The Binibining Pilipinas legacy through the decades
Here's a look back at the accomplishment of the Filipino beauty queen through the early years
BY VOLTAIRE TAYAG | June 04, 2019
The Binibining Pilipinas legacy through the years
PART 1 OF 2
“Once a Binibini, Always a Binibini” has been the slogan of the Philippines’ most prestigious beauty pageant since its inception in 1964. Since then, thousands of Filipinas have dreamed of becoming a Binibini and yet so few have succeeded. But the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. has succeeded in championing the Filipina throughout its long history.
Whether the Bb. Pilipinas was winning or losing internationally, BPCI has never grown tired of supporting them. It is a commitment born out of passion and love.
When you ask various generations of everyday Filipinos about significant events during particular decades, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear them mention the victories of Gloria Diaz and Margie Moran or Manila’s hosting in 1994 and 2016 of the Miss Universe pageant. Younger Filipinos will remember Pia Wurtzbach and Catriona Gray.
When an event such as the annual Bb. Pilipinas beauty pageant has such a huge cultural impact, to question its relevance would be to miss the point of seeing its true beauty. It goes far beyond the beauty that is seen. But it’s the beauty that is felt when a young Filipina’s dream is fulfiled and a nation unites to celebrate the Filipina.
Let’s take a quick look at the queens who have made a mark in the not just the pageant world but in Philippine history and in the hearts of the Filipinos. For the purposes of brevity and current titles, only major titles are included.
On July 5, 1964, the first ever Bb. Pilipinas beauty pageant was held with only 15 official candidates. Myrna Panlilio Borromeo emerged as the first ever Bb. Pilipinas Universe. Her 2nd Runner-up, Elvira Gonzalez is remembered for being the beautiful mother to Charlene Gonzalez who would become Bb. Pilipinas Universe 1994. Interestingly, Elvira Gonzalez is also the first Binibini repeater, having joined the following year and placing as 4th runner-up to Louise Vail Aurelio.
Miss Universe 1965 — Louise Aurelio Vail, Top 15
Miss Universe 1966 — Maria Clarinda Soriano, Top 15
Miss Universe 1969 — Gloria Diaz, Winner (July 11, 1969)
Miss International 1969 — Margaret Rose Montinola, Top 15
Although not a product of Bb. Pilipinas, Gemma Cruz Araneta won our country’s first ever Miss International crown in 1964. The Miss International franchise was acquired by BPCI in 1968.
It was only in 1969 that Bb. Pilipinas crowned both Bb. Pilipinas Universe (Gloria Diaz) and Bb. Pilipinas International (Margaret Rose Montinola) on the same pageant night. It must have been a very exciting time to enter the semifinals two years in a row at the very infancy of the organization and then win 5 years later.
Now, the 70s was a time when the Philippines’ was solidifying its position as a pageant powerhouse. After the win in 1969, the country enjoyed a 4 year streak between 1972 to 1975. This was highlighted by Margie Moran’s victory in Miss Universe 1973, securing the Philippines’ second crown in a span of 4 years. At that time, only two other countries have achieved more than one win, the USA (1954, 1956, 1960, 1967) and Brazil (1963, 1968).
The placement of Armi Crespo in 1972 was also significant because it was the first year that the Miss Universe pageant was held outside of the United States. It was held in Dorado, Puerto Rico. The Latinos got a very early introduction to the Filipina queens.
On July 21, 1974, the Miss Universe Pageant was held outside the US for the third time at the Folk Arts Theater (now Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas) in Manila. This was specifically built to be the venue for the pageant. Along with the advent of the television at this period, Filipinos all over the country became enamored with these beautiful women during this amazing event.
Miss Universe 1972 — Armi Barbara Crespo, Top 12
Miss Universe 1973 — Margarita Moran, Winner (July 21, 1973)
Miss Universe 1974 — Guadalupe Sanchez, Top 12
Miss Universe 1975— Rose Marie Brosas, 4th Runner-up
This decade also saw two Miss Internationals crowned, three runner-ups, and two semifinals placements. The country truly dominated the Miss International beauty pageant with these beautiful women. The notion that a Filipina representative to Miss International must possess doll-like mestiza features must come from an observation of the qualities of these Binibinis.
Miss International 1970 — Aurora Pijuan, winner (May 16, 1970)
Miss International 1971 — Evelyn Camus, 2nd Runner-up
Miss International 1972 — Yolanda Dominguez, 2nd Runner-up
Miss International 1973 — Maria Elena Ojeda, 4th Runner-up
Miss International 1975 — Jaye Murphy, Top 15
Miss International 1976 — Maria Dolores Ascalon, Top 15,
Miss International 1979 — Mimilanie Marquez, winner (November 12,1979)
Coming from a very successful decade, the 1980’s wasn’t as successful internationally for the Binibinis. Only a handful of the queens were able to place in their respective pageants. It’s a wonder that even though these women did not bring home the crown, they became household names and gay icons. Talk to any pageant afficionado from the 80s and they’ll know exactly who these women are.
The 1980s was also a time when the fashion designer and model protege partnership was very common. It was the equivalent of today’s camp or glam squad. Back then, a designer’s muses could easily become tomorrow’s Bb. Pilipinas beauty queens.
Renee Salud was the queen of all queens that included Chat Silayan, Desiree Verdaro, and Sara Jane Paez.
Of the 80s Binibinis, Alice Dixson is probably the most popular, having found major success in the entertainment industry as one of the country’s main leading ladies.
