An ‘out of the universe’ experience

Danee Samonte - The Philippine Star
An âout of the universeâ experience
The author with the Miss Universe candidates at the background…

MANILA, Philippines – I told Miss Malta I would visit 10 churches and pray on my knees that she wins the Miss Universe title on condition that she would thank me and my wife at the end of her acceptance speech. She gamely smiled and excitedly agreed. Our table roared in laughter.

How many chances in your life would a guy be able to see 86 Miss Universe candidates up close and personal and have a five-course dinner with a couple of the candidates to match in one night? I guess only this once.

The Miss Universe franchise was founded in 1952 by Pacific Knitting Mills in California. The franchise formerly owned by the Trump organization of now US President Donald Trump was recently sold to leading talent agency William Morris Endeavor (WME) in 2015. The first Miss Universe for the new owner was our very own Pia Wurtzbach.

A few days ago, my good friend Zairah Macalino, marketing officer of Widus Resort & Casino Clark, who is a deadringer for a beauty queen herself invited me and my wife to attend the Miss Universe Governor’s Ball with the Widus group. I immediately said yes as I’ve never been to an event with such grandeur. 
    At 7 p.m., we joined the lengthy queue of smartly-dressed couples for the black tie affair at SMC Convention Center. Well-coiffed ladies in designer gowns with sparkling bling-blings to match were escorted by nattily garbed gentlemen.

According to the organizers, the venue had enough tables that could each seat 10 to accommodate at least one-and-a-half thousand people. Attending the event were the captains of industry, politicians like Sen. Manny Pacquiao, ambassadors, diplomats, hotel executives like the stunning Jenny Santillan of City of Dreams, my good friend Solaire director Natoy Almeda, Belle corp. boss Willy Ocier, former governor and now Narvacan councilor Chavit Singson, Okada Resorts big boss Kazuo Okada and many more.

We sat at table No. 43 with a vantage view of the humongous stage where singers and dancers performed with gusto. The evening started with a tastefully-produced video montage of various tourist sites in the Philippines. The video gave me goose pimples and made me proud to be Pinoy. Kudos to Sec. Wanda Teo. Highlight of the presentation was the parade of the 86 Miss Universe candidates in their gowns. 

Dinner was served late — past 9 p.m. My tummy was grumbling when the appetizer and soup arrived. Being used to catered events, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the five-course dinner but I surprisingly did. My compliments to Via Mare who also catered the last Miss Universe pageant held in the Philippines in 1994. The Angus prime rib was tastefully tender and the pumpkin soup was simply superb. 

Two Miss Universe candidates sat at our table and joined us for dinner. The winsome Miss Bulgaria sat across and the bubbly Miss Malta sat beside my wife. There was nonstop picture-taking in our table because only a few tables were afforded the privilege of dining with the candidates. I pitied the two girls because every time they would attempt to take a bite, somebody would approach and request for a picture but they just smiled and posed for all the requests.

My wife had a great time chatting with Miss Malta who talked about her beautiful country and culture. I listened eagerly to every tidbit about Malta which is just a half an hour boat ride from Sicily until she and my wife switched topics. They started talking excitedly about the TV series they are watching on Netflix. The long-winded conversation stopped when the Miss U handlers told the girls it’s bed time as they had to get up at 5 a.m. the next day for the flight to Cebu.



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