19 October 2008

International Beauty Queens Who Made Philippines Their Second Home

I have discussed Armi Kuusela, first Miss Universe winner ever; Priscilla Meiralles, Miss Earth winner, and Amparo Munoz, Spain's only Miss Universe in my previous posts. But here is an article that tells more about them. We will also try to take a peek on Michelle Van Eimeren and Vivica Babajee of Australia and Mauritius respectively. Both women competed in 1994 Miss Universe in Manila, Philipines. Dayanara Torres, Puerto Rico's third Miss Universe and first Miss International winner ever from Colombia Stella Marquez-Araneta are also in the article.

This article is about beauty queens who fell in love with the Philippines and made this country their second home for a while or up to now like Stella Marquez-Araneta.

They say there's so much to love about the Philippines—scenic places, yummy food, and unique culture. For some tourists who frequently vacation in the country, it's the warm Pinoys that always make them feel comfortable as they wandering around this Southeast Asian country.

Some foreigners even choose to live here permanently, no matter how well off they are in their own country. They find love and start a new family.

In showbiz, Pinoys are also very open to watching foreign talents in television and movies. This is another reason for people who come from abroad to stay in the country and make a living.

Just look at this list of PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) of beauty queens who made the Philippines their second home, if only for a while.

Armi Kuusela. This Finnish beauty queen, who was 17 years old then, was the first-ever winner of the prestigious Miss Universe pageant in June 1952.

She was among the 29 contestants who joined the beauty contest held in Long Beach, California. After Miss Universe, Armi Kuusela became an actress playing herself in the Finnish movie World's Most Beautiful Girl.

As part of her winning the pageant, Universal Studios offered her a movie with the popular American comic duo Abbott and Costello (William Abbott and Lou Costello). But Armi Kuusela refused the offer and went on a world tour instead.

During her trip, she met Filipino businessman Virgilio Hilario. Armi had to give up her crown in less than a year to marry the rich businessman in Tokyo, Japan.

The couple lived for several years in Makati's affluent Forbes Park, where they raised their five children. Unfortunately in 1975, Virgilio Hilario died of a heart attack. Three years after the death of her Filipino husband, Armi decided to marry American diplomat Albert Williams. They moved to San Diego, California.

Until now, Armi still is the former beauty queen who helps cause-oriented groups. She actively participates in charities and is involved in cancer research at the Burnham Institute.

Stella Marquez-Araneta. The next beauty queen who chose to reside in the country was 1959 Miss Columbia Stella Marquez. As a representative of her country, Stella competed in the 1960 Miss Universe held in Miami Beach, Florida, where she placed as a semifinalist.

Though she was not able to get the Miss Universe title, Stella was able to get her luck when she vied for the Miss International title on the same year in Long Beach, California. This made her the first Miss International and first Latina Miss International.

Not long after carrying the Miss International title, the Columbian beauty queen married Jorge Araneta, the current CEO of the Araneta Group.

In 1964, Stella put up the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Incorporated (BPCI), which annually organizes the most prestigious beauty pageant in the Philippines, Binibining Pilipinas, after she acquired the local franchise for the Miss Universe Pageant. The top three winners of this competition will be the official representatives for Miss Universe, Miss World, and Miss International.

Aside from selecting representatives to worldwide beauty pageants, BPCI also helps a number of orphanages in Metro Manila and gives skills training and educational workshops to less fortunate kids.

Dayanara Torres. The 1993 Miss Universe first saw the Philippines in 1994 when she came here to crown the new Miss Universe.

Shortly after this stint, Dayanara immediately got proposals for product endorsements. She stayed on even longer when she started to get offers for TV appearances and movie projects.

One of these offers was to be a mainstay in the Sunday variety show ASAP. Here, Filipinos saw how graceful she danced on stage, and so she was given the title "Dancing Queen." Also, according to Wikipedia, she won the Best New Female TV Personality award in the 1995 PMPC Star Awards for TV.

In movies, she was able to work with Gary Valenciano for Hataw Na! in 1995; Cesar Montano for Type Kita, Walang Kokontra in 1999; and Aga Muhlach for Basta't Kasama Kita in 1995.

Although not clearly stated when it started, Dayanara had a relationship with the former Bagets star Aga Muhlach, whom she first met on the set of their movie together. Their relationship lasted for four years.

All these projects and her constant interaction with local celebrities somehow helped Dayanara in learning to speak Tagalog easily.

