MANILA – The Philippines now has three Miss Universe winners.

Pia Wurtzbach, 26, made history by winning Miss Universe 2015, bringing home the third crown for the country. She now joins Gloria Diaz and Margie Moran, who won in 1969 and 1973, respectively.

During the pageant held in Las Vegas on Sunday (Monday in Manila), Wurtzbach was initially declared first runner-up by host Steve Harvey, with Miss Colombia given the Miss Universe crown.

But minutes later, Harvey returned on stage, saying he made a mistake. Turns out, Wurtzbach is the real Miss Universe 2015 winner. “I have to apologize. The first runner-up is Colombia!”

A visibly shocked Wurtzbach emerged from the group of beauty queens and was eventually given the crown.

Colombia was named first runner-up, while Miss USA was still second runner-up.

A card showing Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez as first runner-up and Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach as the winner is displayed on a video screen during the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada, December 20, 2015. Photo by Steve Marcus, Reuters

‘Confidently beautiful with a heart’

Wurtzbach consistently topped the Miss Universe 2015 Global Fan Vote, which is based on online votes by audience members during the pageant’s live telecast.

The Filipina beauty queen got top marks from voters during the swimsuit, evening gown and question and answer portion of the pageant.

During the Top 5 question and answer portion, Wurtzbach was asked about the reopening of US military bases in the Philippines. “I don’t see any problem with that at all,” she said, noting the “good relationship” between the two countries.

For the final question, she and her fellow Top 3 contenders – Colombia and USA – were asked why they should be named Miss Universe.

“To be a Miss Universe is both an honor and a responsibility… I want to show the world – the universe, rather – that I am confidently beautiful with a heart,” she said, adding that she wants to promote various causes such as HIV awareness.

Determined

For months, Wurtzbach has openly expressed her determination to bring home the crown for the Philippines, going as far as saying that it is her only birthday wish.

Last May, she vowed to “avenge” the Philippines after American boxer Floyd Mayweather defeated the country’s boxing icon, Manny Pacquiao. And she stayed true to her word.

It took Wurtzbach three attempts before finally winning the Miss Universe Philippines title. She nearly gave up after she failed to the crown at her second attempt.

But early this year, she decided to give it another go.

Answering a question from a pageant fan on what makes her stand out in Miss Universe, Wurtzbach said: “Definitely my determination. My fellow countrymen have witnessed my journey towards Miss Universe. The fact that I joined Miss Philippines 3 years in a row determines how much I really want this. I didn’t let anyone or anything stop me from getting here. I’m so glad I never lost my drive because turns out, I was right! Now I’m finally wearing the Philippine sash in the most prestigious pageant in the world. And I couldn’t be happier! So kids, if you have a dream, don’t give up!” she said.

Pinoy-made costume

Wurtzbach’s predecessors have made their mark on Miss Universe over the past five years.

Venus Raj was fourth runner-up in 2010, Shamcey Supsup was named third runner-up in 2011, Janine Tugonon nearly brought home the crown at first runner-up in 2012, Ariella Arida was proclaimed third runner-up in 2013, and MJ Lastimosa made it to the Top 10 in 2014.

Filipino pageant fans have lamented that the country’s Miss Universe representatives have been wearing “unflattering” and “uninspired” gowns, which they believe have been ruining their chances of winning the international pageant.

Responding to feedback, Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. collaborated with local designers in dressing up Wurtzbach, who stunned in a blue Pinoy-made dress during the Miss Universe 2015 evening gown competition.

During the preliminary round, she wore a red dress by Los Angeles-based Filipino designer Oliver Tolentino due to a “wardrobe emergency.”

Recap

Prior to joining Miss Universe, Wurtzbach was an actress and model. She is of Filipino and German descent.

Aside from her pageant stints, Wurtzbach also made the news for being linked to President Benigno Aquino III.

The two were spotted having dinner together at a Quezon City restaurant early this year, but the Filipina beauty queen did not confirm whether the President expressed interest in her.

Get to know Wurtzbach, the Philippines’ third Miss Universe winner, through these links:

- Then and now: Pia Wurtzbach in Bb. Pilipinas

- 10 stunning photos of Pia Wurtzbach

- LOOK: Pia Wurtzbach in Miss Universe prelims