The whole world is now watching Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach after she was crowned Miss Universe 2015 on Sunday night at Las Vegas (Monday morning in Manila). But before she achieved her life’s greatest dream, while bringing joy and pride to the nation, Wurtzbach’s journey toward the crown had been long and challenging.
Pia was born on September 24, 1989 in Stuttgart, Germany, but grew up in Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City, where her German father and Filipina mother initially decided to settle. She completed her kindergarten and elementary education there at Kong Hua School and Corpus Christi, respectively, even as she had to move house several times during her childhood.
For a while, Wurtzback also lived in Iligan City with her maternal grandparents, and every so often took trips to Germany with her younger sister and parents for vacation.
When her parents separated, Wurtzbach moved to Malabon, Metro Manila, with her mother. She was immediately spotted for her good looks and at 11 years of age landed a modeling job with an international, direct-selling company.
In 2002, the 13-year-old beauty had her first break in show business when she was signed on as a talent of ABS-CBN’s Star Magic. Under the screen name Pia Romer, she starred alongside Bea Alonzo and Shaina Magdayao in a teen-oriented series called K2BU.
More TV projects came her way including a stint in noontime variety show ASAP and a drama series with Piolo Pascual, but for some reason, she was always cast in minor roles. By 2006, she decided to put her acting career on hold and pursue higher education.
Wurtzbach eventually finished a professional culinary course at the Center for Asian Culinary Studies.
Again, the young talent returned to TV and the big screen from 2011 to 2012, but it was only in 2013 that the public took a closer look at how Wurtzbach blossomed to beauty-queen material when she joined Binibining Pilipinas for the first time.
She finished first runner-up in her “debut,” and tried her luck again the following year, but only made it to the Top 15 finalists. Nevertheless, she made a memorable appearance at her second foray in the Binibining Pilipinas pageant when Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara asked her a question in the vernacular during the Q&A. While Wurtzbach gave her answer also n Filipino, fans believed that doing so spoiled her chances of winning the competition because she did not have enough time translating it for the benefit of the foreign judges.
Giving up, however, was never in Wurzbach’s vocabulary as she entered the same competition for the last time in 2014 at 26 years old—the age limit for Binibining Pilipinas aspirants.
As fate would have it, she was finally hailed Binibining Pilipinas-Universe, immediately earning her the chance to compete in the world’s most prestigious beauty pageant.
Since then, Wurtzbach gave her heart and soul in training for the Miss Universe pageant.
Her manager and pageant mentor Jonas Gaffud took control of her preparations, having had much experience and success with his previous wards, Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup, Janine Tugonon and MJ Lastimosa—all former Binibining Pilipinas titleholders who made it to Miss Universe Top 5 in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014, respectively.
Also the man behind modeling agency Mercator, Gaffud joined Bb. Pilipinas Charities Inc. chairman Stella Marquez Araneta in accompanying and supporting Wurtzbach in the preliminaries up until Sunday’s coronation night at Las Vegas.
For Wurtzbach, she only has gratitude for her supporters and even her “challengers.”
Before the finals, she did not forget to thank all of them as she wrote in her Instagram account, “Thank you to everyone who [has]trained me, took care of me & helped me. I’d also like to say thank you to those who challenged me. Deciding to join Binibining Pilipinas was the best decision I’ve ever made. And wow, what an honor it is to represent our country in the most prestigious pageant ever.”
Looking back at her road to Miss Universe, she said, “I started training November 2012 and now it’s December 2015. It took so long for me to earn this sash with 3 attempts in Miss Philippines. It was quite a journey and tomorrow it all ends on this one big night.”
And as someone who always gives a tough fight, Wurtzback ended, “Never give up on your dreams and believe that dreams do come true! Walang susuko! Ang Pilipino, palaban [No one should surrender! The Filipino is a fighter]!”