Miss Universe (MU) 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and 28 candidates of the 65th edition (2016 competition) arrived in the City of Pines on Wednesday to the delightful scent of flowers in full bloom and the festive sound of traditional Cordilleran music reverberating in the cool and crisp mountain weather.
Cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) lined up in full gala uniform at the Loakan Airport, drawing their swords in silent drill to welcome arriving guests onboard three Platinum Skies’ Dornier planes from Manila early morning today.
Four specially-designed floats, bedecked with tons of assorted blooms — roses, chrysanthemums, daisies, among other flowers reminiscent of the annual Panagbenga Festival, carried the candidates and Wurtzbach for a parade down the city’s nostalgic Session Road, as heart-stomping drums from bands and street dancers ushered them amidst the cheering crowd that patiently lined up the three-kilometer stretch.
After almost an hour of motorcade in the chilly Baguio weather, the ladies and their entourage sought warm shelter at the rustic and homey Baguio Country Club (BCC).
The BCC laid out a reception fit for royalty, with an interesting line up of activities as part of the pre-pageant extravaganza leading to the much awaited coronation night on 30 January 2017 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) and BCC General Manager Anthony de Leon formally welcomed the candidates and entourage, defining their presence an important milestone for their hotels’ illustrious history.
Representing Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo were Undersecretary Falconi Millar, Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre and DOT-CAR Regional Director Marie Venus Tan.
Later that day, reigning queen Pia Wurtzbach led the celebrity tee off signaling the start of the equally-awaited golf tournament. She also took part in a tree-planting activity at the sprawling BCC golf course.
Meanwhile, some of the ladies, in cool outdoor outfits complete with boots, baskets, and sun hats, gamely buckled down at the BCC’s very own strawberry farm to acquaint themselves with the iconic fruit of Baguio.
DOT Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre, who joined the candidates at the strawberry-picking and tree-planting activities, shared how amazed the ladies were with Baguio, and that “it has so much to offer,” quoting the MU bets.
He added that Miss Kosovo Camila Barraza likened the mountain ranges of Baguio to the highlands of her country, while the Philippines’ tropical weather suited Miss Mauritius Kushboo Ramnawaj, calling it “ideal to all types of tourists.”
Other than the leisurely activities at BCC, the ladies were also treated to an interaction with Baguio-based artists, including the world renowned Kidlat Tahimik, also known as the grandfather of the Philippine New Wave and a pioneer of postcolonial essay films. Meanwhile, the Tam-Awan Village artists showcased the culture and arts of the Cordillera. They also witnessed a weaving demo from an indigenous artist while Pia and the other ladies tried their hands on the solar pyrography.
The ladies and their entourage will cap the day in a gala dinner at the BCC Cordillera convention hall. Important personalities based in Baguio and nearby provinces are expected to attend this limited engagement themed, “A culinary sojourn: an evening of beauty and confidence.”
The 65th Miss Universe Baguio ancillary event is organized by the HRAB and other private partners.
The candidates are heading next to Davao and Batangas tomorrow, Thursday, for the Mindanao Tapestry Presentation and Sunset photo shoot, respectively.