At Miss Universe, Filipinos turn out for Gazini Ganados

The National Costume award goes to Miss Philippines Gazini Ganados. Photo by Troi Santos

By Lindy Rosales

Chicago resident Antonette Jabilona came all the way from the Windy City to watch the Miss Universe competition in Atlanta.

It has been some kind of a family tradition: watching the Miss Universe competition whenever it is held in the U.S. It began with Venus Raj (Miss Philippines 2010), Janine Tugonon (2012), and Mary Jean Lastimosa (2014). They missed Pia Wurtzbach (2015). Still, they traveled to Atlanta to hoping to see Gazini Ganados (2019) even though tickets had sold out.

“Lagi kaming nanonood ng Miss Universe since 2010 pag nasa States sila,” said Antonette.

Antonette is your typical Filipino pageant enthusiast. They are legions — they who will drop everything to watch the competition on TV or they who are self-appointed historians of titleholders since Gloria Diaz became the first Miss Universe from the Philippines in 1969.   

This year, Miss Philippines Gazini Ganados made the Top 20 but did not go further. That did not end the cheering.  She went home with the award for National Costume, her silver gown inspired by the plumage of the Philippine Eagle.

South African beauty Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe 2019. Photo by Boyet Loverita
Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray. Photo by Boyet Loverita
The Philippine contingent led by Gazini’s mother Carmencita Acopiado Ganados. Photo by Troi Santos

Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi would be crowned Miss Universe, the most beautiful of 89 other women from all over the world this year. A student of public relations management, Tunzi was both hailed and bashed because of the color of her skin.

Behind the scenes

The competition was marred by minor accidents. Four candidates slipped on the runway during the swimsuit portion. The runway was mopped two times by the production staff to prevent more mishaps. Ganados almost slipped but thankfully recovered her composure. I wonder if the slippery runway affected how the women presented themselves by walking slowly on purpose.

On Coronation Night, you could feel the electricity and excitement throughout the auditorium when there were only three women left on stage.

It was confusing when the National Costume winner was announced. As Steve Harvey was about to announce the name of the winner, Miss Malaysia stood right next to him on the stage. Yet it was Ganados’s picture that was flashing on the screen. Harvey was spotted backstage furious over the mistake which he blamed on the teleprompter. It was the second time the popular emcee fumbled his cue. In 2015, he mistaken announced Miss Colombia as Miss Universe although the real winner was Miss Philippines, Pia Wurtzbach. Miss Universe Organization quickly announced a retraction on Instagram: It said Miss Philippines who won the National Costume award, and Steve Harvey made no mistake.

Gazini’s mother, Carmencita Acopiado Ganados, was a bundle of nerves when we spoke to her. She was grateful she got a visa to travel with her daughter to the U.S.

“I didn’t expect to be here ‘cause it was late when they announced (I was going to) Atlanta. I was glad they gave me a visa.” She came all the way from Cebu.

She spoke endearingly of Gazini. “She is a very good daughter to me. She likes to ride bicycles, climb trees, climb mountains, and swim in the ocean, every day.” It did not matter to her what crown Gazini won, “as long as she got a crown.”

© The FilAm 2019

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