So by now the whole country (and yes, the whole world too — or shall I say, the whole universe?) is already getting all excited for the upcoming Miss Universe, to be held right here in Manila on January 30! The noise is getting louder and louder as the coronation day draws near, especially because last year’s winner is no less than our very own Philippine candidate, Pia Wurtzbach!
More than 80 candidates from all over the world are already in the country and are going around different cities and provinces, following their rigid itineraries and schedules as set by the Miss Universe Organization itself. All these events are leading up to one big night, the coronation night on January 30 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena, starting at 8am! (Yes at 8am, because it will be broadcasted live in the US. So if you’re watching live, you have to be in the arena by 730am!)
Last January 23, I was fortunate to have been invited by Salcedo Auctions to join their table for the Miss Universe National Gift Auction, one of the main activities before the pageant day. This Gift Auction event was held at the brand new S Maison Conrad Hotel. Of course, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Aside from the event being for a worthy cause, it was also my chance to see the candidates up close!
When most of the guests were seated inside the ballroom and getting ready for the start of the program, I was actually outside waiting for some candidates to pass by! And luckily, I saw some of them walk or rather, sashay into the ballroom! But the warm and friendly Miss USA 2014, Nia Sanchez saw me (and probably realized I wanted to speak with her), smiled at me, and came up to me. I then took it as a sign and asked if I can have a photo with her!
So here are some random photos and videos I took, most of which are really just quick snapshots, posted on my IG stories as it happened that day.
This year, 10 gifts were selected for the live auction, hosted by Richie Lerma of the Salcedo Auctions. It has been a Miss Universe tradition for each contestant to bring a gift that represents her country. The Philippines’ bet Maxine Medina gave a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set, while the other countries’ representatives gave their own unique gifts, special to their country.
Among the national gifts were a basketball signed by former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, a traditional Russian headdress, and a Baltic amber pendant plated with 24-karat gold. The auction earned ₱850,000 in total proceeds, which will go to Positive Action Foundation Philippines, a registered non-profit beneficiary, a charity that focuses on alleviating HIV and AIDS in the country, providing medical treatment for patients.
After the fashion show, there was also women empowerment as part of the program, where they honored 10 women during the night. Some of the ladies honored were : Dr. Vicki Belo, Lea Salonga, Hidilyn Diaz, Margarita Fores and the “Solar Lolas”.
Yes, I may have seen a lot of gorgeous beauty queens in this event, but nothing beats the heartwarming experience of meeting the real beauty queens that night, the “Solar Lolas”. They are a group of Aeta women (all grandmothers) who empowered themselves by getting an education — traveling all the way to India to learn about the solar lamp (partly seen in this photo). You can just imagine the challenges they faced when they left their homes here, to go to a foreign country and get educated.
It was in India where they learned to fabricate, maintain and repair solar lamps. It was their dream and mission to bring it back home in our country, in order to to light up the small Aeta villages here, and give back to their community. Their life story, struggles and triumphs are a true testament to their inner beauty. Surely, they are deserving of being recognized that night — and it happened right on the same stage where all the Miss Universe contestants also paraded in their long gowns! Now that’s real beauty worth emulating and honoring, don’t you think?
So whether you believe in beauty contests or not… pageant fever is definitely on in this country and just like most of you, I can’t wait to see who will win this most coveted crown in the world, er I mean in the universe!! Who do you think it should be?