THE FALTERING PERIOD (1981-1990)
By Jetset Alejandro
This decade I term it as faltering decade or a decade of indecisiveness. It is in this year that the organization seems to have veered away from the template of the formalism years. It is a period of quandary too. In other parts of the globe, for example Venezuela has practically started their beauty machines. But in the Philippines, it is a disdain to know that someone had something reconstructed or this and that. If natural beauties like Chat Silayan can make a mark in the international arena, then the present formula would probably suffice.
So in 1981, we still saw how the judges went for the beauty and cerebral. Maricar Mendoza was chosen as Miss Photogenic and gave out a real good answer in the question and answer portion. She was already said to be in the winning column as she graduated from the University of the Philippines. Maricar was tall and beautiful by the standards of her time but she did not matter in the Miss Universe competition as a Venezuelan, Irene Saez romped off with the title. Irene went on to be a woman of substance and meaning in Venezuela when she entered politics. A Top 12 was chosen but Maricar fared badly in the swimsuit competition.
In 1982, another UP student, Maria Isabel Lopez who was outspoken and easily says what is on her mind was chosen to represent the country in Lima, Peru. She was probably the candidate ahead of her time. With her wit and wide outlook in life, Maria Isabel should have been a very good ambassador for the advocacy of Miss Universe at that time. But Maribel failed in her swimsuit presentation and a Canadian took the spotlight in that year in the person of Karen Baldwin. Had the contest been held probably in American soil or in Europe, Maribel would had been a hit.
In 1983, the Binibining Pilipinas crowned Rosita Capuyon who is in the mold of the formalism candidates. She was beautiful but she has the aura of the previous decade. In this year, Miss New Zealand, Lorraine Elizabeth Downes a 19 year-old charming lady was crowned as Miss Universe.
A come backing candidate Desiree Verdadero was crowned as the new Binibining Pilipinas 1984 winner. Desiree wowed the audience with her Malayan beauty and confidence that radiated and exuded grace and oomph. If you look at Desiree, she was in the mold of Chat Silayan and yet, it seems that the Binibini is not following prototypes that would truly be surefire hits for the country.
In 1985, a tall, svelte, mestiza Joyce Fellosas Burton was crowned as the winner in the pageant. All hopes were pinned on this girl. She does not fit the mold of an exotic brown Filipina but everyone loves a mestiza in the country. They embraced the girl for her good qualities. She could have given Miss Deborah Carthy-Deu of Puerto Rico a run for the crown. But there are reports that the Miss Universe Organization had just asked her participation and just enjoy the pageant as she cannot present a Philippine passport are true, then this is really a big injustice to all Filipino pageant fanatics. No one is really coming out to clear this issue but the fact that she did not have preliminary scores flashed onscreen my prove credence to these gossips in whispers.
A new hope to win the title of Miss Universe in 1986 has become paramount as the Philippines showed the world its brand of courage and bravery through the People’s Power Revolution. The Philippines is the darling of the world because of its historical event. But the Binibining Pilipinas failed to capitalize on that event as it sent a very weak candidate and in the annals of Philippine Pageant history garnered one of the lowest scores in the swimsuit category which was 6.86. Despite of whatever sterling qualities that Violeta had, she was never able to regain her fighting stature after that very low score in the swimsuit. Besides, Barbara Palacios Teyde of Venezuela was so formidable.
In 1987, a tall, long legged, fair-skinned and a very sociable girl was chosen to represent the country after the debacle in 1986. Geraldine “Pebbles” Asis represented the Philippines in Singapore where she was a semi-finalist. She was one of the front-runners at that time. She was number 5 in the preliminaries but in the final five, she was eased out because of a very low score in the interview. Geraldine is a mix of the formalism period and this indecisive period as she was educated in an exclusive school that is administered by nuns. She was taught to be prim and proper but as she went into her higher education, she became her gregarious self which made her good stead as she was able to reach out to more people most especially in the entertainment world that she has chosen to work for during her early career years.
