Aquino-Wurtzbach meeting ‘closely watched’
AS IN MOST “telenovelas,” the first meeting between former, estranged, or imagined lovers is bound to be tense, avidly awaited and closely watched.
“Closely watched” turned out to be the case when Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach paid a courtesy call on President Aquino in Malacañang on Tuesday morning.
The beauty queen and the bachelor President were said to have dated last year, a rumor they had neither confirmed nor denied.
But except for that brief nervous moment when the two shook hands and posed side by side as cameras clicked, the couple appeared completely at ease, with Wurtzbach being her usual “confidently beautiful” self.
“It’s an honor to be in the presence of the President, of course, especially now that I am here as Miss Universe, bringing home the crown for Filipinos,” a smiling Miss Universe told Palace reporters in a press conference.
The President had congratulated her right after she won the crown last Dec. 20, Wurtzbach said, adding that she read his congratulatory message on the government’s official website.
So relaxed were the couple that the courtesy call, originally set for only five minutes, stretched to an hourlong, five-way conversation among Mr. Aquino, Wurtzbach, Bb. Pilipinas Charities Inc. (BPCI) founding director, Stella Marquez-Araneta, Miss Universe president Paula Shugart, and Wurtzbach’s mother, Cheryll Alonzo-Tyndall.
While she looked self-conscious in front of the media during the photo-op with Mr. Aquino, Wurtzbach soon found her bearings and had a “warm and engaging, candid and heartfelt” interaction with the President, observed Inquirer Lifestyle editor Thelma Sioson San Juan who was present at the event.
“We talked about Miss Universe for a little bit, also what he has been doing, how he’s been doing, how I’ve been doing… He congratulated me [and] I also congratulated him for a successful term,” Wurtzbach said.
San Juan said Mr. Aquino also shared with his guests the challenges he faced as the country’s President, while Wurtzbach talked about her experiences so far as Miss Universe and living in New York City, her temporary home during her yearlong reign.
Shugart was “equally impressed” with how the conversation turned out, and told San Juan that her own inspiration had been the late President Corazon Aquino, whom she had always wanted to meet. But meeting her son had made her happy, Shugart added.
President Aquino had apparently enjoyed the conversation so much that he seemed unmindful of reminders about his other appointments from his protocol officers, among them personally welcoming Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko who were to start their historic five-day visit Tuesday afternoon.
In her Albert Andrada pink and white terno, Wurtzbach answered wide-ranging questions from the Malacañang press corps, including the qualities she was seeking in her ideal man.
“Smart with a good sense of humor,” she responded.
Wurtzbach also said she was “very excited” to be a special correspondent for the US TV show’s Inside Edition, covering the Super Bowl, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, sporting event in America.
“I see it as a compliment because they wouldn’t trust me with the microphone if they didn’t think that I could do well or speak [well]. So I think that’s a pretty good sign, a great way [for me to connect] to more people … and [be] recognized not just as a Miss Universe, not just as Pia, but also as a Filipina,” Wurtzbach said.
Asked whether it was her heart or head that prevailed when she tackled the Miss Universe question and answer portion, the beauty queen said: “I have the thought in my head but I don’t memorize it word per word. That’s not how I do it. So, when I answered ‘confidently beautiful with a heart,’ that just came to me at that moment and, you know, luckily, it was a hit,” she said.
She also had a reminder about the coming elections: “I hope that we elect the right people because it’s going to shape the country for the next couple of years, so it’s very important… You should vote for people you are at ease with… It should not be a hasty decision,” she said.
To keep herself grounded, Wurtzbach said she always talked to everybody. “I try not to make it all about me, just about me. I want to get involved with other people as well and talk to them and communicate with them.”
Also on Tuesday, the House of Representatives achieved a rare quorum when Wurtzbach appeared to receive her congressional medal of distinction for winning the country’s only third Miss Universe title in 42 years.
The 26-year-old beauty queen was mobbed by House members, staff and media every step of the way, with many of them asking for selfies. Session was suspended in the chamber to give way to lawmakers who wished to personally greet her.
The House ways and means committee also approved on Tuesday a resolution seeking to exempt Wurtzbach from paying some P4 million in taxes for her Miss Universe winnings.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. presented the medal to Wurtzbach, the highest honor that the House can bestow on exemplary individuals.
In response, the beauty queen said: “I know that the welfare of the country is always on your mind in making laws. On that note, we have the same inspiration—the Philippines.” With a report from DJ Yap