OpinionsThe choice of Maria as beauty of the new...

The choice of Maria as beauty of the new era


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Neriza Gigante (Portia Sorority’s Most Exalted Lady in 1993) has been beaming with pride as Sillimanians and relatives continue to congratulate her after her niece, Maria Sesaldo Gigante, recently won the Universal Woman crown in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

When Universal Woman- Philippines was being selected, Arnold Vegafria, the man behind the Miss World Philippines pageant, decided to give the crown to his all-time favorite pageant girl Maria, the  morena beauty from Bantayan Island.

Maria Gigante is a professional model, and sought-after event host in Cebu City. Even then, she knew that going for the Universal Woman crown would mean a battle with the Goliath of the Latina world of pageantry. Maria was David in this battle with the giants.

As most of us know, every big beauty pageant in the world is almost always dominated by the Barbie-like beauties of Venezuela. As a beauty pageant powerhouse, Venezuela has produced seven Miss Universe crowns (between 1979 and 2013), six Miss World crowns (since 1955 until 2011), nine Miss International crowns (from 1985 until last year), and two Miss Earth crowns (in 2005 and in 2013).

The search for the Universal Woman is organized by Venezuelan pageant veterans. As expected, Miss Venezuela for the Universal Woman search this 2024 was a stunning beauty. Lovely, vibrant, and definitely taller than anyone. Lisandra was also fierce in the runway. She wore the Venezuela trademark of regal gowns and dresses in segments of the pageant. Upon her arrival in Cambodia, everyone had considered her the frontrunner.

Maria Gigante from the Philippines was just unfolding to be Best Speaker among the women in the pageant. She spoke of her faith in the Lord as her source of courage.

When she arrived in Cambodia, she was ready with her OOTDs for the Goliath-like challenge. Her father, airline Capt. Lindo Gigante, was in Cambodia to show his support for his daughter. On the day of the contest, Maria came prepared with a colorful national costume. She had the support of topnotch Pinoy designers.

She was just excited, feeling perfectly matched with the Universal Woman family. And Maria knew the Lord would defend her as He had always been.

Julia Gama and Alexander Gonzalez, Universal Woman organizers, knew of Maria’s faith in pageants, so they asked to see Vegafria who welcomed the Universal Woman as an alternative avenue where Filipinas could shine.

Vegafria told the organizers that Maria is confident enough, and was not afraid to compete against the ‘Goliath’ Venezuelan beauty.

Maria had explained that once when she was looking for the perfect pageant, she tried two national pageants but she was not given the opportunity as she was “too dusky” for the Miss Philippines queen mold. She said the although the Lord “closed a door” and protected her then, she just knew the Lord would “open a window” for her to be able to represent her country.

The window: Vegafria gave Maria the Universal Woman Philippines crown. He just knew that Maria was the perfect choice. He said Maria’s eloquence and passion to help the fisherfolks in the Philippines was in synch with the mission of the Universal Woman pageant.

Maria picked a simple but elegantly beautiful blue-grey gown,  and Miss Venezuela captured the  Dayana Mendoza glory in Miss Universe with her golden yellow gown. They both made it to Top 5.

When Miss Venezuela saw Maria extending her hand to congratulate her, Miss Venezuela welcomed the sisterhood spirit on stage. Then the moment to answer the final challenge came. With much confidence, Miss Venezuela delivered her reply in her native Spanish language.

To the Final 5 question, What does a Universal Woman mean to you? Maria Gigantes replied: “A Universal Woman means the future. I learned from working with this organization that I want to live in a world that is filled with respect and collaboration — one that encourages people to step into their differences instead of ignoring them, and learn to harness them to affect positive social change.”

With that answer, the Philippines’ Maria Gigante thwarted Venezuela’s back-to-back dream in Universal Woman.

When the Philippine pageant fans saw the greatness of the Universal Woman search, they concluded that this will definitely overshadow the now-too-commercialized Miss Universe pageant.

Maria won the battle for the Philippines. She thanked the Lord, while the Mabuhay pageant followers continue to celebrate.¡Vamos por más!


Author’s email: karlmike@yahoo.com



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