Updated 15:09 PM PHT Mon, January 9, 2017
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Current Miss Universe titleholder Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach said during the 2015 edition of the pageant: “To be a Miss Universe is both an honor and a responsibility,” and it’s true. Apart from being crowned as a queen and bringing home prize packages from sponsors, winning Miss Universe also entails assuming the role of an ambassador and spokesperson for the Miss Universe Organization, representing its various programs, interests, and causes worldwide.
And that makes the final question round at Miss Universe more interesting and important. Known to be the most nerve-wracking part of the pageant, the final question can reveal which of the remaining ladies is most suitable for the salaried year-long job. It can separate substance from just mere style, and uncover who has real wit and composure and who are just faking it. It also elevates the entire spectacle into something deeper than just a walking contest among women in swimsuits and stilettos.
The Miss Universe pageant is more than six decades old and every generation has witnessed delegates who have confidently aced the swimsuit and evening gown rounds, only to falter, crash, and burn during that all-important final question. At the same time, there were those who just sashayed under the radar, only to knock everybody out with a killer answer and ultimately win the crown.
Philippine candidates have a colorful history in the final Q&A round of the Miss Universe pageant. Of course, only the best of the best get to this stage of the competition, and the Philippines is one of the few countries that have managed to be asked the defining question a record number of times.
We looked back at the Miss Universe final question moments of the best Filipina beauty queens that zoomed all the way to the final judging, and ranked each one of these moments based on each delegate’s performance and the impact their answer had to our pageant-crazed islands.
11. Maria Desiree Verdadero, third runner-up (1983)
Final question: Should you be the new Miss Universe, you'll become a symbol to young women and girls all over the world. What would you like to tell them?
Maria Desiree’s answer: All I want to tell them is, being Miss Universe is a pride and I’d like to spread peace and goodwill to all nations, that’s all.
1983’s final question is pretty standard, and it can be a vehicle for a beauty queen to publicly establish her purpose and kickstart her influence. Desiree Verdadero answered the question with her charming personality, although it feels like her response was better suited for “Why should you become the Miss Universe?”
10. Maria Venus Raj, third runner-up (2010)
Final question: What is one big mistake you've made in your life and what did you do to make it right?
Maria Venus’ answer: In my 22 years of existence, there is nothing major, major problem that I have done in my life, because I am very confident with my family, with the love that they are giving to me.
Venus Raj is a sentimental favorite among pageant fans as she was the one who broke the dry spell of the Philippines not entering the semi-finals for 10 years. Many believed she could have ranked higher if only she got a less tricky question. Her question was deemed too hard to answer even for the smartest people, and her “major, major” answer was even discussed in an American news program.
9. Miriam Quiambao, first runner-up (1999)
Final question: If Miss Universe were to become pregnant during her reign, should she be allowed to continue as Miss Universe?
Miriam’s answer: That’s a very difficult situation to be in, and I believe that Miss Universe, if ever she becomes pregnant, I believe she should continue with her reign if she has been a good example to be a Miss Universe, if she has pursued all the goals that she had in the first place, and I believe that she should continue.
Miriam Quiambao was a crowd favorite, cleverly using her big stage mishap (she tripped and fell during the preliminary round) as a metaphor for women standing up to challenges during the initial Q&A. Breathtakingly graceful and elegant, she was pegged to win it all until that final question where she, as the on-air commentators said, “clammed up” and “definitely choked.”
8. Rose Marie Brosas, fourth runner-up (1975)
Final question: If you become Miss Universe of 1975, what one individual other than your parents would have made the greatest contribution to your success and why?
Rose Marie’s answer: Well, I think it would be the judges, because they were the ones who voted for me if I won Miss Universe.
Technically, Rosemarie “Chiqui” Brosas did not pick one individual, but she had an edge for her spontaneity and for answering in a very casual and conversational tone. Going straight-to-the-point, she was able to convey what she thinks with just a few words and some brilliant facial expressions.
7. Ariella Arida, third runner-up (2013)
Final question: What can be done about the lack of jobs for people starting their careers around the world?
Ariella’s answer: For the people who have lack of jobs, I do believe that we, people, should invest in education and that is my primary advocacy. Because we all know that if every one of us is educated and well aware of what we are doing, we could land into jobs and good careers in the future. Education is a primary source and it’s a ticket for a better future.