In 1998, the year she reportedly broke up with her local celebrity boyfriend, Dayanara went back to Puerto Rico and released her first and only music album called Antifaz. She also did supporting roles in a Puerto Rican TV series called La Cenicienta (1999) and in the American soap operas The Young and the Restless (2004) and Watch Over Me (2006).

In 2000 Dayanara married international singer Marc Anthony, with whom she had two sons, Christian Anthony and Ryan Anthony. Their marriage was short-lived and they separated in 2003.

In the last quarter of 2006, Dayanara made a short visit in the Philippines to endorse the controversial Beverly Hills 6750 cosmetic surgery clinic. (Click here to read related article )

Michelle Van Eimeren. The Australian beauty queen Michelle Van Eimeren fell for the popular singer-songwriter Ogie Alcasid. She chose to stay here after the 1994 Miss Universe pageant, which was hosted by the Philippines.

In that same year, Michelle, who acted as a mermaid, starred with Ogie in the movie Manolo and Michelle Hapi Together. Then, in less than a year, they appeared together in another movie titled Isko: Adventures in Animasia.

Michelle and Ogie's romance grew stronger and they decided to get married in 1998. Their union produced two lovely daughters, Leila and Sarah.

The marriage ended, however, after Michelle moved back to Australia in 2003, together with the children. This started the speculations about the couple's separation.

The couple tried to keep mum about the rumored annulment for years until Ogie admitted publicly his romantic relationship with Asia's Songbird and SOP co-host Regine Velasquez.

But all's well that ends well. Michelle, Leila, and Sarah recently had a reunion with Ogie and Regine on the occasion of Ogie's 20th anniversary concert.

Priscilla Meirelles. The latest beauty queen who decided to live in the country is the 2004 Miss Earth winner Priscilla Meirelles. The 25-year-old Brazilian lady is also the 2003 Miss Globe title-holder.

Priscilla Meirelles stayed in the country for good after having a successful career in modeling. Since 2007, she has graced the cover of several publications and has appeared in some television shows.

Last September 28, at the unveiling of the Star Magic 2009 Catalogue, Priscilla was introduced as one of the celebrities included in "The Next Wave" of stars of the said talent arm, along with another Brazilian model Mariana del Rio.

If these are not enough reasons for Priscilla to stay in the Philippines, there's still her boyfriend, actor John Estrada, who is very proud of her as a newbie in show business.

Viveca Babajee. The last but definitely not the least is Mauritius's representative in the 1994 Miss Universe, Viveca Babajee.

Like her "batchmate" Michelle Van Eimeren, Viveca was about to start a career in showbiz but she got involved in the unforgettable 1994 Manila Film Fest Scam.

Unfortunately, she did not become famous by appearing in TV shows and movies. Pinoys remember her for the famous line, "Take it, take it." This is what she whispered to Ruffa Gutierrez's brother and one of the co-presenters, Rocky, to take the envelope that contained the name of the real winner for best actress.

These are just six of the world-class beauties who made Manila their second home. Unknown to younger generation, some other beauty queens tried to enter the crazy world of local showbiz.

This includes beauties from the 1974 Miss Universe Pageant, which was held in Manila: Miss Spain Amparo Muñoz, who appeared in the movie Hayop sa Ganda (1983) with our very own Miss Universe beauty Gloria Diaz; Miss United Kingdom Helen Morgan, who appeared in the movie Isang Gabi sa Buhay ng Isang Babae; Miss Finland Johanna Raunio, who appeared in the movie Lorelei (1974) with comedian Chiquito and veteran actress Anita Linda.

The list does not stop here. As long as we maintain our famous hospitality and showbiz remains open to aspiring actresses/models, the list of world-class beauties who settle in the country will go on.

Text by Nerisa Almo for PEP.


  1. Thank you Philippine Builders. I agree with you. One of those building might be your creation. :-)

  2. Philippines has many beautifull women and also buildings.

  3. Maureen Ava Vieira, Miss Aruba 1974 amd 4th runner-up in that year's Miss Universe, stayed behind and married Phillip Ysmael of Ysmael Steel.

  4. Eva Roempke, Miss Sweden 1974, married Mark Roces of the Philippines after the Manila Pageant.

    Angela Filmer, the first Miss Asia from Malaysia, married a Filipino Bayanihan dancer and made Manila her home.