Simple girl with a big heart
Our Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach – who comes from a broken home – recalls how her never-say-die attitude helped her win the biggest crown of her life
"All the three years that I've tried (to win the Binibining Pilipinas contest), people are laughing me and saying na trying hard daw ako. So my answer isyeah, trying hard talaga ako. I tried very hard, I tried very hard because this is what I want."
Special to OFW Pinoy Star
Pia Wurtzbach's Miss Universe title - a first for the Philippines in 42 years – and her prizes which included a $30,000 blue diamond and topaz crown – were not served to her on a silver platter.
Her success was the result of hard work and big dreams – the story of a simple girl who went from zero to heroine. Her triumph – amid chaotic scenes on a global stage, thanks to the host's major gaffe during the contest's finals in Las Vegas on December 21 – was a wonderful Christmas gift to pageant-crazy Filipinos.
She almost never made it. To represent the Philippines in the world's grandest beauty competition, 26-year-old Pia needed to win the local Binibining Pilipinas contest, her very first pageant.
For two years from 2013, she tried but failed, settling for a heartbreaking first runner-up and then a dismal top 15 finish after stumbling in the Q&A.
She admitted to almost giving up on her dream, but decided to give the contest one last try. The third time proved to be the charm for the 5-foot-8 Pia as she won the 2015 Bb. Pilipinas-Universe representing Cagayan De Oro, her mother's hometown.
“All the three years that I've tried, people are laughing at me and saying na trying hard daw ako. So my answer is yeah, trying hard talaga ako. I tried very hard, I tried very hard because this is what I want," recalled Pia.
Her never-say-die attitude could have been shaped by the challenging experiences in her growing up years when she became a breadwinner at the tender of age 11.
She was a product of a broken home. She and her sister, Sarah were born to a German father and Filipina mother in Stuttgart, Germany, but they had to leave with their mother for Philippines when their parents separated when she was nine years old, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer where she also writes for as a lifestyle contributor.
Pia, who speaks German and Cebuano, entered show business as one of ABS-CBN's Star Magic young stars with the screen name Pia Romero. In that job, she was able to provide financial support to her family. At the same time, she studied to secure a degree from ABS-CBN Distance Learning School.
Nothing, however, could have prepared Pia for the twists and turns that finally climaxed with the 2015 Miss Universe crown being placed on her head – after it was removed from that of Miss Colombia Ariada Gutierrez.
It was an awkward ending to the three-hour competition. American host Steve Harvey announced the wrong winner. Miss Colombia’s glorious moment lasted for just two minutes.
Just as she was blowing kisses and waving the Colombian flag to her adoring fans – it was her country’s second win in a row – a visibly ashamed Harvey rushed back onto the stage, and said: “Folks, I have to apologise. The first runner-up is Colombia. Miss Universe 2015 is Miss Philippines.”
Pia, wearing a royal blue gown designed by Filipino Albert Andrada, looked mystified. It was an awkward moment, to say the least. Boos and cheers from the predominantly Filipino crowd swamped the proceedings at The Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas as the crown was transferred onto the head of the rightful winner.
“Folks let me take control of this.
This is exactly what's on the card,” said Harvey. “I will take responsibility for this, it was my mistake.”
Holding up the card to the TV cameras for the world to see, the comedian and radio and TV host added: “I can show it right here, the first runner-up is Colombia. It's my mistake, still a great night. Please don't hold it against the ladies.”
In a post-pageant press conference, Pia said she felt sad for Miss Colombia.
“I felt calm when I was called first runner-up because I felt it was fate. But when they announced that I was Miss Universe, I had mixed emotions. I was happy because I really wanted to win but felt sad for Miss Colombia.
“I even tried to approach her after (but) I couldn’t get near as she was surrounded by the Latin American contestants.”
Asked how she would feel about traveling to Latin America after the incident, she said in an Inquirer report: “I won Miss Universe based on the judges’ vote… It’s not as if I took the crown from her.”
Miss Colombia, visibly dismayed by the turn of events, said: “I'm happy for all I did. I'm so happy. Thank you for voting for me.”
In an official statement, Miss Universe pageant officials apologised to both finalists.
“The excitement of live TV was evident tonight on the Miss Universe stage with over 10 million live fan votes tabulated. Unfortunately, a live telecast means that human error can come into play. We witnessed that tonight when the wrong winner was initially announced. We congratulate Miss Universe Philippines as Miss Universe.”
The Miss Universe victory was the third for the Philippines after 42 years or since Margie Moran won it in 1973. Gloria Diaz clinched the title first in 1969.
