What made Lara win

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo -
The first time I saw Precious Lara Quigaman up close during an exclusive interview with her and the two other Binibinis (Gionna Cabrera, Universe; and Carlene Ang Aguilar, World) three days after the contest, I told Madame Stella Marquez-Araneta (head of the Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc., "I strongly believe that we have a fourth Miss International (after Gemma Cruz, 1964; Aurora Pijuan, 1970; and Melanie Marquez, 1979)."

The rest is history.

In the Miss International contest, the selection process is different from that of the Miss Universe Pageant where 10 (or 12) semi-finalists are chosen, then the five finalists and finally the winner. In the Miss International contest, the element of suspense is higher because the winner is chosen from the 12 semi-finalists (Brazil, Colombia, France, Japan, Peru, Serbia & Montenegro, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Finland, with the last two finishing first runner-up and second runner-up respectively). As to be expected, Lara was surprised when she was named the winner (from a field of 54 contestants) Monday night at grand finals in Tokyo, but Madame Stella was not.

"Through the time that we were preparing her for the Miss International contest," Madame Stella told Funfare, "Lara was taking things very seriously. She said, ‘I’m training to win.’ When I talked to her several times on the phone while she was competing in Tokyo, I would ask her several questions and she said that she was positive, that she was doing very well and that she’s a player. That gave me an idea of what was happening. Every day she was that way. She was optimistic."

According to Madame Stella (the first Miss International, 1960, representing her country, Colombia), before Lara went to Tokyo she went through rigid training right at home (and not in Colombia or Venezuela like other Binibinis), with past Binibinis Karen Agustin (Universe, 2002) and Maan Bayot (International, 2004) as trainers.

"Karen and Maan taught Lara what they learned from Colombia. They trained her how to walk, how to behave with fellow contestants and how to deal with the press. A team of nine people was with Lara every single day in different types of classes, including a Dale Carnegie class and lessons in Japanese."

Madame Stella didn’t know that Lara lost when she first joined the Bb. Pilipinas Pageant in 2001.

"She was the one who told me when she joined this year," Madame Stella recalled. "You know, these girls change after two or three years. They look more beautiful; they improve a lot."

Perhaps what also made Lara win was her poise (under stress) and grace (under pressure), noted Funfare’s "beauty expert" Felix Manuel who has followed Lara’s "journey to a beautiful victory," from the time she was chosen one of the Circle of Ten (models) to the time she won first runner-up in Eat, Bulaga!’s TeeVee Babe contest in 2001 (just weeks before she tried her luck at the Binibini) to the time she bagged the Binibini crown and finally, the Miss International title.

"Her striking resemblance to Miriam Quiambao, including her ‘walk,’ fascinated us," said Felix. "Lara was then freshman at UST. She practically grew up in Bahrain where she finished her elementary course at the New India School. She came back and enrolled at the La Consolacion College (High School) in Biñan, Laguna. From Bahrain, she went with her parents (Nelson Quigaman, a bus driver, and Princesita Agustin, a nurse) to the United Kingdom where Lara finished college."

How’s Lara in the eyes of her boyfriend, Michael Dulay Catacutan (see photo and related story on Page 1)?

"She’s sensitive and moody," friends close to the sweethearts quoted Michael, 29, as saying. (They met in 2001 and became an "item" in Feb. 2003.) "Sometimes, I don’t understand why she’s acting in a certain way. But I believe she’s gonna get over it (her moodiness)."

Asked if he and Lara ever discussed marriage, Michael was quoted as saying, "I asked her many times, baka makalusot. But I’d rather give her more time to enjoy her career."

Would Lara join showbiz?

She just might.

"In UK," said Felix Manuel, "she worked as a sales advisor for Marks & Spencer PLC and moonlighted as a Sunday teacher. She has appeared in the top-rating BBC TV drama Casualty (Britain’s answer to the US drama series ER)."

Asked by Funfare in that exclusive interview what role she’d like to play if ever she joined showbiz and who she preferred as leading man, Lara said, "Any kind of role, preferably a kontrabida. Parang it’s more challenging to play a kontrabida than a bida. Leading man? Anybody."

Meanwhile, let’s allow Lara savor her victory as the new Miss International.
Miss International Honor Roll
1960: Maria Stella Marquez Zawadzky – Colombia

1961: Stam (Stanny) Van Baer – Holland

1962: Tania Verstak – Australia

1963: Gudrun Bjarnadottir – Iceland

1964: Gemma Teresa Guerrero Cruz – Philippines

1965: Ingrid Finger – Germany


1967: Mirta Teresita Massa – Argentina

1968: Maria da Gloria Carvalho – Brazil

1969: Valerie Susan Holmes – England

1970: Aurora McKenny Pijuan – Philippines

1971: Jane Cheryl Hansen – New Zealand

1972: Linda Hooks – England

1973: Tuula Anneli Bjorkling – Finland

1974: Karen Brucene Smith – USA

1975: Ladija Vera Manic – Yugoslavia

1976: Sophie Sonia Perin – France

1977: Pilar Medina Canadell – Spain

1978: Katherine Patricia Ruth – USA

1979: Mimilanie Laurel Marquez – Philippines

1980: Lorna Marlene Chavez – Costa Rica

1981: Jenny Annette Derek – Australia

1982: Christie Ellen Claridge – USA

1983: Gidget Sandoval – Costa Rica

1984: Ilma Julieta Urrutia Chang – Guatemala

1985: Alejandrina "Nina" Sicilia Hernandez – Venezuela

1986: Helen Fairbrother – England

1987: Laurie Tamara Simpson – Puerto Rico

1988: Catherine Alexandra Gude – Norway

1989: Iris Klein – Germany

1990: Silvia de Esteban Niubo – Spain

1991: Agnieszka Kotlarska – Poland

1992: Kirsten Marise Davidson – Australia

1993: Agnieszka Pachalko – Poland

1994: Christina Lekka – Greece

1995: Anne Lena Hansen – Norway

1996: Fernanda Alves – Portugal

1997: Consuelo Adler Hernández – Venezuela

1998: Lía Victoria Borrero González – Panama

1999: Paulina Margarita Gálvez Pineda – Colombia

2000: Vivian Inés Urdaneta Rincón – Venezuela

2001: Magorzata Rozniecka – Poland

2002: Christina Sawaya – Lebanon

2003: Goizeder Victoria Azúa Barríos – Venezuela

2004: Jeimi (Yeymmy) Paola Vargas Gómez – Colombia
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