Missed Universe

When I was a child during the late 60s to the early 70s, the annual Miss Universe beauty pageant was a really big thing.  It was usually aired on TV television during lunchtime [ I remember Sundays ] and many of us, specially the kiddies and the teens, would throng to the “Sony” color television [ color TV was a big thing then 😛 ] in Lola Charing’s bedroom to watch it.  Even then, there were many commercials between the pageant segments.

The annual Miss Universe beauty pageants were my first lessons in geography.  We young cousins would turn the old, 1950s globe in the library/office around and around looking at all the different countries.  A bonus of all that “manual globetrotting” was that we were even able to memorize the capital cities of different countries:  China’s Beijing, Indonesia’s Djakarta, Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur, Australia’s Canberra, USA’s Washington D.C., Mexico’s Mexico City, Venezuela’s Caracas, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro [ now Brasilia ], Chile’s Santiago, Argentina’s Buenos Aires, Spain’s Madrid, France’s Paris, Belgium’s Brussels, Italy’s Rome, West Germany’s Bonn [ now Berlin again ], Denmark’s Copenhagen, Sweden’s Stockholm, Finland’s Helsinki, Iceland’s Reykjavik, USSR’s Moscow, even Mongolia’s Ulan Bator, etc..

To this day, I still remember the roster of winners during the 1974 Miss Universe beauty pageant in Manila [ when I was 7 years old ]:  Amparo Munoz, Miss Spain, Miss Universe;  Helen Morgan, Miss Wales, first runner-up;  Johanna Raunio, Miss Finland, second runner-up;  Ella Cecilia Escandon, Miss Colombia, third runner-up;  and Maureen Ava Vieira, Miss Aruba, fourth runner-up.

When one watches the annual Miss Universe beauty pageant, one is confronted with the secret reality that beauty is no less a power than brains, wealth, or political influence.  It too, has the power to build and to destroy, to nurture and to consume, to do good and to do evil.  One understands why the most powerful of men the world over, when romantically involved with beautiful women, inevitably lose their senses and make fools of themselves.

After all is said and done, all a woman has to be is BEAUTIFUL.  And the world will fall at her feet.

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That was a major, major Missed Universe 2010!!!

A dear friend, a seasoned beauty contest judge and veteran, reflected:  “Oh, let’s not fool ourselves…  Miss Philippines Maria Venus Raj wasn’t going to win Miss Universe 2010.  She looks fabulous, that 22 inch waistline, and certainly has what it takes, but there was someone with more.  Miss Mexico, Jimena Navarrete, was leading from the very start.  It’s mathematical, look at the scores!  Of course, they say the scores are leveled out for the final question and answer portion, but the judges had pretty much settled for Miss Mexico.  Even Maria Venus Raj has admitted in interviews that Miss Mexico Jimena Navarrete was a favorite of the judges.  She drew that question about Internet use by the youth but her answer wasn’t any more brilliant, no more intelligent, than Miss Philippines’, and yet she won as Miss Universe!”

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Thirty-six years have passed since the Philippines won its second Miss Universe beauty pageant with Margie Moran [ now Mrs. Floirendo ] in 1973;  forty years have passed since the Philippines won its first Miss Universe title with Gloria Diaz in 1969.

Crazy question:  Is it because Ferdinand Marcos is no longer President and Imelda Romualdez-Marcos is no longer First Lady???  You see, both wins happened during the “beauty-conscious” Marcos presidency from 1965-1986.

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Beijing to Manila

It is interesting to note how there can only be a few, if any at all, “degrees of separation” in Manila…  Over an intimate dinner this evening at a dear friend’s [ actually my cousins’ cousin ] palatial home on Banaba road, I sat with the hostess and her siblings, as well as some of her husband’s close friends in the extremely affluent and tightly-knit Chinese-Filipino business community.  And the talk inevitably turned to the startling events of the week…

“I just came in from Hong Kong yesterday and before that from Shanghai and Beijing.”  related an influential Chinese-Filipina businesswoman in the electronics import and export business.  “I was in Beijing that day of the crisis.  I didn’t know what was happening.  We were at a business meeting and my Beijing partners asked me:  “Don’t you know what’s happening in Manila?”  So we watched the goings-on.  It was distracting and embarrassing, to say the least.”

“Our Beijing partners could not understand why we could not simply eliminate the sole gunman easily and effectively, the way they always do there.  They were in total disbelief and broke out in !~@#%^&*()_+! curses as they watched the climax of the crisis…”

“Later on, all of us were stunned to learn that eight of the hostages had been killed during the clumsy assault.  Ay naku, we from Manila wanted to shrink and disappear from shame!”

“The next day, many people in Beijing were angry.  There was a female newscaster on the radio who was ranting endlessly and inciting more angry reactions from her listeners.  A male co-newscaster tried to moderate her tirades, saying that tragic things like that happen and happen everywhere else in the world, not just in the Philippines.”

