Bewitched. . . and bewildered
There is a strong possibility traffic in the streets of our major cities will be light this morning. The reason for that is the Miss Universe final ceremony, televised by all the major news outlets. It happens early this morning because the beauty contest airs Sunday night in the United States. We have to make the adjustment since the major revenue source of Miss Universe is American advertisers.
Filipinos nurse a weakness for beauty pageants. They root for our own candidates during every major beauty pageant. They study the competition closely and observe the way the candidates are judged. Every beauty queen we have enjoyed a cult following of devoted admirers. There is almost a religiosity with which we approach beauty contests.
Last week, President Duterte hosted the Miss U candidates to a reception at the presidential palace. All 80 or so of the most stunningly beautiful ladies happily trooped to the Palace to thank the President for his support. Even if our government will pay nothing to have this event staged, Malacañang played its role to the hilt by encouraging private sector Filipinos to invest in the event. The PNP secures the pageant, ensuring no embarrassment happens.
The President was clearly overwhelmed by the bevy of beauties who descended on his official home. It is unusual for the President to read from a prepared speech, as we know only so well. For this event, however, he allowed a speech to be prepared. This is to ensure all protocol is followed.
Beyond prepared speech, the President admitted he hoped that day would never end. He then offered snippets of a song to the beauties around him, confessing he was “bewitched, bothered and bewildered” by the event. There was a twinkle in his eye the Miss Universe contestants could not have missed. There was a smile that stayed on his face long after the candidates have left to attend their hectic rehearsals.
Nothing, it seemed, could ruin this happy day for the President. That day, he was chatting with the most beautiful women in the universe.
With all the gallantry he could muster, the President showed his gratitude to the contestants for coming to the country and, in turn, bringing the country to the world’s attention. This is such a pleasant antidote for all the bad news. The Philippines, it seems, gets top-of-the-fold treatment in the global press only when we are hit by major calamities. This is a welcome respite.
His polished event with the contestants surprised those who knew President Duterte was not head-over-heels holding a major beauty contest here. He agreed to its hosting only if public money is not spent (except, of course, for the many layers of security thrown around this pageant). We do not want any untoward incident marring this happy moment for the nation.
Although he refused funding for our hosting this high-profile contest, the President understood the goodwill this will bring to the Filipinos. It will remind the rest of the world that the Philippines is not only about insurgencies and other calamities. This nation is also home to graciousness, warmth and stunning beauty.
Hosting the pageant is also a source of enjoyment for our people, battered by urban congestion, police abuses and all the many other ills we endure daily. It is an opportunity to showcase the wonders of our land and the spirit of our people. This event provides a platform for launching our reinvigorated tourism promotion campaign.
The President understands that the multiplier effect of hosting this event will be huge. This is a highly visible test of this new administration’s capacity to get things done.
The country had only a few weeks to prepare and if the contest is completed with aplomb, it will demonstrate to the world we now have a government that can deliver solidly.
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