From far-away Saudi Arabia, Funfare’s “other beauty expert” Celso de Guzman Caparas is reminding beauty-watchers that the 2008 Miss International pageant will be held on Nov. 8 at the Venetian Macao Resort & Casino’s 15,000-seater Arena where the reigning queen, Silvia Priscilla Elizondo of Mexico, will relinquish her crown to one of the 60-plus hopefuls including 2008 Bb. Pilipinas-International Patricia Medina Fernandez.
Celso sent the following nostalgia piece about Miss International beauties who visited the Philippines, plus an interesting sidelight about Gemma Cruz, the Philippines’ first international title-holder:
• Maria Stella Marquez Zawadsky of Colombia, the first Miss International (1960), arrived in Manila on March 31, 1961 on Pan American Airways flight. She appeared in the Pageant of World Beauty Queens held on April 5 to 11 that same year at the Araneta Coliseum (where she and Jorge Araneta, now her husband, first met). Sponsored by The Manila Chronicle, the show was for the benefit of The Foundation for Gifted Children headed by then First Lady Leonila D. Garcia. With Stella were three of her runners-up: namely Iona Pinto of India (first), Sigridur Geirsdottir of Iceland (second) and Joyce Kay of England (third); semi-finalists Edita Vital (Miss Philippines), Michiko Takagi (Miss Japan) and Christl D’Cruz (Miss Singapore).
The two-hour presentation showcased elegant ternos created by Ramon Valera, costumes and ensembles worn by famous stars in multi-million dollar Hollywood productions such as Song Without End, Oklahoma, Desiree, The King and I and The Alamo. It also featured the reenactment of Stella’s coronation as Miss International.
• Constance “Stanny” van Baer of Holland, Miss International 1961, arrived in Manila on Dec. 13, 1961 for that year’s Pageant of World Beauty Queens also at the Araneta Coliseum. The show was part of Christmas Cavalcade topbilled by American balladeers Jerry Valle and Don Cherry. Adding glitter to the show were local beauties Pilar Arciaga (Miss Philippines-International 1961), Cynthia Ugalde (Miss Press Photography of the Philippines 1961) and Helen Gamboa (first runner-up Miss Press Photography of the Philippines 1961); together with Sigrun Ragnarsdottir (Miss Iceland and fourth runner-up Miss International 1961), Renate Moller (Miss Germany and semi-finalist Miss International 1961), Carmen Anze (Miss Bolivia 1961), Julie Koh (Miss Singapore 1961 who failed to compete in the pageant because she was ill of hepatitis), Sharon Wiley (Miss Oregon 1961) and Marlene Loren (1961 Miss California and third runner-up Miss USA 1961).
• Nine days after she was crowned as Miss International 1964, Gemma Cruz and her mom Chitang Nakpil headed for Manila for her much-awaited homecoming. During a stop-over in Honolulu, Gemma bought a grass skirt for herself. On board the same flight were the members of Bayanihan Dance Troupe fresh from their triumphant world tour. At exactly 7:02 a.m. on Aug. 24, 1964, PAL-operated KLM Flying Dutchman (dubbed as “Miss International Flight”) touched down at the Manila International Airport. Over 200,000 jubilant Filipinos (the largest ever to welcome a returning Filipina international beauty queen) lined up the streets from the airport to Escolta to her house in San Juan.
Then Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas declared that day Araw ni Gemma and awarded her a golden medallion as Outstanding Manilan (the first time such an award was given by the city). A song titled Gemma (a “habanera”) was specially composed in her honor by Prof. Felipe Padilla de Leon (translator of the original lyrics of Lupang Hinirang from Spanish to Tagalog and National Artist for Music, 1997) which was sung by Tony Toledo during the reception given by Mayor Villegas. Late that afternoon, Gemma paid a courtesy call to Pres. Diosdado Macapagal who bestowed on her the Golden Heart Presidential decoration. A formal tea party was tendered by First Lady Eva Macapagal and was graced by beauty queens Stella Marquez de Araneta, Cristina Galang-Caedo (Miss Philippines 1953), Monina Yllana-Fernando (Miss Philippines 1963 and semi-finalist in Miss International that year), Bessie Ocampo-Buencamino (Miss Philippines 1954 and semi-finalist in Miss Universe that year) and Edith Nakpil-Rabat (Miss Philippines 1956). Composer and public school teacher Alice Doria-Gamilla presented to Gemma the lyric sheets of her compositions, Gemma and My Wonderful World is You.