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‘Best show for the best fans in the world’

In Photo: Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach (center) bids farewell after ending her reign as the country’s third Miss Universe winner at the grand coronation for the new Miss Universe on January 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

By C. Mendez Legaspi / Special to the BusinessMirror

In what has turned to be the “best show” in recent Miss Universe history enjoyed by “the best fans in the world”, the 65th Miss Universe pageant in Manila is considered a rousing success.

Miss Universe contestant Carolyn Carter of the US Virgin Islands parades in costume during the preliminary competition of the Miss Universe beauty pageant at the Mall of Asia Arena on January 26 in Pasay City.
Miss Universe contestant Carolyn Carter of the US Virgin Islands parades in costume during the preliminary competition of the Miss Universe beauty pageant at the Mall of Asia Arena on January 26 in Pasay City.

Iris Mittenaere, 24, a dental-surgery student from France, succeeds our own Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, as she emerged victorious after a fast-paced, frantic presentation hosted by returning comedian Steve Harvey, with performances from rapper Flo Rida and R&B group Boyz II Men.

Tourism boost

There were several events leading up to “The Most Beautiful Day in the Universe” held at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City on January 30. Fans from near and far followed every movement of the delegates from 86 countries.

“What you saw during your brief stay—some of our top destinations, festivals, our balut, Bohol’s Chocolate Hills—these are just a glimpse of what our 7,107 islands can offer. So, I invite the world, come to the Philippines, so you can affirm that when you are with Filipinos, you are with family,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo said.

Miss Universe contestant Htet Htet Htun of Myanmar.
Miss Universe contestant Htet Htet Htun of Myanmar.

The captivating women visited Vigan, Cebu, Davao, Baguio and Batangas, and made quick tours at Manila’s Chinatown and Intramuros.

With the support of President Duterte, the Department of Tourism tapped the resources of other government agencies, along with the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) and the private sector. The prime mover of the event was the LCS Group, headed by former Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit C. Singson and Architect Richelle Singson-Michael, in partnership with Okada Manila, SM Group of Cos. and Solar Entertainment Corp., its broadcast partner.

Retail triumphs

Miss Universe contestant Kezia Warouw of Indonesia.
Miss Universe contestant Kezia Warouw of Indonesia.

Miss France isn’t the only winner after the 65th Miss Universe edition. Fans didn’t just come to watch the pageant, they also got to do the whole tourist experience. One of which is the malling culture, an activity unique to our country.

“We are honored that the pageant and prepageant events were held at the MOA [Mall of Asia] Complex—SMX, the Conrad Hotel and the Arena. Just as the pageant itself was a wonderful way of promoting tourism in the Philippines, it also created a lot of awareness about the MOA Complex,” said Millie F. Dizon, SVP for Marketing Communications Group-Publicity of SM.

“Having the coronation night at the Arena was a great opportunity for it to be known globally. As for the retail side, the contestants had opportunities for retail therapy with a visit to SM Makati, as well as the Mall of Asia, as they were billeted at the Conrad. During a visit to Pico de Loro in Batangas, they were also given resort items from Kultura [a store specializing in Filipino-made products]. We are happy to be part of the staging of the event,” Dizon added.

Miss Universe contestant Ida Ovmar of Sweden.
Miss Universe contestant Ida Ovmar of Sweden.

“There were a lot of foreigners around MOA during the event. They bought usually souvenir items and dined in the restaurants. Pageants are big in the Philippines, and there are a lot of fans representing a broad market base,” Dizon said. “The Miss Universe contest was not only good for SM but also for the Philippines, and we feel honored to be part of it.”

Golden opportunities

The candidates and their handlers stayed at the Conrad Hotel, while the MUO staff were at the Okada Manila. Some of the wealthier fans opted for Solaire Resort and Casino and City of Dreams. Because of its proximity to the pageant venue, the more affordable Golden Phoenix Hotel grabbed the opportunity to host more fans and beauty queens.

