Before there was cable, the internet, YouTube and this entire plethora of shows that could be viewed on demand, Filipinos had to content themselves with what the local networks offered back in the day.
If it was the season of the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association or MICAA (the forerunner of the PBA), even non-sports fans watched basketball because there was always just one TV set in the average middle-class Filipino home.
The annual FAMAS was a must-see, especially since this was only one of the three award-giving bodies in those days. The two others were the Manila Film Festival and the CAT Awards – or Citizens Awards for Television.
There were also just three national beauty contests that were aired on TV: Binibining Pilipinas, Mutya ng Pilipinas and much, later, Miss Republic of the Philippines, which chose the local delegate to Miss World.
The primary income from these pageants did not necessarily come from advertisers. Organizers relied heavily on box-office receipts – or ticket sales at the Araneta Coliseum where the events were usually held.
The results of these contests were always discussed – no, not online – but during Sunday lunches among family members or visiting relatives. Oh, yes, there was a lot of bashing, too – but only kept within the four walls of the dining room.
Mutya ng Pilipinas was very close in terms of popularity to Binibini because it had a bigger sister pageant: Miss Asia Quest. Whoever won Mutya became the Philippine bet to Miss Asia. The two competitions, in fact, were sometimes held on the same night. After a Mutya is crowned, she only changes into her national costume and off she competes in Miss Asia that is held in the same venue.
The first Miss Asia was held in 1965 – with Malaysian beauty Angela Filmer as winner. She also represented her country at Miss Universe, but was luckier in Miss Asia. Ms. Filmer eventually married a Pinoy Pepsi Cola executive.
That edition of Miss Asia had nothing to do with the current Miss Asia-Pacific International. In 1968, a totally different Miss Asia was organized, along with Mutya ng Pilipinas. That was the real the grandmother of the Miss Asia-Pacific International today.
In the early days of Miss Asia Quest, there would only be 14 or 15 delegates, including blondes from Australia and New Zealand. Toward the late ‘80s, the organizers eventually invited delegates from across the Pacific and the contest became Miss Asia-Pacific. In time, it became the Miss Asia-Pacific International that it is today – although under new management.
I read somewhere that this pageant became dormant for a while. With the most recent staging of this competition, I won’t be surprised if Miss Asia-Pacific International disappears for good.
Last Sunday, ABS-CBN aired the delayed telecast of this contest, which was held at the Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts World Manila last October 9. If I didn’t have to write this piece, I would have preferred to turn in early that night because watching the proceedings was like a Holy Week penitence in October. For one thing, the audio was so bad, they should have put sign language interpreters at the bottom of the TV screen.
The event was hosted by American showbiz celebrity Bobby Tonelli and Joey Mead King. Neither host managed to save the extremely dull format. From the original 54 delegates, the girls were whittled down to 25, then 10 – until they had the Magic 5.
A lot of the contestants really looked pretty. Best of all, there were so many of them who were not cosmetically-enhanced. One girl, for instance, had crooked teeth, but that was such a refreshing look after an endless parade of uniformed, straight and unrealistically white teeth that we see in Miss Universe and other international competitions.
One reason why the show became so hopelessly boring is the fact that the hosts hardly had any interaction with the delegates – save for the question and answer portions in the last two final rounds.
Sam YG, incidentally, was also there as anchorman, but was not asked to do much either. He was supposed to report from backstage, but all that he did was utter some useless spiels that failed to liven up the program.
The only saving grace of that show was that it wasn’t peppered with endless commercial breaks. I doubt very much if the organizers made a dime on that one. I guess that’s what happens when your creative investment is zero.
By the way, the organizers didn’t bother to invite any singer to render intermission numbers, which was good because that shortened the program and it made the viewers’ suffering more bearable.
At least some life came to the show when last year’s winner was made to do her farewell walk. The 2018 queen was Sharifa Akeel of the Philippines. I remember her when I caught the tail-end of last year’s Mutya ng Pilipinas.
She was exotically majestic – stunningly beautiful, in fact. When she talked, she sounded intelligent, except that her grammar crossed the Pacific and traversed all the way to the Atlantic. I didn’t even know that after bagging the Mutya title she went on to win the international crown that same year.
When she finally delivered her taped farewell message in the 2019 pageant, I noticed that her tenses still did a bit of traveling. Didn’t anyone from the organization check it before it was recorded?
At long last came the announcement of the winner. I didn’t bother to check on the internet who won – I’m sure the results were posted right after the pageant night - because that was the only piece of excitement hanging in my head. It also served as an incentive for me to actually finish the show.
It was a double relief for me while I watched the announcement of the winner. First, the conclusion of the show meant that my agony was almost over. And then, I was also very happy with the decision of the judges. Crowned Miss Asia-Pacific International was Chaiyenne Huisman of Spain.
The Spanish senorita truly deserved the title. To begin with, she towered over everyone else. There she was - big-boned and statuesque. She also stood there with Iberian pride – looking very confident. With blonde hair, she is also doll-like and maybe would also do well in other international pageants.
Speaking six languages, there was no way she’d lose in that competition, especially after giving the best answer in the final Q and A round.
That the best girl was chosen was some consolation to the viewer who stayed on till the end.
While the closing credits rolled, I remembered the last wake I attended at the Arlington Funeral Homes. Believe me, there was more life there than in the staging of the 2019 Miss Asia-Pacific International beauty pageant.
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