During the 1988 Miss Universe pageant held in Taipei, Taiwan, where 4 of the Top 5 finalists were Asians, the Philippines’ bet Perfida Limpin failed to make the cut. Many pageant observers back then used to wonder if the results would be different had the previous year’s representative, Geraldine Asis been sent. But as with any pageant, it truly does depend on the girl’s destiny.
This was the decade that Asia hosted three times: Seoul, Korea (1980), Singapore (1987) and Taiwan (1988).
Miss Universe 1980 — Maria Rosario "Chat" Silayan, 3rd Runner-up
Miss Universe 1984 — Maria Desiree Verdadero, 3rd Runner-up
Miss Universe 1987 — Geraldine Edith Asis, Top 10
Miss International 1981 — Alice Sacasas, Top 15
Miss International 1986 — Jessie Alice Dixson, Top 15
The 1990’s will best be remembered when the Universe and the World both fell under the Bb. Pilipinas franchise. Suddenly, only 1 pageant mattered in the Philippines because all the major titles worth competing for were to be won here.
In 1992, Marilen Espino was crowned the first ever Bb. Pilipinas World. However, it was Filipina supermodel, Marina Benipayo, who ended up competing at the Miss World 1992 pageant.
In 1993, actress Sharmaine “Ruffa” Gutierrez almost won the country’s first Miss World crown in South Africa. Many believe she was robbed that night because she was the most beautiful among the winners and had given a solid answer. We would have to wait another 20 years before we got our Miss World title.
The 1990s was a decade riddled with citizenship issues. Fil-Am beauty, Anjanette Abayari would be first to fall victim in 1991 after having been crowned Bb. Pilipinas Universe. Tisha Silang (1998) and Janelle Bautista (1999) would face similar fates during their years.
In 1999, Miriam Quiambao gave the Philippines a 1st runner-up finish in Miss Universe – it was the closest the country got to victory. Miriam is the only Filipina ever to win the Clairol Herbal Essence Style Award. She was sent to Venezuela to train for the Miss Universe pageant.
The most successful batch was 1994 – it included Charlene Gonzalez (Universe), Caroline Subijano (World), and Alma Concepcion (International) who all placed as semifinalists in their respective pageants. Their 1st runner-up, Abbygale Arenas, would later become Bb. Pilipinas Universe 1997. Maybe the high caliber of candidates was due to the fact that we hosted Miss Universe 1994. Unfortunately, the girls who wanted to be host delegate may not have known the odds would be against them.
Miss Universe 1994 — Charlene Gonzalez, Top 6
Miss Universe 1999 — Miriam Quiambao, 1st runner-up
Miss World 1993 — Sharmaine Ruffa Gutierrez, 2nd princess
Miss World 1994 — Caroline Subijano, Top 10
Miss International 1991 — Maria Patricia Betita, Top 15
Miss International 1994 — Alma Concepcion, Top 15
Miss International 1995 — Gladys Andre Dueñas, Top 15
Miss International 1996 —Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt, Top 15
Miss International 1997 — Susan Jane Ritter, Top 15
Miss International 1998 — Collette Glazer, Top 15
A 5-year streak as a semifinalist in Miss International was a good feat considering that we did not win or place during this decade.
Just when Miriam’s runner-up finish made the Filipinos even thirstier for a win in Miss Universe, came the 2000s. It was the most dismal showing of the Philippines in Miss Universe with zero placements. It makes one wonder what went wrong.
My theory is simple – many assumed that the Q&A cost Miriam the Miss Universe title. So, in choosing the next Bb. Pilipinas Universe, someone who was articulate became the primary factor. However, there was a shift in what the Miss Universe Organization was looking for. Not only were the winners good or at least adequate speakers – they were tall goddesses. Of the ones we sent, maybe only a couple fit the bill.
The biggest winner in the 2000s was undoubtedly Precious Lara Quigaman. Prior to that, Melanie Marquez’s win in 1979 was the country’s last major title.
Miss International 2004 — Margaret-Ann Bayot, Top 15
Miss International 2005 — Precious Lara Quigaman, winner (September 26, 2005)
Miss International 2008 — Patricia Isabel Fernandez, Top 10
Miss International 2009 — Melody Adelheid Gersbach, Top 15
Philippine representatives were giving Filipino fans something to cheer for in Miss World with a 4 year streak (2002-2005) in the pageant.
Miss World 2002 — Katherine Anne Manalo, Top 10
Miss World 2003 — Maria Rafaela Yunon, Top 5
Miss World 2004 — Maria Karla Bautista (Asia & Oceania), Top 5
Miss World 2005 — Carlene Aguilar, Top 15
Check out Rappler's coverage of Binibining Pilipinas 2019 here:
- LIVE UPDATES: Binibining Pilipinas 2019 coronation night
- Binibining Pilipinas 2019: Who's our best bet?
- The Binibining Pilipinas legacy through the decades
- Binibining Pilipinas legacy: The Filipina beauty queen is back on the international stage
- Meet all 40 of the Binibining Pilipinas 2019 candidates
In these changing times, courage and clarity become even more important.
Take discussions to the next level with Rappler PLUS — your platform for deeper insights, closer collaboration, and meaningful action.
Sign up today and access exclusive content, events, and workshops curated especially for those who crave clarity and collaboration in an intelligent, action-oriented community.
As an added bonus, we’re also giving a free 1-year Booky Prime membership for the next 200 subscribers.
You can also support Rappler without a PLUS membership. Help us stay free and independent by making a donation: https://www.rappler.com/crowdfunding. Every contribution counts.