Miss Universe contestant Jenny Kim of South Korea.
Miss Universe contestant Jenny Kim of South Korea.

“We anticipated the bookings on the coronation day, as we knew that our hotel was the first to appear when you search ‘hotels near MOA Arena’. We had bookings from Venezuela, Bulgaria, Norway, Thailand, Guam, Canada and other countries. They booked online, some through our web site, and the rest used online travel agents,” shared Christine Ibaretta, director of sales and marketing of Golden Phoenix. “E-commerce really helped in bringing the business to us, not just this time but for other important events near the MOA area, the PICC [Philippine International Convention Center] and the World Trade Center.”

Miss Universe 2005 Natalie Glebova was booked by the DOT. Miss Universe 2011 Third Runner-Up Shamcey Supsup also stayed there. “Once we knew they were with the Miss Universe, VIPs courtesies were extended, showing our renowned Pinoy hospitality,” Ibaretta bared.

Dress for success

One ancillary event that the Filipino talent was on full display was the Designers’ Showcase presentation on National Gift Auction Night at the Conrad Hotel on January 23. Fashion designers from across the country were tasked to create outfits for each candidate by using the colors of the Philippine flag as guide.

Designers were matched to a candidate using an alphabetical system: A designer’s first name will be assigned to a candidate’s country. As luck would have it, Henry Mangahas of HRM Moda got Miss France.

“I was absolutely excited to dress up Miss France because, obviously, she is the perfect mannequin for a dress fit for a queen. From the moment she entered the Top 13, I already had a feeling she would take a place in the Top 3. As she was my muse, I was naturally rooting for her to win, and she deservedly did with poise and grace,” Mangahas said.

“It was a great privilege and honor to be part of Miss France’s journey to the crown. It will definitely give my business some boost, and the picture of her wearing my name and creation will always be a promotion to my label,” the Las Piñas-based designer enthused.

Clever moves

PLDT Home Fibr was the official broadband partner of the pageant. It provided world-class Internet fit for such a world-class event. Smart was the official mobile counterpart. Its sister company, TV5, signed with official local broadcast partner, Solar, for exclusive airing of the long gown and swimsuit competitions and for block-time airing of the coronation night.

“This major partnership was an opportunity for us to demonstrate and reinforce the unparalleled dominance of the PLDT Group, with our most extensive and robust fixed-line and wireless networks in the country,” said Gary Dujali, concurrent marketing head of consumer broadband at Smart Communications Inc., vice president at PLDT and vice president at PLDT Home.

“More important, it was an opportunity for us to provide our subscribers with the best viewing experience of Miss Universe 2016—whether it was through their TV screens, across multiple screens and on-the-go. Aside from the major events of the pageant, we also gave them exclusive behind-the-scenes access to our queens’ journey to the coronation night, especially those of our PLDT Home brand ambassadors Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach and Miss Universe Philippines Maxine Medina.”

Pageant superfans, who follow their idols religiously in person and more so online, were ecstatic when Smart/PLDT brought in beauty queens to deliver juicy tidbits from behind the scenes.

“Everybody saw the heartwarming friendship and bond that developed between Miss USA 2015 Olivia Jordan and Pia, and we thought that it would be great if they reunited on the same competition that brought them together as friends. And while we were at it, we thought: What’s better than one Miss USA? Two Miss USAs, of course! We also wanted to show everyone that, despite Miss Universe being a competition, it is still a platform for promoting global cultural exchange, strengthening ties with our international friends and cultivating friendships,” Dujali said.

“We flew in Nia and Olivia, and we showed them what Filipino hospitality truly meant. They experienced the warmth and friendship of Filipinos. As PLDT Home’s exclusive insiders, they gave our subscribers backstage access into the ancillary events before the coronation night,” Dujali added. “They got to interview the ladies, and spend quality time with Pia before her reign ended. As beauty queens themselves, they gave us a unique perspective on what it’s like to be part of such an intense competition and a world-class event.”

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