MANILA, Philippines – Almost immediately after coronation, the 6 new queens, led by the new Miss Universe Philippines Maxine Medina, will begin a rigorous round of training for the international pageants. (FULL LIST: Winners, Bb Pilipinas 2016 coronation night)
One thing cannot be denied: for the ladies, it will be tough to follow class act Pia Wurtzbach, who continues to earn fans with her candid interviews, relaxed demeanor, and relatable and real image. She made her mark with an indelible, emotional speech at the coronation night, as she took a turn onstage for her farewell walk right before passing the crown to Maxine.
In a clear example of what makes her a standout queen, she used her time onstage to encourage her successor – it wasn't all about her. And she did so with the endearing sense of polished sincerity that has become her trademark.
With a touch of vulnerability, she acknowledged deeper feelings behind one's coronation – nerves, fear, apprehension – beyond the glitter and glitz.
"To my successor, just remember to give your best. Behind that beautiful gown, your knees may be trembling like me right now. I'm still not used to it," she said. "And being in front of millions of people is nerve-wracking, but you have to remember that you are proudly wearing that sash that says Philippines.
"And believe me, in you moments of doubt, you just have to remember that you have the whole country cheering you on."
Photo by Mark Cristino/EPA
Pia is not a fragile flower or beauty queen stereotype. It's clear that she relishes tough questions – she's not afraid of them and answers head-on. Notably, she can defend those answers, even if they are controversial, like her response to the Miss Universe question about US military presence in the Philippines.
Photo courtesy of HO/The Miss Universe Organization
Though refraining from endorsing anyone in politics, she's vocal about urging citizens to choose their candidates carefully. Her stances on a number of issues are clear – she supports the LGBT community, is for gender equality, is an HIV awareness advocate, among others.
The first losses
It was clear from the get-go that Pia was determined to win, eyes firmly on the prize. She had tried and failed in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Let's examine those two coronation nights a little more closely. They reveal a lot about what makes Pia a tough act to follow.
In 2013, she came close – so close – as first runner-up, the contestant who would take the place of any queen who couldn't continue. That loss must have been heartbreaking.
Photo by Edric Chen
Still, it might have worked in her favor, as runners-up, though crownless, traditionally do get the same training as the other queens. This is in case they need to replace them at a moment's notice, should the need arise. Pia had a full year's worth of training. She was hungry, and ready to win.
If 2013 was tough, 2014 was tougher, because she did not place. She was sparkling onstage with a strong performance throughout, breezing into the top 15. Asked a question in Filipino by Senator Sonny Angara, Pia cheekily replied that she would answer too in Filipino.
Even then, she was already very articulate, sharp, and witty, something she refined in the full year before her successful 2015 bid.
And she did very well – but she ran out of time just as she was translating her answer to English for the benefit of foreign judges. She had to cap her English answer with a single sentence: "Intuition is very important. Thank you."
This was a far cry from what she actually said in Filipino: "Ang isang leksyon na maituturo ng babae sa buong mundo ay 'yung tiwala sa kanyang sarili, 'yung intuition po na tinatawag natin. 'Pag meron ka pong intuition, alam mo po sa sarili 'nyo kung saan 'nyo po ilulugar ang sarili ninyo sa mundo – kahit na hindi ka sigurado sa nararamdaman mo, sa iniisip mo. Pero kung alam mo sa intuition mo, magiging successful ka po sa kahit anong gawin mo sa buhay 'nyo."
(One lesson women can teach the world is trust in oneself – what we call intuition. If you have this, you know how to position yourself in the world, even if you may not be sure of your thoughts or feelings. But if you follow your intuition, you will be successful, whatever you do in life.)
Cameras captured Pia's expression following her loss, a disappointing top 15 finish, a notch down from the last year's runner-up status.
Photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler
"That slump should’ve been more than enough to discourage a Binibini of lesser stuff. But not for the type of determined lady who, after taking stock of her remaining options, went for the 3rd leap of faith in this year’s nationals," said pageant blogger Norman Tinio in his post-pageant review on Rappler.
Pia's great year
2015 was Pia's year. Here she is answering her winning question, asked by congresswoman Leni Robredo:
Deeply emotional following her win, she said in an interview: "I'm very happy, obviously. I'm super excited. I always said that when I win, I'm going to be the busiest queen because I'm going to make the most out of the year, my reign. I was first runner-up in 2013 and I didn't make it last year. Now, I finally did. It was a long journey getting here. I'm not going to waste this."
She was true to her word.
Beyond her win, she deftly handled a difficult situation – a potential rift between her and Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez, understandably upset over being crowned for a few seconds, before having to give it all up. But both ladies were gracious over the matter. Despite not getting her walk due to the host's gaffe, Pia positioned that as a "non-traditional crowning moment," "very 2015."
