My fond memories of the 1994 Miss Universe Pageant

- Celso de Guzman Caparas -
The ongoing Miss Universe Pageant in Ecuador brings back fun-filled memories to this writer when Manila played host to the pageant for the second time in 1994. The first was in 1974.

Leafing through my three voluminous albums of clippings and photos plus my first-hand account, here are interesting tidbits and anecdotes that transpired during the pageant.

• Miss USA Frances Louise Parker was the first delegate to arrive on board a PAL jetliner on April 24. The last was Miss Zimbabwe Yvette D’ Almeida Chakras. There should have been 78 delegates but Miss Lithuania Loveta Brusokaik failed to arrive for unknown reasons.

• Miss Northern Marianas Elizabeth Tomokane was "shaking like a leaf" when she arrived at NAIA. She had never before left her country and never before ridden an airplane. She calmed down minutes later.

• At 18 years and four months, Miss Canada Sussane Rothfos was the youngest delegate while Miss Uruguay Leonora Dibueno, 26 years and seven months old, was the oldest. The shortest delegate (5’4") was Miss Northern Marianas Elizabeth Tomokane and the tallest (6’2") was Miss Venezuela Minorka Mercado.

• Students dominated the 1994 batch with 38 of the 77 delegates (or 49 percent).

• Birthday celebrants during the pageant were host delegate Charlene Gonzales (May 1), Sun-Young Koong of Korea (May 2), Silvia Lakatosova of Slovak Republic (May 7), Fabiola Perez Roviroza of Mexico (May 9), Brenda Robles of Puerto Rico (May 12), Valerie Claisse of France (May 15) and Rea Toutounzi of Greece (May 18).

• Although born in Thailand, Areeya Chumsai said she was "made in the Philippines." Her parents became sweethearts when they were exchange students taking up Education at the University of Manila in the late ’60s until the early ’70s. They married upon returning to Thailand.

• Miss Dominican Republic Vielka Valenzuela and Miss Thailand Areeya Chumsai were both Miss Palmolive 1993-94 in their respective countries.

• An average of five delegates fell ill every day due to heat exhaustion, upset stomach or their monthly period. No one was hospitalized.

• The Malaysian government warned its delegate, Liza Koh, to refrain from issuing critical remarks about her nation’s arrest of 1,200 undocumented Filipinos.

• The soccer ball autographed by members of the 1994 USA World Cup Soccer Team brought by Miss USA Frances Louis Parker fetched the highest bid of P76,000 during the National Gifts Auction Ball on May 10 at the Grand Plaza Ballroom of Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel. (Incidentally, this contributor won the bids of the national gifts brought by Miss Portugal Monica Borges Pereira (two Atlantis crystal vases) and Miss Sweden Domenique Forsberg (Waterford crystal bowl). Forsberg placed no. 8 among the 10 semi-finalists with an average score of 9.381.

• Some of the delegates wore comfortable walking shoes and sandals during the Flores de Mayo on May 8. Miss Zimbabwe Yvette D’Almeida Chakras wore combat shoes.

• At least seven delegates were courted by Pinoy bachelors including Miss Puerto Rico Brenda Robles who was wooed by Richard Bonnin, Charlene’s brother. Award-winning singer-composer Ogie Alcasid became Miss Australia Michelle Van Eimeren’s boyfriend and they eventually married in Taal, Batangas on Oct. 26, 1996.

• Miss Denmark Gitte Andersen was the only delegate who spoke five languages (Danish, English, German, Spanish and French). She was voted as PAL Ambassador to the World.

• The terno worn by Miss Israel Ravit Yarkoni during the Flores de Mayo elicited uproar from then Zamboanga City Representative, the late Maria Clara Lobregat and Batangas Rep. Milagros Laurel Trinidad. They said it was an insult to the Filipinos and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two-time Ramon Valera awardee, the late Joe Salazar defended it and said it was not a sacred item and he was simply expressing an artistic vision when he designed the controversial terno.

• For some reasons he’d rather not say in public, designer Boysie Villavicencio burned the gown he created for Miss India Sushmita Sen for the Forma Filipina Fashion Show on May 4. When she won, he had to make another gown of the same style which Sushmita wore in her first engagement as Miss Universe in Mexico.

• At least five hacking and stabbing incidents were reported because of arguments over who deserved to be crowned Miss Universe.

• Miss Singapore Paulyn Sun and Miss Netherlands Irene van de Laar fought the night before the finals. Sun was making telebabad which Laar couldn’t stand because she wanted to sleep. One thing led to another until Laar threw something at Sun.

• Miss Indonesia Venna Meunda watched the finals wearing her sash just as an observer. She couldn’t join the contest because of her region’s prohibition on wearing a swimsuit. She arrived in the country with Indonesian Princess Moerwati Soedlbjo.

• Miss Universe 1993 Dayanara Torres relinquished her throne wearing three suites of distinctively crafted diamond jewelry by renowned lawyer-jeweller, the late Fe S. Panlilio. They were 258 carats in all and were worth around $3 million.

• Perennial surveys’ topnotchers did not make it to the semi-finals: Miss Australia Michelle Van Eimeren (who placed no. 11 with an average score of 8.927), Miss Thailand Areeya Chumsai (no. 13, 8.880), Miss Mexico Fabiola Perez Rovirosa (no. 16, 8.830, tied with Miss Estonia), Miss Belgium Christelle Roelandts, (no. 22, 8.717) and Miss Puerto Rico Brenda Robles (no. 23, 8.710, tied with Miss Mauritius).

• India’s Sushmita Sen topped the preliminary interview with an average score of 9.49. The judges said her responses reflected the richness and the depth of her country’s culture. One could hear echoes of Tagore and Gandhi in her deep and spiritual answers. Her winning answer to the final question, "What is the essence of being a woman?" which was "Being a woman by itself, the very fact that you are a woman is a gift of God which all of us must appreciate. The origin of a child is a mother, a woman. And a woman can show a man what sharing, caring and loving is all about" is now a classic line among pageant aficionados.

• The victory of Sushmita Sen drew an outpouring of scorn and ridicule from the Marxist rulers of her native Bengal.

• A small Indian community in Cabanatuan City, ecstatic over the unexpected victory of compatriot Sushmita Sen, declared an amnesty when they wrote off interest payments that were due that day on debts owed by Filipino merchants. They said it was their gesture of goodwill toward Filipinos who hosted the pageant and a show of magnanimity in victory. Also, the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Indian community in Manila declared May 21 as Philippines-Indian Friendship Day.

• Then Vice-President Joseph Estrada, smitten by first runner-up Carolina Gomez of Colombia, said in jest that he was ready to have his wife assassinated if Gomez would agree to marry him. It created a stir among some legislators.

• Seven former Miss Universe crownkeepers graced the event – our very own Gloria Diaz (1969) and Margie Moran (1973), Irene Saez of Venezuela (1981), Angela Visser of Holland (1989), Mona Grudt of Norway (1990), Michelle McLean of Namibia (1992) and Dayanara Torres of Puerto Rico (1993).

• Some 100,000 pounds of production equipment and 200 personnel were brought in to Manila for the pageant. Fifty-five local hair and make-up artists, 89 fashion designers, 100 private establishments and government agencies lent their support and assistance for the pageant’s success.

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