The year 1988 saw the selection of the unheralded Perfida Limpin. Coming from the year where the Binibini selected a fair-skinned candidate, this time, Perfida fitted the criteria selection of the common but beautiful Filipina. She participated in the Miss Universe pageant in Taipei and the result was the so-called Asian Invasion. Unfortunately, Perfida was not part of the Asian domination. Many pageant aficionados say that had Perfida won at the time where the pageant is held in North America or in Europe she would have been a very big hit but since it was held in Taipei where the fair-skinned ladies are much more appreciated, she was relegated to the sidelines with the other Asian candidates that had predominantly dusky colors.
For 1989, the organization opted to go back to the dusky, intelligent but tall Filipina. Sarah Jane Paez was crowned as the Binibining Pilipinas Universe at that time. With those qualities, however, Sarah failed to make it to the Top 10. A beautiful lady from Holland with the name Angela Visser was crowned in Cancun, Mexico. In a retrospective show done, when Sarah Jane was interviewed, she said that she lost the confidence in herself when she saw the other candidates during her time. She became an instant fan and she was in awe with the other candidates. She lost competitive self in the pageant and hence, she never recovered. I have heard other Philippine candidates talk about this phenomenon and with Sarah talking about this, the reality of going through more intensive type of personality training should be in the offing. Added to this, she had good scores in the swimsuit and interview but her gown presentation was way way off.
For the year 1990, Germelina “Gem” Padilla was crowned Binibining Pilipinas Universe. This time, the organization opted for a tall, fair and intelligent Filipina. Gem as fondly called by her family, friends and fans, is a Political Science graduate from the University of Sto. Tomas. Had the format been a Top 12 or a Top 15/16, she would have made it since she ranked 12th in the preliminaries. Her lowest score is the evening gown segment. With Gem Padilla’s closing the decade with a near inclusion to the semi-finalists circle, hopes were high that the Binibini will chart a course of repeating the past successes of the defining and formalism periods.
This period underscored certain facts. First, the ideal beauty changes through different milieu, culture and perspective. We cannot standardize beauty.* Something beautiful in Africa may not be beautiful in North America. Take for example, in 1984, Desiree Verdadero’s dusky beauty was such a hit in Miami, Florida. Pebbles Asis was very much appreciated also in Singapore because of her fair complexion. On the other hand, Perfida Limpin was totally unappreciated in that Asian invasion in Taipei. Second, a big percentage of our candidates during the period did not make it to the semifinalist circle because of very low scores in the swimsuit competition. ** The third phenomenon is a recurring issue until the present time, the evening gown. A poorly designed, made, fitted evening gown would spell disaster to a candidate even though she can weave herself into that gown.*** Fourthly, the communication department! The communication department does not make a complete candidate. But it contributes greatly to her ability to expound her ideas and thus be a very good mouthpiece for the organization searching for its queen, in this case, the Miss Universe.**** And lastly, a great personality! Our candidate should be able to charm her way to the crown and not cower in fear or hide in their shell in the face of threat or formidable competition.
Things have greatly changed from the defining and formalism period with this period. Modern day icons of beauty have emerged and the country’s beauty pageant machinery seems to be stagnating during this period. I have termed the period as an indecisive period as I do not feel that we have stagnated during this period. There were attempts to be at par with the other countries in their aim to maintain being in the leader board of beauty. But up to what extent? Shall we follow the lead of Venezuela who is into reconstructive surgery? Shall we further follow them to develop a well-rounded candidate?
During this period, a lot of countries train their candidates in personality development – social graces, speech and communication, language of the place where the pageant is to be held, hairstyles, make-ups and appropriate clothes and fashion. When other countries are taking the lead, the Philippines has a patchy performance in all these aspects. But if you take a review of the decade, there were other private entities that have propounded the concept but it never materialized. We wanted so much but we were so much less when gauged in totality.