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP
Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler
It's true that she's a 2015 queen – known for beauty, yes, but better known for great answers, her sass, and a good sense of humor.
#TBT to singing @Drake during Miss Universe 2015 in Vegas with Yun Fang Xue and @vanessatevi. -Pia pic.twitter.com/Iy63kjvAxd — Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach (@MissUniverse) February 25, 2016
Screengrab from Twitter/PiaWurtzbach
Pia vs haters
One more thing she's done well during her reign so far – she is vehemently against cyberbullying and she has done a great job engaging her haters with the right mix of self-confidence and positivity.
Case in point, the way she answered one detractor who asked why she cared about the presidential debate, considering that she was not in the country at the time.
At dahil wala ako dyan wala akong katapatan? Yan rin ba gusto mo sabihin sa lahat ng OFW? https://t.co/OMu6jyRoBG — Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach (@PiaWurtzbach) February 21, 2016
People love her now. But back then, when she was crownless and training for the pageant for years, many had awful things to say about her.
Pia herself has brought them up.
"People are laughing at me and saying that trying hard daw ako. So my answer is, 'Yeah, trying hard talaga ako.' I try very hard – I try very hard because this is what I want," she told media just before she left for the Miss Universe competition.
An anecdote from Pia's 2014 Binibini batchmate Nichole Marie Manalo, herself the sister of beauty queens and a returning candidate in this year's competition, sheds light on sadder moments following Pia's 2014 loss. Those "trying hard" comments would hurt anyone.
“Natatandaan ko, right after our Binibining Pilipinas 2014 pageant, 3 kami na nasa dressing room. Malungkot kami….Sinabi ko pa nga sa kanya n’un na ‘I-try mo ulit.’ Sinabi niya sa akin, dapat nga hindi na kasi napapagod na siya. But she tried again. So bakit ako hindi?” Nichole told Coconuts Manila.
(I remembered, right after Binibining Pilipinas 2014 pageant, there were 3 of us in the dressing room. All of us were sad..,.I told her, 'Try again.' She told me that she was already tired. But she tried again, so why can't I?)
When Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao lost his match to Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pia took up the mantle for Filipino pride and promised heartbroken Pinoys a world-class performance at Miss Universe. She tweeted:
Kalma lang guys. Ako bahala. Babawi tayo sa Miss Universe!! — Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach (@PiaWurtzbach) May 3, 2015
She faced some hate for that one. "Yabang huh!! Sa Bb PILIPINAS nga unli join ka bago manalo sa #MissUniverse2015 pa na parang siguradong sigurado ka," one Twitter user said.
(You're so boastful. You joined Bb Pilipinas so many times before you won the title, and now it's like you're so sure of the win.)
Big shoes to fill
Screengrab from Instagram/missuniverse
Asked this year what she thinks of the Binibini candidates, she had nice things to say.
"Well, definitely there were a few who caught my eye and because they looked like they were having fun. Gusto ko yung ganun na 'pag nakita ko yung girl, parang gusto ko siyang maging kaibigan (I want that kind of girl, who even at first sight, I want to be friends with)," Pia told reporters during a roundtable interview on Thursday, April 14 at Novotel, Cubao.
But she also joked, all in good fun, about something that she observed: "I noticed na ang dami ko nang kamukha. At ang dami nang gumagawa nung lingon ko ah. (And I noticed there are so many who look like me now. And lots of people are doing the way I look back now.)
"[There's] nothing wrong with that. I mean, it’s very good, but it was interesting to see when I used to do it in my living room, and now everyone is doing it on stage. It’s so funny," Pia shared.
But for new queens, the victory is the beginning of a bigger battle for the international crowns. And simply looking or acting like Pia won't do the trick, which they will surely keep in mind. A distinct personality and natural confidence will be key; with Pia in the picture, anything less will be glaringly obvious.
And all eyes will be on the new Miss Universe Philippines Maxine, who has the unenviable task of trying to pull off a back-to-back win this year.
This year, 6 were crowned, one up from last year's 5. The ladies will now compete at the Miss Universe, Miss International, Miss Supranational, Miss Intercontinental, Miss Globe, and Miss Grand International pageants.
"Tonight, I feel like I'm graduating from Binibini," said Pia during her speech. "Tonight is the beginning of the journey for a confidently beautiful Filipina. Mabuhay ang gandang Filipina. Mabuhay ang Filipina. Mabuhay tayong lahat!"
Congratulations to all the winners!
Predictions and live blog:
Leading up to coronation night
Get to know the ladies