Michelle Dee & Destiny

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Michelle Dee & Destiny
Wearing the crown as Miss Philippines-Universe.

In the Philippines, there’s a popular saying that in elections, there are no winners and losers, only “winners and ‘yung dinaya.”

It was probably coined by sore losers. But there, indeed, have been documented instances when those declared losers were eventually vindicated, as in the case of the Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach in 2015. She really was the winner, but for a few seconds was the loser — till the results were rectified by an embarrassed Steve Harvey.

This also happened to Sen. Koko Pimentel in 2007, who assumed his Senate seat four years after the elections after pleading his case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

Cries that last Sunday’s Miss Universe 2023 beauty pageant in El Salvador was unfair to Miss Philippines Michelle Marquez Dee are as strong and loud as those in post-election Philippines, but the arena of protest is social media and not EDSA.

Many are now posting online now-deleted screen shots of Miss Universe El Salvador purportedly showing that Michelle was indeed in the Top 5.

Philstar.com has reported that Miss Universe El Salvador has apologized.

“Our mistake! In the rush to get our posts up during Saturday’s live broadcast, we accidentally mixed up the names of two finalists,” Miss Universe El Salvador wrote.

“This was a simple error of moving too fast — we heard the same results live at the same time that you all did, no special access over here! We’re sorry to both finalists,” it added.

It was indeed suspicious when you’re on Team Michelle.

But Michelle is getting to be more and more a winner in my eyes as she graciously accepts all the could have’s and should have’s that could cost anybody her sanity.

In her Instagram broadcast channel, Michelle said that “there should be no room for error but the reality is that we live in an imperfect world.”

“My request is not just to be respectful to the delegates but to the supporters that are so passionate about this platform as well,” she added.

And after all was said and done, she said in an interview with talk show host Boy Abunda on GMA, “I just wanted to say thank you so much for all of your support. I would have not been able to power through this without all of your love running behind our Bayanihan spirit. Pinakita talaga natin sa buong universe, how we can come together and shake the whole universe. I honestly feel so grateful to be Pinoy. I’ve always been grateful, loud and proud palagi. That’s how I wanted to raise my flag and at the end of the day, I’ve always said this — that I just wanted all of you to know that I tried my best and we all collectively did.”

“Top 10 is still an amazing feat over such a competitive year,” she continued. “(It) was amazing because not only was I carrying myself but I was carrying the whole nation, I was carrying my mother’s (former Miss International Melanie Marquez’s) legacy…It may not have been the result that we wanted, but we still showed the universe what we had to offer.”

Michelle told PeopleAsia magazine features editor Alex Vergara in a previous interview that one of the best pieces of advice she got before the pageant — and perhaps the reason for her present equanimity — came from her mother.

Michelle Dee in Whang Od-inspired evening gown by Mark Bumgarner.
Photo from instagram.com/michelledee

“One of the many pieces of advice she gave me is to enjoy every moment while competing because you can’t bring those moments back anymore.”

Michelle’s parting shot?  “Just remember to always choose kindness and love throughout everything.”

Imagine if she held the mic during the Q&A portion of the final, hold-your-breath round?

That she lost, or rather, the Philippines lost the chance to be heard on stage with the eloquence of Michelle is what is heartbreaking to most Miss Universe aficionados.

“Ranged against what we heard from the five finalists, Michelle should have been at least given the chance to be heard,” believes Alex Vergara, who interviewed her for the magazine’s “Women of Style and Substance” special edition.

I myself initially attributed her not getting into the Top 5 to her black gown — it seemed like a damper in a glittering pageant where the klieg lights bounce off the shimmer and glimmer of a candidate’s gown. Just like how many don’t particularly like guests to wear black to a birthday party. It’s optics for me.

The significance of the gown was a winner — that it was inspired by an iconic Filipino tattoo artist, a woman — could not be emphasized enough in the few seconds the backstage hosts had to introduce the candidate. But you see, I learned in journalism school that if you have to explain your lead, it isn’t effective enough. It should be immediately obvious. I was thinking if Michelle wore the tattoo dress to the prelims, much could have been made of its significance, since the tattoo artist (the remarkable Apo Whang-Od) is a walking icon and there would have been time and space to delve on the gravitas of the gown’s design. Thereafter, Michelle should have worn the shimmering emerald gown, also by the talented Mark Bumgarner, to the finals. Show, don’t tell.

But then again that’s just me and hindsight is 20/20.

Of course, the specter of insider maneuvering, even if unfounded, will always hover when your bet doesn’t win. Comments alleging how she was edged out by Miss Thailand (hmmm…another story there) since there is usually only room for one Asian in the Top 5. But then again, Asia is the world’s biggest continent. Asians can’t be faulted for having more than its quota of beautiful women.

Alex believes, “Michelle may not be the prettiest, and that’s arguable, but she ticked all the boxes. They are looking for a so-called transformational queen, and she’s the embodiment of it because of her genuine advocacy and the way she articulates it.”

I give former Miss Universe Margie Moran-Floirendo the last word: “It’s her destiny. It’s not meant for her. She can use what she learned to do significant things.”



You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.

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