12 February 2009

Miss Philippines-Universe 1969, Pilar Pilapil

Let's go back to the 60's where beauty queens were regal and queenly. There are lots of difference nowadays about girls joining beauty pageants as compared when the pageant was still young. Today the focus is on model-type tall girls who can walk the runways. Before, intelligence, poise and reputation are important.

One of the major players during this era was the Philippines. This is the golden era for the Filipinos when they win pageants left and right. To honor one of their beauty queens, I am bringing you an article about Miss Philippines - Universe 1967, Pilar Pilapil. This is written by Ricky Lo of the Philippine Star.

The article does not focus on her Miss Universe experience but it is interesting to know her after she joined the pageant. Last 2006, Pilar released an autobiography. The book is still available.

Read from here.

You wonder why the autobiography is entitled The Woman Without a Face when the author, Pilar Pilapil, is one of the loveliest and most visible faces to ever grace the silver screen.

You find the answer at the Conclusion chapter of the book subtitled The Life Story of Pilar Pilapil.

"Looking back," writes Pilar, "I tried very hard for many years to look for the love of a father and find happiness by doing what I wanted, and what everyone wanted me to do. I did what my parents wanted. I did what my directors wanted. I did what my fans wanted. I did what my men wanted, but most of all I did what I wanted! I soared to the highest levels of success that this world had to offer, only to find when I got there that I was empty, did not know who I was, and even despaired of life itself. I really did not have a face of my own."

But this book, which reads more like a testimony that renewed Christians (like the author is) deliver before a rapt audience than a real autobiography, Pilar Delilah "Lailing" Veloso Pilapil has finally put a face on that woman, and what a face it is!

Writing in all candidness in an easy style, as if she’s just writing a long-overdue revealing/revelatory letter to a trusted friend, Pilar starts her story from her childhood in Liloan town, Cebu, where she was born on Oct. 12, 1950, explaining without any apology that she has two sides – the Pilar Side which she claims is her "saintly nature" (the name Pilar having been taken from Mary of Pillar whose feast day falls on her birthday); and the Delilah Side, her "sinful nature" (Delilah having been derived from the woman who betrayed Samson, her lover, by cutting his hair, source of his strength and power).

She’s the woman without a face but with two distinct sides quite contrary to each other.

The youngest of six girls (with four brothers after her) recalled that childhood, spent with a spinster aunt since age five, with an overtone of bitterness toward a father who, she insists, didn’t love her, citing an incident when she was 14 and starting to be "mischievous" with the guys: She obeyed terrified when her father, depressed after losing his job at a tire company, summoned her to his room and, she narrated, "shut the door behind me and I learned just how very cruel my father could be."

What that "cruelty" was she didn’t elaborate. But after that incident, she says, "My life was never again the same."

Faking her age (18, she indicated in the application when in fact she was only sweet sixteen), she won as Bb. Pilipinas-Universe in 1967. After representing the country in that year’s Miss Universe Pageant, Pilar succumbed to the lure of showbiz, rising above being "a mere beauty" by winning a Best Actress award (for Imelda, ang Uliran) at the Manila Film Festival.

And she fell in love with, you guessed it, older men, first with Dolphy (who, according to some sources, she almost married) and then with a man whom she identifies only as Doy, father of her only child Pia who married a handsome blind model. Pilar recalled that on their first meeting, the man Doy tried to seduce her ("...the fact that he was proposing sex without romance was a big turn-off to me..."), so she ran out of the back entrance and down the stairs because the elevator of the apartment building was out of order, much like "Cinderella running away from my Prince Charming."

Well, to make a long story short, Pilar fell deeply in love with the man Doy, "even though he was married with several children," convinced that "I believed I learned to love him, and I believed that he loved me," foolishly desiring that they would be together forever even if she knew that that could never happen.

One of Pilar’s poignant recollections of the man Doy was when he fought with his wife (unidentified in the book) and he stayed with Pilar for one week: Midnight came and my helper used the intercom and told me that Doy’s two daughters were downstairs. I went down to see them while Pia (then only about three years old) and her dad were fast asleep. As we talked, his daughter told me, "You finally found what you wanted." I replied, "It’s not a matter of what I want, it’s a matter of how many people get hurt in the process. There are eight of you, nine including your mother. There are only two of us." They both became quiet and asked if they could see their father. I led the elder daughter to our bedroom upstairs and she woke her dad, saying, "Dad, mom is already home." He woke up and told me, "Mama (our term of endearment), I’ll go home first."

I guess you and I have an idea what happened to that "affair to remember."

This much is clear: Pilar had a fixation for older men because of her desperate search for a father figure...for a redemption from the painful memory of a father who, she said, never loved her.

In the chapter entitled Finding Your True Face, Pilar writes: Just before my daughter Pia got married, I asked her why she wanted to marry a blind man who could not even see her. She replied, "Mama, you had lots of men in your life, but they couldn’t see you..."

You find in the book everything that you’ve always wanted to know about "this girl Pilar" (as the title of her then TV show put it). Pilar doesn’t mince words, she tells her story straight and direct to the point, she leaves nothing to the reader’s imagination, telling all: Her failed short-lived marriage to Spanish journalist Michel Ponti, her flirtation with men other than those mentioned in the book, her foray into politics and her long-drawn depression that led her to a suicide attempt.

Having found God, Pilar has found herself, she has found peace and made peace with the people she thought she had wronged and who had wronged her. She has found love and happiness in the person of, irony of ironies, a younger man named Leo PeƱas (a.k.a. Pastor Bernie) whom she married on May 18, 2002. Like Pilar, Leo is a Christian whose mission in life is, like that of Pilar, to spread the Word of God.

The woman without a face has found a face at last.