Miss Universe 2015 will go down in the books as historic and beyond-surreal, especially for Filipinos who can tick off at least half a dozen déjà vu and “sounds family” moments amid the pageantry.
Under a new owner, organizers of the pageant finally acknowledged it exists in a modern world where many people are biracial and not everyone crossing borders is a felon.
They even acknowledged the power of social media, allowing fans to vote for candidates while they were on stage during competition segments and the final round. Online votes counted for 20% of a candidate's score. The website crashed from the crush of candidates' supporters.
The world's most beautiful women, under the theme #ConfidentlyBeautiful posted selfies of scrubbed, clean faces. They took turns as Snapchat hosts.
Also for the first time, the audience didn’t get hackneyed “world peace” answers. Mainly because the questions were pointed and in the context of the finalists’ countries: marijuana and Australia, US military presence in the Philippines, France and terrorism, Americans and gun control and, of course, the threat of narcotics for the candidate from Colombia.
And then lightning struck.
Seven months ago, then Miss Universe Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach tweeted as the Philippines grieved for Manny Pacquiao’s loss to Floyd Mayweather.
As anger peaked over perceived bias against the Filipino boxing champ, Wurtzbach posted this on Twitter: “Kalma lang guys. Ako bahala. Babawi tayo sa Miss Universe.” (Calm down, guys. I’ll take of this. We’ll make up at the Miss Universe.)"
That post earned more than 19,000 retweets. Pia, by then, had earned the cred to talk on loss and bouncing back. It had taken her three tries to win the national title.
Today, Pia, #ConfidentlyBeautiful "with a heart", did just that.
After earning raves at the swimsuit and evening gown events, she gave a tactical, safe answer on the US military and the Philippines.
She stayed focused on the made-for-soundbyte/hashtag message and ended with a shout-out to people with HIV.
READ: The Philippines is one of nine countries with a growing number of people with the sexually-transmitted virus.
She was crowned Miss Universe 2015, only the country's third after Gloria Diaz (1969) and Margie Moran (1973).
But only after maybe two minutes of national heartbreak and @#$%^&*! followed by more teeth-gnashing from the other side of the earth.
Former Miss Universe finalist Venus Raj described the pageant as a "wild roller coaster ride."
Pia's long journey with its many twists and turns, sudden stops and surges, and that final victorious glide, sums up what tourists experience white water rafting in her home city, Cagayan de Oro.
The national effort for its third pageant crown has also been pretty much as Raj puts it: Miriam Quiambao floating, stumbling, getting up and floating again. Quiambao and Raj settling as runners-up due to Q&A stumbles.
Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez had already donned the tiara and sash following pageant host Steve Harvey’s announcement. Pia’s smile never faltered at the loss.
As Gutierrez bowed to peers, Harvey corrected himself.
Guitierrez turned around and gave a laugh of disbelief. (Harvey is a comedian but that would have been a terrible joke.)
Pia, standing beside Miss USA Olivia Jordan, mouthed a “What?!” as the host gave Miss Colombia’s proper place, first runner-up.
It took some moments for the stunned Filipino to move out of the shadows to her rightful spot in the klieg lights.
Back home, the world’s most “social” (media) nation erupted in a frenzy of jokes, celebration, anger, potshots (over the bases issue and the flames sent Harvey’s way) … and more jokes.
Half-serious quips flew as the seconds ticked down.
Send a memo to the Supreme Court! If Miss USA wins, there go their troops!
(Militants have posed a new challenge against the PH-US military agreement following the conviction of an American soldier for the homicide of transgender Jennifer Laude.)
?”Our candidate had a diplomatic answer worthy of career FSO,” said [email protected] .
“No commitment either way, and quotable by media (and misusable too).”
Politicians and journalists, cable firms and Internet service-providers weren’t spared.
“I cannot use the phrase ‘miss universe questions’ anymore to refer derisively to pandering journos,” [email protected] added.
Someone wondered how long it would take Pia to scale up (or down, depending on one’s political views) to the Presidency.
On Twitter, Pia wasn't averse to poking fun at herself -- pondering what roommate Miss Myanmar makes of her morning singing habit, jokingly hailing over some stray pizza and pining for chocolate.
Like many Filipinos, she's fond of comic puns that rhyme -- "Malabo ang picture pero hindi malabo ang future! Fight! haha."
Despite the pressures of preparing for the pageant, she could chat in public about personal stuff, including a cryptic: "Hi guys:) Would just like to make it clear po that the flowers I posted on Instagram a few days ago aren't the ones from the President. :)"
'A little crazy'
Netizens' latter references would go back more than decade, to a scandal-plagued Manila Film Festival, where the hosts joined a conspiracy to give the acting awards to losers.
President Benigno Aquino, the country’s most eligible bachelor, also took some ribbing from political humorist Professional Heckler ?? @HecklerForever
Alluding to fraud-prone Philippine elections, Filipinos indulged in virtual mock-fainting spells at the thought of Harvey announcing the results of next year's national polls.
Harvey earned more flak when he misspelled Philippines and Colombia in his Twitter apology. But many dismissed the spelling errors and even more acknowledged his quick, clear, no-excuses apology, complete with TV closeups of the announcement card.
The romantics likened Miss Colombia to a bride who finds out the groom has skedaddled to parts unknown.
Basketball fans cited teams celebrating when referees thumb down the rival teams' Holy Mary throw -- only to change their minds.
Both plots don't jibe with the pure accident of today's pageant. But the end feelings resonate.
Even in Harvey's humongous error, Filipinos filched a lesson or two. He accepted accountability. " Politicians can learn from this one swift swag motion of his," said cultural activist Gang Badoy.
Music-loving Filipinos even identified with Seal's serenade, which perfectly came to this line as he reached Pia. "No we're never gonna survive, unless we are a little crazy."
A little crazy goes a long way in these isles. So does grace. Before basking in applause reserved for victors, the real Miss Universe took time to comfort a heart-broken rival.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.