Pia, whose mother and sister are now based in London, dedicated her victory to her father who passed away last year.
“The day she signed her application papers for Miss Universe was also the death anniversary of her dad,” her best friend, Nina Almoro, said in an Inquirer report. “She had a premonition that her dad would help her win Miss Universe. She would like to offer her crown to her family and close friends who became her second family in the Philippines.”
Pia tops in Q and A rounds
Rumored to be once dating Philippine president Benigno Aquino, Pia Wurtzbach was hailed by Philippine politicians as “a tremendous source of pride for our people and a true representative of what the Filipina can achieve.”
Pia topped all the online voting in all events which include swimsuit, evening gown, and two question and answer rounds.
Her online poll win could be attributed to the social medial power of #AldubNation fans, whom she asked for support last week.
“AlDub is short for Alden (Alden Richards) and Yaya Dub (Maine Mendoza), a popular tandem from the noontime variety show, Eat Bulaga. Their large fanbase, the "AlDub nation" has been known to break Twitter trend records,” a Rappler report said.
Pia devoted much of her preparation in rehearsing lines to possible questions that may be asked during the finals.
From Top 15, the girls were trimmed to 10, then five and finally three.
In the top 5, each contestant was asked about their views relating to current events in their respective countries, and for Pia, it centred on the presence of American troops in the Philippines.
“Filipinos and Americans have had a long history and special relations. As a colonised people, Filipinos are generally welcoming of Americans. I don’t see it as a problem,” she said.
Leftist groups back home, however, frowned on her pro-American answer.
“It was calculated to elicit a yes, considering that the contestant was under a lot of pressure,” Bayan Muna secretary-general, Renato Reyes Jr. told ABS-CBN. “Saying no to US troops, in front of a predominantly American crowd, would harm her chances of winning. Perhaps, she wasn’t prepared to take that risk. She went with the ‘safe and popular’ answer, at least for the home crowd.”
Added Reyes: “I hope she would find time in the future to sit down with the victims of abuses by US troops. Maybe it’s not her final, final answer yet. All the best and congrats to our kababayan.”
Presidential candidate and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago also took to Facebook her differing opinion regarding the American bases in the country.
“Congratulations, Pia! You are regal. But from what I heard, we need to talk. See you!” posted the official fan page of Santiago, who is batting to abolish the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US.
While the first answer drew mixed reactions, her second answer to the Q&A during the Top 3 proved to be flawless and may have actually sealed her victory.
Asked why she would be an ideal Miss Universe, the Inquirer said in its report:
“Pia gave a short and straight answer about the importance of having a voice to pursue her advocacy of reaching out to the youth and AIDS and HIV awareness.”
“Being Miss Universe is about being confidently beautiful with a heart,” Pia said, a smile on her face.
Patrick Koh, 14,
a Filipino-Singaporean, whose parents own a grocery store in the Philippines
"Miss Colombia displayed grace under a difficult situation which earned her my respect. But in the end, I'm proud a Filipina won. As for the host, I learned that saying sorry is really hard, but he was brave enough to do it even though people were a bit angry and surprised."
Singaporean football player and KFC restaurant cook
"The MC announced that Miss Colombia was the winner but actually it was Miss Philippines. What happened was really awkward but the MC had the guts to say sorry and he apologised about the mistake in front of everyone. What I've learned is that when we make a mistake - small or big - we should apologise. Apologise as soon as possible."
says it was her childhood dream to win the Miss Universe crown
"The mistake that happened in the Miss Universe pageant has got everybody talking about it again. The contest is no longer as popular as before and people were starting to forget about the pageant. But because of that announcement mistake, everyone's talking about it again. Social media is very powerful."
Pia’s 3 tips to a beautiful body
In representing the Philippines to the 64th Miss Universe, Pia Wurtzbach said she had to deal with online criticisms questioning her physique.
So immediately after winning the Bb. Pilipinas-Universe in February, she wasted no time in whipping herself into shape, hitting the gym and training hard under fitness expert John Cuay. She focused on exercises targeting muscles around the core area or stomach, and read up and practiced portion control and healthy eating.
“Madami akong sacrifices just to prepare for it. Food, number one. And time! Wala na akong time sa family, sa friends although they understand that. Lalo na sa boys, no time. Wala,” said Pia, who once worked as a junior chef in a London restaurant.
Her intense preparation and hard work paid off: “Wurtzbach was able to achieve a trimmer, leaner and more toned figure, which was on full display during the Miss Universe preliminaries and the finals,” the Inquirer added.