Pia's win as Miss Universe means more than just her being confidently beautiful. For the Filipino nation, it means staying positive and working hard for your dreams, even if you fall several times. People from all walks of life have been inspired by Pia's journey towards the crown—her determination was unparalleled, and her optimism and big heart have touched everyone: She has become the epitome of hope amidst challenges, inspiring us to be as steadfast as she is.
The Filipinos' longing to see and thank the beauty queen in person has been evident ever since she landed in Manila, with droves of fans trooping to her residence and patiently waiting in traffic to give way to her motorcade. On January 27, she touched more lives once more as she visited ABS-CBN, her first home in the industry where she started as one of the young talents under Star Magic.
“She’s confidently beautiful, and I love her!” says Mary Ann Purificacion, who came dressed in honor of the queen, in a blue and white blouse and a replica crown. Purificacion is among the hundreds of employees who welcomed Pia, and one of those who made the extra effort to be noticed by the new Miss Universe.
A fellow employee posing alongside Mary Ann.
Employees from various departments, no matter how packed their schedules might be, took some time to wait and welcome Pia not once, but twice, with the second time being her guesting on It's Showtime. They each had their own way of expressing their appreciation, from waving miniature Philippine flags to shouting their adoration for her at the top of their lungs.
Complete with miniature versions of the Philippine Flag, employees waited patiently for Pia's arrival.
She was welcomed by ABS-CBN Chairman Eugenio Lopez III, President Carlo Katigbak, Chief Content Officer Charo Santos-Concio, and Channel Head Cory Vidanes; Pia became teary-eyed when she made her brief statement on being back in the place where she started her career. Upon her arrival, Pia was hugged by Gabby Lopez, and they also a short conversation about her homecoming to ABS-CBN. Even ABS-CBN's president did not expect that one of their former talents would be crowned Miss Universe.
Gabby Lopez welcomed Pia back with open arms. When she started out in the industry, she was known as Pia Romero, and appeared in various teen-oriented shows and sitcoms.
Some might think that Pia's magic only works on a particular social class, but the matter of fact is that even those from society's creme dela creme look up to her as well. The elite's admiration for Pia's path towards the Miss Universe crown is just like how they have looked up to eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao, as both worked hard and weathered several obstacles in order to be where they are now. For Sally Fernandez, who came all the way from Lingayen, Pangasinan to see Pia in person, it is the Miss Universe's beauty and intelligence that makes Filipinos from all social classes look up to her.
Distance is not an issue for Fernandez, as long as she got to see Pia in person. She even prepared a handwritten message for the beauty queen.
“[This love and adoration for Pia] is a testament that [her win as Miss Universe] bridges all ages and all classes,” said Desiree Bretaña of ABS-CBN's Integrated Marketing Division, who donned a dress similar to Pia’s winning royal blue Albert Andrada gown. What made her really look up to Pia, she adds, is how the queen remained grounded in spite of the announcement mishap during the awards night. “That’s a testament to what she really stands for,” Bretaña added.
Fellow employees posing along with Bretaña, who was channeling her inner Miss Universe in a blue ensemble.
Being “confidently beautiful with a heart” is just one of the many reasons why Filipinos look up to Pia. She epitomizes the values that every Filipino should learn: To remain positive and hopeful even if you fall, and to remain grounded and humble no matter how much you have achieved in life.
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Photographs by author and Eugene Bautista