Pres. Duterte meets Miss Universe contestants

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday met 84 of the 86 candidates of the Miss Universe 2016 Pageant set to be held on January 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Shifting from his usual delivery of spontaneous speeches, President Duterte opted to follow the organizer’s advice to read his prepared speech during the courtesy call at the Rizal Hall of the Malacanang Palace.

“I usually do not read my speeches. I am not up to really but this time because they told me that I must behave in my language, in the adjectives that I would be using to characterize or define your beauty, all of you,” the President said.

President Duterte, however, still gave brief impromptu remark before reading his speech to express his admiration to the candidates of the Miss Universe Pageant which the Philippines will host for the third time.

“Before I proceed, I’d like to make an admission that never in my life I have been in a room full of beautiful women. This is either privilege and an honor and I hope that this day will never end,” President Duterte said, drawing laughter from the audience including his Cabinet members.

“And I must say that God is really good. Aside from the worries of governance, with all the troubles in the world, when we look at you, we forget the universe, but only you,” he added.

The President thanked the Miss Universe Organization for allowing the Philippines to host again the 65th edition of the most prestigious international competition.

“I am confident that the Department of Tourism and our valuable partners in the private sector for government have prepared well enough to make this event to remember,” Duterte said.

“I hope that the contestants had a wonderful time visiting places such as Vigan, Cebu, Baguio, Batangas, and Davao. It is truly a great honor for us to be sharing you your most beautiful destinations including the rich culture and history behind each of these gems,” the President added.

The Philippines, which already produced three Miss Universe title holders, hosted the Miss Universe Pageant in 1974 and 1994.

“It is an event which has undeniably brought enormous pride and joy for the countries of winning candidates. We all share of fame to our very own Ms. Gloria Diaz, Ms. Margarita Moran, and the reigning Ms. Pia Wurtzbach,” President Duterte said.

Ms. Diaz brought home the country’s first Miss Universe title in 1969 while Moran won again in 1973 and Wurtzbach brought back the prestigious title only in 2015.

“More than presenting beauty and brains, the Miss Universe competition or any beauty contestant for that matter is an opportunity for you to represent your country, to promote your advocacies, and to advance women empowerment to a greater audience,” President Duterte said.

President Duterte also said the Miss Universe is a great opportunity for the contestants to make an impact, to inspire change and even be the change that they wish to see in the world.

“That is why I hope that you will continue to make this out of your time here in the competition and in your country,” President Duterte said.

“Once again, please accept our modest hospitality, and our offer of enduring friendship, our warmest welcome and promise an even more delights in the days to come,” he added.

After the President’s speech, the contestants led by Miss Philippines Maxine Medina and the Miss Universe Organization family posed for photo opportunities with President Duterte and DOT Secretary Wanda Teo in five batches.

According to the organizers, Miss Switzerland and Miss Finland failed to join the courtesy call since both “are not feeling well.”

From Rizal Hall, President Duterte met with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) top officials before presiding a Cabinet meeting. Jelly Musico/