Interview conducted by Jojo Gumpal Silvestre
Photos by Wrenn Sanchez, John Paul Francisco and Al Padilla
Photos courtesy of Margie Moran
The new chairman of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Board of Trustees gladly welcomed us to the CCP, her home for 10 years as president of Ballet Philippines prior to her current post, in the quiet and cool privacy of the cultural institution’s audio-visual room on its third floor.
Surrounded by the tapes and CD of all CCP performances through the years, meticulously kept and preserved in the venue, we talked to Maria Margarita “Margie” Moran Floirendo, Miss Universe 1973, on her new role and her thoughts on culture and the arts in the Philippines.
Later, our conversation turned to more personal matters, which we share here in full.
Daily Tribune (DT): Despite talks through the decades that beauty contests are on their way to extinction due to their irrelevance to society, they remain to be one of the big things in the lives of many young Filipinas. What is your advice to our young women who would like to become beauty queens?
Margie Moran-Floirendo (MMF): I would tell them, Do first what is important. Finish school.
Even the candidates who join these contests are quite different now because they’re older.
During my time, I was 19. Now, the ages are 24, 25, and they’re finished with school. So, they are more accomplished. Which is better, I think. Since they’re more mature, they answer better. They’re more confident.
My advice to the much younger ones who plan to join these contests is to follow their footsteps. Joining a beauty contest can only be a stepping stone to something bigger. They have to be mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared to enter and be defeated if that would happen. It’s a good experience, I would say, to win or even just to join a pageant because you can meet a lot of people. It trains you and you get connections.
DT: Was it easy for you to go back to school after you became Miss Universe?
MMF: It was very easy. It was my promise to my Dad that I was going to finish school. So, that was my main objective, to study and graduate.
DT: Did the faculty members have very high expectations of the Miss Universe?
MMF: No, they treated me like everybody else. And I had to have good merit. And I had to earn my degree the way a student of the school should do it.
DT: Were you involved in extra-curricular activities?
MMF: I was a student leader. I was the president of the student body. I was more mature when I came back to school after living abroad for two years.
DT: You only had a one-year reign as Miss Universe. What was the extra year for?
MMF: I went to school in Boston. I felt that after my exposure and my added years, I was able to study better. And I had an ambition to do well in school.
DT: You were married by the time you went back to school. Was it easy being a young wife and a student?
MMF: Well, there was no difference. There were other students who were married as well. I drove myself to school. There was no traffic then. I came all the way from Makati.
One has to have an artistic mind. You can think better, you can think out of the box. You have to be creative when making any decision in life. Art teaches you that.
DT: How would you compare the Filipina of those days to the Filipina of today? Has the status of the Filipina risen?
MMF: Well, the Filipina is one of the most empowered in the world. The Philippines is one of the top 10 countries where women are empowered. Their status has risen. There are more board members of organizations, there are more who occupy top positions, while the women in our rural areas are able to borrow money. They have their own resources and are able to support their own families.
DT: How did you raise your daughters?
MMF: Well, I raised them the way my parents raised me which is to have a sense of truthfulness, integrity, good values, appreciation for one’s studies, commitment to school work, respect for elders and respect for people. Those are the values that my parents taught me so I taught the same things to them. You know what? It’s different nowadays. The younger ones are the ones teaching good values to their parents.
DT: How do you look at the role of various cultural institutions, like the CCP, in shaping the Filipina?
MMF: All arts have a major role. To become more articulate and to become a better thinker, you have to have a sense of culture and the arts. They are important because they are part of the soul of every human being. One has to have an artistic mind. You can think better, you can think out of the box. You have to be creative when making any decision in life. Art teaches you that.
DT: How come you’re not in politics?
MMF: I think that at my age, being at the Cultural Center is the best thing. It is peaceful. It is loving. It is artistic. So, I am very happy here.
DT: Are you involved in social responsibility work?
MMF: Mostly in Mindanao. I am still in the board of Habitat for Humanity. I am still involved in the World Wildlife Fund as a member of the advisory board. So, environment and housing for the poor are my advocacies.
DT: You were in Mindanao for a long time. When did you return to Manila for a more or less fulltime life here?
MMF: For 20 years I was mostly in Mindanao. But from 2005 onward, I was coming here.
DT: Do you still go back there?
MMF: I do, I do. My mother lives in Davao and I have relatives there. I go at least once a month. I have a home there.
DT: Would you like to share with us your beauty secrets?
MMF: (Laughs) Do I have secrets? I remove my make up with virgin coconut oil to cleanse my face. And then I moisturize my face with olive oil-based products which I bought in Israel. And I go to the Belo Clinic for maintenance.
DT: Do you go to the gym?
MMF: I used to go to the gym but not anymore because I had problems with my back. So my exercise is low-impact. I do stretches. I go to the Ballet Philippines studio at SM Aura. I do ballet for adults which is really an exercise.
DT: What are your hobbies? I guess you still do something outside of arts and culture. Well, I am not going to ask you if you play mahjong.
MMF: Well, I used to play mahjong, but I don’t have time for that. My hobby? I used to play golf but I don’t anymore. Because I spend more time with my granddaughter. My free time is for my granddaughter.
DT: Do you have a daughter in the Philippines?
MMF: I have two daughters in the Philippines.
DT: Oh, they’re both here!
MMF: Yes. One is married. I have a granddaughter so I spend time with my granddaughter, and another granddaughter is coming soon.
DT: So, how are you as a Lola (grandmother)?
MMF: I enjoy being a Lola. I look forward to seeing my granddaughter.
DT: So, tell me about your fashion and grooming preferences. Where do you buy your clothes? Who makes your clothes?
MMF: I buy off the rack. I have my formal clothes made by different designers like Ito Curata, Rajo Laurel, Cary Santiago and Pepito Albert. I go to Ten Four if I have something more formal to do. I am not brand conscious. I buy what I like.
DT: How would you compare them with Pitoy, Mang Ben, Tatang… how are the young designers now? Or at least, how would you compare them with the young designers now?
MMF: Well, the designers I am talking about now are not so young. (Laughs)
DT: I mean that middle age range.
MMF: Yah, they’re very good, just as good. They’re very creative as well. They’re up to date in their styles.
DT: You travel a lot, no? What are your favorite destinations?
MMF: Recently, I had an Arctic trip. It’s very memorable for me because I ticked off so many things in my bucket list. Going to Greenland, going to gigantic glaciers, seeing the Northern Light, seeing humpback whales… I’ve seen everything in this trip that I wanted to see. That’s my most recent memorable trip.
DT: Where did you spend your birthday?
MMF: In fact, I spent my birthday in Iceland.
DT: What else is in your bucket list?
MMF: I still have to go to the Galapagos, South Africa, Antarctica… still a lot.
DT: Aside from traveling to a new destination, are you thinking of building something? Any other thing in your list of things to do yet in your life?
MMF: In my life, oh, not much. I’ve done almost everything that I want to do. I’ve done a book, I did a movie, I did a documentary. I’ve worked all my life. I am supposed to be retired. So, I just want to travel and still do the things I need to do.
DT: Anything else you wish for yourself?
MMF: I wish for good health so I can live long and enjoy the children of the next generation in our family.
DT: What do you tell yourself?
MMF: Well, I tell myself I’ve done well, but I do everything well because I do it for the glory of God. And if I do that, I am pleased.
DT: What do you pray to God for?
MMF: I pray for good health and the safety of my children and grandchildren, and all the people that I work with. And I pray that people are peaceful and loving always.