• Pia’s promise


    Woke up on Monday in time to see Pia Wurtzbach get into the Top 5 of the Miss Universe pageant. I haven’t been interested in the pageant since Miriam Quiambao mainly because I realized that through the years what has done us in is the inability to handle the question-and-answer portion with grace and smarts.

    Smarts. It’s not even intelligence or learnedness that these pageants look for. Instead, if you look at who has won Miss Universe in the past, it’s always the contestant with a good head on her shoulders, unruffled by the questions thrown her way, because she is confident in what she knows.

    Winning answer

    Let’s be clear: I hated Wurtzbach’s answer to the question about the US Bases in the Philippines. It pained me to hear her say that we would always welcome the US and she did not see anything wrong with the kind of friendly relations we have with them.

    I cringed at her answer, but I understood why she had to give it. If the goal was to win the pageant, then she needed to give an answer that would win her the crown.

    Had she mentioned the words sovereignty and independence, had she referred in any way to the “liberty time” that soldiers get and which allows them to spend time with our women, who might be found dead in motel rooms after an hour or two with these Americans, would Wurtzbach have won the crown?

    Of course not. We know that – and I’m pretty sure she knows that, too.

    So, no, I’m not hating on her. Sure her answer was unacceptable – and we know that now, too, because Kris Aquino has echoed it, justifying it with the fact of China and Scarborough Shoal and how we need America’s help. But while I see this statement as a measure of Aquino and her haciendera roots, I’d like to give Wurtzbach the benefit of the doubt.

    After all, unlike Aquino, Wurtzbach was competing in a contest that has its roots in American imperialism. Unlike Aquino, who is protecting the interests of her Kuya’s pro-America regime complete with the gift of EDCA for President Obama, Wurtzbach needed to give an answer that would win her a crown that to her symbolizes both “honor and responsibility.”

    Oh, and Aquino herself said that while she and her sisters were for Wurtzbach’s pairing with the President, “I don’t think she liked Noy.” (Preen.Inquirer.net, 22 Dec)
    Wurtzbach: 10 million ganda points!

    Tricky questions

    But the disengagement from the Presidential connection is not all that earns Wurtzbach ganda points in my book.

    It’s also the fact that her response to her Top 5 question revealed how she might be the smartest candidate we’ve had in years, giving an answer that she knew would get her closer to the crown, instead of an answer that would be correct but controversial, and which might cost her the crown.

    Another thing about Wurtzbach’s answer was how she brought into it the fact of American colonization, and what she thought was a changed relationship since. She could have ignored the colonial experience after all, and gone full-throttle about all the good America has done for us – as we have heard the America-lovers do so often in this country.

    It told me that this was not someone who has no knowledge at all about history and the complexity of our relationship with the US; it told me that she knew she needed to give a non-controversial answer given the goal of becoming Miss Universe.

    That goal has to come into play in all our assessments of Wurtzbach. She did what she needed to win, and one imagines she did so with a very clear sense of the compromises she needed to make.

    It might be the militant Left that has failed at answering the questions about Wurtzbach, taking the bait of mainstream media that knew – oh yes they must have known! – that her answer about the US bases would get them all riled up.

    Of course, it behooves us all to be just as concerned about the possibility that Wurtzbach’s words have justified everything from the EDCA to the death of Jennifer Laude. But it might have been great, too, to let nation celebrate for a day or two, instead of shooting from the hip, or feeding (social) media’s hunger for controversial stories.

    In this sense, it’s clear Wurtzbach was the one who had the smarts to answer the trickier question, refusing to be baited into controversy.

    Winner naman talaga.

    Beyond beauty

    It is also important to consider the fact of how the pageant has been changing, and how our perceptions of beauty and smarts affect, and are being affected by, those changes. One notices it in the Miss World more than the Miss U, but the latter’s first year without Donald Trump seems to be doing the pageant well.

    After all, the questions were just as difficult for the other four candidates in the Top 5, all highly controversial and political, obviously meant to rattle the candidates. Gun control (USA), the legalization of marijuana (Australia), terrorism (France), and drugs (Colombia) might have even been more difficult to answer because so current.

    Of course, the US bases is not only current for us, it is also deeply ingrained in our psyches, in a country where colonial mentality reigns, and American influence and dreaming remains.

    One realizes we were not being bullied or singled-out with that question. We were being told about what the world perceives is most relevant to us as nation, what we have yet to deal with collectively, and what remains as our most divisive issue.

    We were being told that in the context of the world … rather the Universe … the Philippines is still seen in relation to its colonizer America.

    This is not to rain on Wurtzbach’s parade. It’s to shine a light on the critical issue we need to discuss when the parade’s over.


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    1. Eli Tabasuares on

      What the heck is wrong or right about her answer? She only had 30 seconds to answer what our congress has been trying to answer for decades….

    2. mikhail hieronymus on

      It is always the case that we criticized or say something against an issue, but we never offer any alternative solution/s to the problem/s. We are all like the mystical “Pilosopong Tacio.” Puro laway lang.

    3. Thanks for the article.

      You forgot to mention Jose Ma Sison’s take. Communist party head, and yet he had the best answer to the controversy over a reply in a beauty contest, IMHO.

    4. Ms. Santiago, I appreciate your gesture of appraisal for what Pia did as a Ms. Universe contestant representing the Philippines. I just hope that being a columnist of this paper, you can also lend your voice and be objective regarding the issue of the West Philippine Sea being claimed by China. Do you think the Philippine military can handle an adversary like China should it decide to declare war against the Philippines because of this issue? Don’t we need the help of the U.S. military since corruption has disabled our military might as a nation? May I read your columns on how to eradicate corruption and plunder of our resources in all levels in different forms.

      • Nerissa, what is the title of this particular column ? This is regarding Pia and not West Philippine sea. You are really out of line.