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TOP ASIAN COUNTRY – Of the four major international beauty pageants – Miss Universe, Miss International, Miss World, Miss Earth – the Philippines produced the most winners in the Japan-based Miss Int’l. The country has six titleholders.
Beauty expert Jay P. Delgado takes a nostalgic trip and dwells on them… only for Highspeed. JPD writes:
LAST October 27, Bb. Pilipinas-International 2016 Kylie Fausto Versoza nailed the country’s sixth Miss International crown in Tokyo, Japan, fortifying the Philippines’ position as the top Asian country in the international tilt that was inaugurated in Long Beach, California in 1960 (only Venezuela, with seven Miss International winners, is ahead of the Philippines).
Here is a throwback into the glorious years of our past five Miss International winners, as well as reigning queen Kylie Versoza:
1964 – Gemma Teresa Guerrero Cruz, daughter of journalist Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, was 21 years old when she won as Miss International Beauty on Aug. 14, 1964 in Long Beach, California, where she bested 41 other contestants worldwide, including 1st runner-up Linda Ann Taylor of the USA, 2nd runner-up Vera Lucia dos Coutos of Brazil, 3rd runner-up Tracy Ingram of England, and 4th runner-up Maila Ostring of Finland.
A descendant of National Hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal, Gemma became the first Filipina and Asian winner of the tilt that was inaugurated in 1960 (won by Miss Colombia Stella Marquez who later married Jorge Araneta of the illustrious Filipino clan and the current chairperson of Bb. Pilipinas Charities Inc. for the greater part of its 53-year history).
Gemma donated her $10,000 cash prize as Miss International to Boys Town and Girls Home in Marikina City. She won the right to compete for Miss International as the winner of the Miss Philippines 1964 pageant organized by the City of Manila.
Gemma went on to become director of the National Museum under the Marcos administration, Secretary of Tourism under the Estrada administration, and columnist for Manila Bulletin. She has authored and co-authored six books on Philippine history and other related topics, and hosted shows on TV and radio.
1970 – Bb. Pilipinas-International 1970 Aurora McKenney Pijuan was 20 years old when she was crowned Miss International 1970 at the World Exposition fairgrounds in Osaka, Japan on May 16, 1970, topping the field of 46 beauties worldwide, including 1st runner-up Margarita Briese of Argentina, 2nd runner-up Katherine Papworth of Australia, 3rd runner-up Toshie Suda of Japan, and 4th runner-up Susan Greaves of New Zealand.
Aurora’s victory was a joyous moment for Filipinos because Gloria Diaz was also the reigning Miss Universe at that time. Her victory at Expo ’70 helped attract more visitors to the Philippine pavilion that eventually became one of the 10 most visited pavilions at the exposition.
Aurora had a short stint in showbiz, her most memorable films being “Si Popeye Atbp,” where she played Olive Oyl to Ariel Ureta’s Popeye; and “Sunugin and Samar.”
Aurora went on to marry golfer and basketball coach Tomas “Tommy” Manatoc by whom she had a son, ABS-CBN sportscaster TJ, and a daughter named Mavis. The marriage ended in divorce with Tommy eventually marrying Imee Marcos.
Aurora had failed bids to run for public office; she is currently an active member of Gawad Kalinga, a movement that helps poor families in rural areas.