Officials of the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) did not think twice about accepting an invitation to the Philippines a night before this year’s grand coronation in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pageant was held on November 26 at The Axis.
RS Francisco, noted stage actor and chief executive officer of multi-level marketing company Front Row Philippines, formally made the invitation.
He recalled to The Manila Times on Wednesday night, “They immediately said yes and were excited that the first country the new queen was set to visit is the Philippines. Of course, it’s the charity component [of the pitch]that made [MUO president] Paula Shugart and her team embrace the idea.”
Francisco met the MUO officials through beauty queen maker Jonas Gaffud, who mentored and continues to manage 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach. Gaffud invited him to watch the pageant live and was ecstatic to watch the biggest beauty pageant in the world for the very first time.
“I had my favorites, my Top 3 were Miss South Africa, Miss Thailand and Miss Philippines. I said, whoever is crowned I will definitely bring her to the Philippines together with Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere. We know how big is Miss Universe here at home, and whether I managed to get co-sponsors or not, I was all set for it. Parang [the visit]is a Christmas gift for the Filipino people,” Francisco continued on this one-on-one interview at the sidelights of the Miss Universe welcome party held at Eclipse Bar of Solaire Resort and Casino.
Given the opportunity to continue MUO’s work with Hope4Change Foundation, as well as the chance to give back to the Department of Tourism [via its "Bring Home A Friend” campaign]for the agency’s all-out support during the Miss Universe 2016 pageant in Manila in January, there was no reason for Shugart and her team to decline.
As such, 12 beauty queens led by newly crowned Demi Leigh Nel-Peters and Mittenaere, as everyone knows, are currently in the country, making the beautiful sights of the Philippines all the more beautiful.
Since their arrival on Tuesday, Misses USA, Canada, Great Britain, China, Russia, Italy, Netherlands, India, Malaysia, Spain, Singapore and Korea and the two Miss Universe winners have been busy with back-to-back activities, while sampling the Filipino hospitality that made Shugart and her team fall in love with the Philippines.
Shugart and Peters
During the welcome party, Shugart was surprised with a cake and birthday song, the moment bringing tears to her eyes.
“I’m supposed to be in New York celebrating my birthday with my husband, but here I am in the Philippines. People are so wonderful here, adding to the fact that Filipinos are the biggest and most avid fans of Miss Universe,” she told The Manila Times later in the evening.
Meanwhile, Binibining Pilipinas-Universe and Top 10 placer Rachel Peters said she is excited to show her fellow candidates the beauty of the country. Acting as host, she is the designated leader of the group that will go to Camiguin Island in Mindanao today.
Addressing the issue that she could have made it to Top 6 since she was ranked so based on official scores after the long gown competition, the Filipina delegate said she would rather not dwell on it anymore and prefers to enjoy the holidays.
“Yes, I’m staying for two more weeks,” Canadian beauty Lauren Howe informed The Manila Times. She added that she is not alien to the Filipino culture what with the big Filipino community in Canada.
“My trainer for the pageant is Filipino and I have many Filipino friends,” she related.
The other candidates expressed excitement too for being in the country, especially Miss Spain who appreciated the Spanish influence all over Intramuros; and Miss Netherlands, whose predecessor, Zooey Ivory, was one of the candidates who became a crowd favorite during the Miss Universe pageant here in in January.
Besides Front Row, Blue Water Day Spa was also one of the sponsors during the highly successful welcome dinner.