipinas Organization through Mutya ng Pilipinas from 1977 to 1991; and by the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. through the Binibining Pilipinas from 1992 to 2010. Quirino established CQ Global Quest as the entity in charge of Miss World Philippines.
“I told the Miss World Organization back then that I didn’t do pageants, and honestly, I found it ironic that for someone who wasn’t allowed by her father to join a pageant to be asked to manage a pageant.’”
But perhaps Quirino is fated to take part in beauty contests one way or another, and with the persistence of the Miss World Organization, she agreed to handle the franchise for a year. The deal was that if the London office was not happy with her, or she with the project and its demands, they would part ways.
“They agreed but still said, ‘You’re the right woman for the job and we have no regrets offering the license to you. We are confident you will not return it to us’,” Quirino recalled laughingly.
And so, the year and its first pageant came and went, and like the London office predicted, the partnership became more than just a success.
“[For] the first year, our expectations were high because we felt very challenged. We wanted to break the record of all the other license holders of Miss World in the Philippines, and we did!”
In 2011, Miss World Philippines Gwendoline Ruais snatched the First Princess (first runner up) title in the pageant’s grand finals in England—a feat only previously won by Evangeline Pascual in Miss World 1973.
“We thought the turn out was very encouraging, so I told myself, I know that I only gave it one year, and we already won first runner up. And then again, I thought, ‘But first runner up isn’t good enough.’ I vowed that in 2012, we would go for the crown.”
Though Miss World Philippines 2012 Queneerich Rehman failed to equal Ruais’ performance the previous year (she placed eighth in the Miss World pageant in China), Quirino was undaunted.
“I thought that wasn’t so bad either, so I said we’ll try harder,” Quirino added. And try harder CQ Global Quest and the Philippines’ candidate did as Megan Lynne Young finally won the 2013 Miss World crown in Bali, Indonesia—the very first time for the country to land the title since the pageant began in 1951.
With Megan Young’s historic win, Cory Quirino knew she had to go on with the task of finding, training and inspiring the next Miss World champion from the Philippines.
“Naturally the pressure became greater and expectations were higher, not just from within the Philippines but also from pageant experts worldwide, after we set the bar so high with Megan. We could do no less than send someone who is the total package that Megan was to us in 2013,” Quirino explained.
They found her in model/TV host Valerie Weigmann in 2014, who still managed a ninth place performance at the London finals.
“I was pretty confident with Valerie to land in the Top 10 but we ended up in the Top 25. I realized then as a new license holder that pageants really are unpredictable. We just never know how the judges will think and decide on during the pageant and at the very last minute. It’s just something you cannot control,” Quirino good-naturedly admitted.
Still, as she finds herself in the thick of organizing Miss World Philippines for the fifth year in a row, she is still motivated to find and develop the country’s next winner.
To be clear, Quirino explained that it is not just the high and the challenge of fielding a winning candidate that has kept her going in her latest calling in life. And though it may sound like a beauty pageant answer, it is Miss World’s true purpose that inspires her to go on.
“We’re not doing this for personal gain or satisfaction—it goes beyond that. The minute our candidate is announced as the winner of Miss World, you immediately contribute in your own way to tourism promotions for your country,” she stated. “You see, when they announced ‘And Miss World 2013 is the Philippines,’ there were one billion people watching Megan win worldwide. So we did our bit for country with that.”
Having chosen the single life, it also seems that running Miss World Philippines has roused the maternal instinct in the beautiful and accomplished Cory Quirino.
The Sunday Times Magazine, while waiting for this one-on-one interview Miss World Philippines 2015 presentation, witnessed how CQ Golden Quest’s big boss looked out for the ladies under her care.
Immediately after the swimsuit segment, Quirino instructed a pageant coordinator to make sure the girls got back into their t-shirts and jeans, adding, “I don’t want them to be exposed like this.”
Her protectiveness, as The Sunday Times Magazine also learned from Miss World Philippines’ past winners is only one of the qualities they and batches of candidates love about their “Tita Cory.”
Gwendoline Ruais, Miss World Philippines 2011 and Miss World 2011 First Princess, shared, “She [Quirino] is like a mother to Miss World Philippines winners; all the candidates are her daughters so she is really involved in training us and she takes care of us. We truly feel loved.”
Miss World Philippines 2013 Valerie Weighmann added that Quirino is a mentor in the truest sense of the word.
“She was there from the start; she would always help us even as contestants. She would be there if you have questions, and you can just text or call her. She’s really helpful, and she listens to us,” she explained.
Weighmann continued, “If she sees us, for example, wearing red lipstick, she would say, ‘I think mas bagay sa iyo ang pink, try mo (I think pink suits you better, try it).’ She gives suggestions with a positive take so you’ll be really happy at the receiving end, and that you Miss Cory with you and behind you.”
Desire to serve
While it may seem that what Quirino has chosen to do at this point in her life is the complete opposite of her grandfather’s legacy as a public servant president of the Philippines, the doting granddaughter maintains that she has inherited the desire to serve.
“You inherit the name, you inherit the legacy, and you also inherit the built-in desire, that’s in your DNA, to serve,” she stated when asked if her famous family name entails pressure in her life’s purpose.
“That’s how I see this pageant too because it really serves a higher purpose—to put the name of the Philippines out there, in the consciousness of every person in this world. It is an invitation to come visit our beautiful country. This is really our higher mandate.”
She admitted, “Being a Quirino, it’s a legacy—you live it, you walk it, and you have to prove it.”
Would she rather be called “Senator Cory” rather than “Tita Cory” someday?
“I’m always thinking about it,” she said about her rumored senatorial bid. “I have to think about it because—you know—it’s hard [to go into politics]!”
Most probably Cory Quirino’s bid for any government position will not happen in the coming national elections. For, with preparations for the grand coronation night of Miss World Philippines on October 18, how can she possibly file her candidacy this month?
“I guess I have more time to think it over,” she ended with a teasing a smile.
The 2015 Miss World Philippines grand coronation night will take place at The Theater at Solaire, with a live telecast over GMA Network.