Remember Monina Yllana, the lovely Bicolana (from Naga City) who was Miss Philippines in 1963 and who represented the country in the Miss International contest in Long Beach, California, in which she finished one of the 15 semi-finalists (the crown went to Miss Iceland)? She was the Philippines’ third delegate to the Miss International contest (after Editha Vital in 1960 and Cynthia Ugalde in 1962). Since then, four Filipinas have brought home the title: Gemma Cruz in 1964, Aurora Pijuan in 1970, Melanie Marquez in 1979 and Precious Lara Quigaman in 2005.
Editha became a movie star (appearing as Maria Clara in Gerry de Leon’s El Filibusterismo) and so did Cynthia (with Sampaguita Pictures, introduced in Birds of Paradise with Josephine Estrada, 1962 Miss Philippines-Universe, succeeded by Lalaine Bennett who placed fourth runner-up in the 1963 Miss Universe Pageant). Of the four Misses International, only Melanie and Lara continued in showbiz, while Aurora quit after doing two movies, Popeye Atbp. with Ariel Ureta and Sunugin ang Samar with Ramon Revilla.
“I was too shy to be in showbiz,” said Monina who is here on her first visit in 25 years during which she and her husband, Augusto Fernando (an architect from Lian, Batangas) stayed in Virginia, USA, with their four children and three grandchildren. They migrated to the US in 1984 during the US Olympics. “Besides, before I finished my reign, I got married. I met my husband during an event in Pampanga where I crowned the winner of a beauty contest.”
Actually, before she became a beauty queen, she appeared with Tony Fortich in a movie whose title she couldn’t recall.
“It was too tiring,” she said. “I didn’t like it. I was always going home late.”
More offers came after she won Miss Philippines at age 23 but, well, she’s shy, remember? “Napilitan lang ako sumali sa contest,” Monina blushed.
“In fact, she’s still very shy,” commented Jomari Yllana whose father, the late Andres Yllana, was Monina’s older brother. Jomari had to be present at the interview to give his Aunt Monina “moral support.” It was Jomari who sounded off Funfare about his aunt’s homecoming.
Beauty contestants then wore shorts and not, unlike today, bikinis. There were more than 30 who competed for the Miss Philippines crown and around 40 for the Miss International crown.
“I have fond memories of that contest in Long Beach,” said Monina. “We went to several places. I was excited because it was my first trip to the US.”
The Fernandos’ four children are: Bobby, 42, single; Luisa, 40, married (to Anthony Raneses, a reserved commander of the US Navy) with two children, based in Israel; Rhodora, 38, single, who works at the World Bank; and Maria Rita, 36, married (to Fil-Am Michael Minteer) with one child.
Life in Virginia is simple, she said. She finished a secretarial course at the Stella Maris College and she made use of her degree when she worked at a pediatric office. She and her husband have retired in the mid-’90s and now spend their time traveling. They live with their unmarried children in Virginia — “And I enjoy taking care of my grandchildren.” (philstar.com)