restaurants in Metro Manila

Janine Tugonon tells her Miss Universe story

Pia Ranada
Many netizens have stoutly declared, win or lose, Janine remains their Miss Universe

MISS UNIVERSE. 1st runner-up Janine Tugonon is home. Photo from Twitter account of Eric Tayag

MANILA, Philippines – “It’s you. We know it’s you.”

Those, purportedly, were the words fellow Miss Universe contestants had for her during the pageant. In a press conference held on December 22 at the Smart Araneta Center, Miss Universe 1st-runner-up Janine Tugonon told her Miss Universe story to members of the media.

Last December 20, declarations of anger and shock exploded over social media after Janine lost the crown to Miss USA Olivia Culpo. Many thought Janine was the sure winner, with conspiracy theories being discussed online.

According to Janine, some contestants also thought that it would be her going home with a crown that night.

Umiyak si Miss Indonesia dahil 1st runner-up ako (Miss Indonesia cried because I was 1st runner-up). Sobrang bait niya (She is so kind),” she shared.

But Janine is far from bitter about Miss USA’s win.

In an article on, she explained that Miss USA was a pageant favorite even before the live show. Like Janine, she was often asked to appear in promotional campaigns and activities for Miss Universe.

Janine said in Filipino, “I knew that USA was strong even during the pre-pageant process. If you saw me in many shoots and interviews, you’d see her in even more of them. She was busier than I was.”

As the Miss Universe contestant representing the host country, Olivia also became well-known among the members of the Miss Universe organization. Further bolstering her winnability was her friendly and outgoing personality.

Nakakausap ko siya, nakakasama ko siya sa ibang shoot. Sobrang okay niya, kaya alam ko na talagang papasok siya (I was able to talk to her and spend time with her in some shoots. She is really okay which is why I knew that she would make it through),” Janine revealed.

‘Believe in yourself’

She told the supportive crowd at the press conference that though she expected the crown during the last moments of the pageant, she also harbored thoughts that it perhaps wasn’t meant to be. She felt there was a “50-50” chance that she would win.

To the many Miss Universe aspirants spawned by her stellar showing at the pageant, Janine advised, “You have to believe in yourself.”

She would also happily teach anyone who asks how to do her signature Cobra walk which she unleashed to maximum impact during the Evening Gown competition.

What’s next for our country’s latest beauty queen?

In a phone interview with an ABS-CBN morning show, Janine said she might just consider getting into show biz. Though her boyfriend, Jaypee Santos, is against it, Janine said in Taglish that she “will weigh the situation.”

But in the short term, Janine wants a vacation, and preferably in Palawan.

Janine fondly recalls that one of the memorable moments of the pageant was when Nigel Barker told her, “You’re gorgeous.”

But to us, she is more than just beautiful. As many netizens have stoutly declared, win or lose, Janine remains their Miss Universe. –


Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.


Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at