Prior to competing, Ariella Arida did the usual round of TV interviews and drew flak for her unusual accent and diction. Some fans even clamored for her to get help from an interpreter, but come finals night, she exceeded expectations with this answer. It sounded a bit rehearsed and it’s quite off-topic to be strict about it, but during the final Q&A, she was the only one in the Top 5 without an interpreter.
6. Maria Rosario Silayan, third runner-up (1980)
Final question: If you could meet anyone in the world, whom would you select and why?
Maria Rosario’s answer: I have no one in particular but I would want to meet somebody who’s involved in politics, or in ruling or running a government. Let’s say, a nation, whether it’s small or big, I would like to meet him and get to talk to him.
Like Chiqui Brosas, Maria Rosario “Chat” Silayan did not name one individual, but she managed to explain her answer in a short span of time. Her answer is quite generic, but relatable, smart, and practical. She spoke with clarity and gentle conviction.
5. Shamcey Supsup, third runner-up (2011)
Final question: Would you change your religious beliefs to marry the person you love? Why or why not?
Shamcey’s answer: If I had to change my religious beliefs, I would not marry the person that I love because the first person that I love is God, who created me, and I have my faith and my principles and this is what makes me who I am. And if that person loves me, he should love my God too.
Another tough one, this is a kind of question where people can disagree with you whichever option you choose. But what’s good with Shamcey Supsup’s response is she did not play safe and she made a clear choice. There were arguments that her answer could have been too “godly” for an event with a diverse worldwide audience, but this performance showed how she stuck with her conviction, spoke with confidence, and unleashed a quotable quote.
4. Margarita Moran, Miss Universe (1973)
Final question: Let's make believe that all of a sudden you had a million dollars. What's the first thing you would buy and why would you buy it?
Margarita’s answer: A house and lot, because it’s the most expensive thing and I can’t afford it. If I had a million bucks, I’d buy a house and lot and live by myself, and other people of course.
Unlike the other candidates who got into political, polarizing topics, Margarita Moran got a simple question, dished out a simple answer and won a Miss Universe crown. Quick thinking and conversational, Margie exuded an aura of realness and relatability. Imagine what could have happened if she complicated the question with typical pageant answers?
3. Gloria Diaz, Miss Universe (1969)
Final question: If a man from the moon landed in your hometown, what would you do to entertain him?
Gloria’s answer: Oh, just the same things I do. I think, if he has been on the moon for so long, I think when he comes over, he wants to change, I guess.
Gloria Diaz, the first Filipina Miss Universe, proved that you can do great things when you don’t overthink. Naturally witty and armed with quiet confidence, Gloria made tackling the final question look fun and easy.
2. Janine Tugonon, first runner-up (2012)
Final question: As an international ambassador, do you believe that speaking English should be a prerequisite to being Miss Universe? Why or why not?
Janine’s answer: For me, being Miss Universe is not just about knowing how to speak a specific language, it's being able to influence and inspire other people. Whatever language you have as long as your heart is deserving and you have a strong mind to show to people, then you can be Miss Universe.
Janine Tugonon almost bagged the third Miss Universe crown for the country in 2012 with this answer, which many believed is the best one during the final make-or-break round. Not only is her answer very diplomatic and agreeable, she was also able to deliver her point with a punch. Plus, that “thank you” in the end just screams “I nailed it!”
1. Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, Miss Universe (2015)
Final question: Why should you be the next Miss Universe?
Pia’s answer: To be a Miss Universe is both an honor and a responsibility. If I were to be Miss Universe, I will use my voice to influence the youth, and I would raise awareness to certain causes like HIV awareness, that is timely and relevant to my country, which is the Philippines. I want to show the world — the universe, rather — that I am confidently beautiful with a heart.
Pia Wurtzbach came into the Miss Universe stage at a time when the pageant intentionally fielded politically charged and controversial questions. It was also an era when the format of asking all finalists the same single question has returned. It’s a good thing Pia came to the battle prepared, and you just know from watching her video that this is a pageant girl who’s been preparing for this moment all her life. With her answer to the final question, she exhibited wit, substance, and that hunger to win — all through her endearing Filipino accent. And who can forget her now iconic last line?
Special Mention: Lalaine Bennet, third runner-up (1963)
Lalaine Bennet brought home the first Miss Universe runner-up honor to the Philippines. Technically, this isn’t a final question round, but this video shows the eloquence and grace of Philippines’ candidates even in the early years of the competition (and also the recurring theme of Philippine-U.S. relations).