“A curious, but probably correct, thing was that there was a negative reaction in Beijing to the news that Hong Kong’s Donald Tsang had called President Aquino of the Philippines about the hostage crisis.  Beijing considered it as a breach of state protocol regarding international relations:  Beijing strongly felt that Tsang did not have the prerogative to do that because Beijing reserved that privilege for itself.”

“Was that the reason then why President Aquino did not receive Hong Kong’s Donald Tsang’s calls as reported by the press?”  she asked.

“Probably???”  the other guests responded.

“We arrived in Shanghai, in Pudong, and the collective mood was just as angry.  It was the talk everywhere!”

“It was worse in Hong Kong…  We really felt it there.  But my friends and business associates there were divided.  Both sides were indignant:  one side was all criticisms and violence about the Philippines and the Filipinos, how the whole crisis was handled with unbelievable ineptness and even downright stupidity;  the other camp was moderate and maintained that tragic things like that happened everywhere, not just in the Philippines, but more in the First World and the Islamic countries, the point being that nobody in their right minds wanted those things to happen in the first place!”

“But despite the hostile emotions there, civility still prevailed.  Our group freely spoke in Pilipino/Tagalog — with smatterings of Lan-nang [ Hokkien ] and Mandarin — but we didn’t experience anything untoward.”  concluded influential Chinese-Filipina businesswoman.

Our hostess related that at dinner a few days ago, her husband’s good friend, a former DILG Department of the Interior and Local Government secretary, stated that the Philippines does have an excellent SWAT team, an elite corps extensively trained by the Israelis, with the best, new firearms and other equipment to boot!  What he could not understand — nay baffled him — was why the government chose to assign the local police SWAT instead to conduct the operation, when the excellent SWAT team could have been called into service anytime.  He conjectured that it was the elite SWAT team’s association with PGMA [ President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ] that got into the way.  Politics, politics!!!

“Why didn’t you call them to suggest the elite SWAT team?!”  she asked him.

“Because they don’t like ‘unsolicited advice.’  Besides, they all know about that elite SWAT team!”  he said.

By coincidence, seated at the table was a cousin of the affluent Filipino family whose members were hacked [ with the father and the daughter killed ] with a big knife [ described by the survivor as similar to a “bolo”;  described by other accounts as a scythe ] by an “anti-Japanese Chinese protester” right in Tiananmen square in Beijing in 2005…

“The father had just retired from his work in Manila, he was only around 50… He just wanted to take his family to China for some R & R… They were just sightseeing, for chrissakes…  They were already walking around Tiananmen square just waiting for the gates of the Forbidden City to open…  they were not alighting from the tourist bus as commonly reported.  Suddenly, a man walking near them simply shoves a big knife through them in rapid succession.  The father was stabbed on the right side of the abdomen, the mother was stabbed from behind, below the chest.  The father was fatally hit in the femoral artery, a crucial part of the circulatory system;  he was already in shock, and perhaps because of the cold, wondered aloud why he was bleeding…”

“The police arrived immediately.  However, they refused to bring the stabbing victims to the hospital in their cars and vans;  probably as a matter of government policy.  They were adamant in waiting for the ambulances from the hospitals!  In such cases of severe injury, every second counts as life drains from the victims!  It was only after many, otherwise lifesaving, minutes of importuning, pleading, and begging by the other family members, tour group members, and bystanders that the police finally acceded to bring the victims to the hospital.  But by that time, it was already too late for the father and the daughter…”

“The father went into shock because of severe blood loss and the needless delay of medical attention;  he was DOA dead on arrival at the hospital.  However terribly injured, the bleeding and agonizing mother managed to attend to her daughter and held the latter’s head as she passed away not long afterwards.  The mother/widow sustained terrible injuries but survived;  she stayed in the Beijing hospital for a month and then returned to the Philippines.”

“What was remarkable was how quickly the Tiananmen square maintenance arrived and cleaned up the splattered blood that was the evidence of the crime.  Within minutes, the site of the murders bore absolutely no traces of the horrible acts that transpired just minutes before!”

“The Chinese murderer was quickly arrested, subsequently arraigned, and swiftly sentenced to death by firing squad.  However, he had to wait for some 6 months for his execution by shooting because his family had to pay for the cost of the bullets to be used on him — they had to save up the money first — as required by the Chinese state.”

“Perhaps, it is that exact kind of justice which China, and Hong Kong in particular, wants extracted from the sole Filipino gunman, who now lies conveniently dead in Batangas.”

How we wish the perpetrator had thought of the dire consequences of his acts…  how it would endanger, directly and indirectly, the livelihoods of 103 million of our already suffering countrymen, and specifically jeopardize the difficult labor and unceasing sacrifices of 103,000 of our compatriots working as domestic helpers in Hong Kong and a few thousands more working as professionals in mainland China.

But he only thought of himself.

The Hong Kong Chinese are furious.  The mainland Chinese are furious.  Well, so are we Filipinos, whether natives, Chinese-Filipinos, or mixed race.

God help us!