How I met Miss Philippines International ’68

Community News & Features Jun 12, 2015 at 3:39 pm
Nini Prieto Licaros (center) with two daughters Rosanne and Teresa.                Photo from peopleasia@qinet.net

Nini Prieto Licaros (center) with two daughters Rosanne and Teresa.  Photo from peopleasia@qinet.net

By Joel Recla

NENITA RAMOS was crowned Miss. Philippines 1968 to represent the Philippines in the Miss International Beauty Pageant in Tokyo, Japan. Nenita made it to the semi-finals. But Brazil won the competition. Nenita is tall, absolutely charming, flirty and strikingly beautiful. We spent our high school days together at Far Eastern University. Nenita was an evening student. Most of the evening students were working and a bit older than the regular morning and afternoon sessions students.

In 1965 on my third year level, I was asked to join the High School Drama Guild. I was scared and a bit hesitant at first, but I said, I might learn and curious of what it might feel to act. I never thought or desired to be an actor those days. Though I was not surprised, with my good looks and charm were my key assets I possessed (just joking). In short I said yes and never regretted any of it and, an enduring life time experience.

I enjoyed the whole ensembles and the company. The production, the reading, projection and delivery and the acting part. One particular girl caught my attention, Nenita Ramos. They called her Nini, she was so reserved, mostly she kept to herself. One evening, during our dress rehearsal, sitting on the audience seat at the auditorium, in front of the stage, Nini sat beside me and asked, “Joel, do you know lot of rich people, I want to marry only rich guys,” The way she asked me, as if she knew me well and as if we were buddies. I honestly don’t remember what my response was. I was only 15 years old and wondered what was that all about? As time went by, I concluded, yeah! Nothing wrong to scout for a rich husband or ugly rich wife. Hope for the best!

Love’s Revenge is a three-act comedy play by T. English Moore. We did the play live at the F.E.U. Auditorium. Presented by the Boys High School Drama Club under the guidance of Mrs. Nena B. Sanchez. The script was written in the English. Main characters were, Ramon De Dios and Alexandro Macaranas. I played the second billing as Fidel Madarang. Nenita was Paz, a minor part but we ended up dancing together, which made us partners somehow on the play. With the generosity of our main actor the owner of De Dios Transit Bus Company, we used their transportation going home in the middle of the night, so everybody will be dropped off at their individual places safely, after a long tiring rehearsal. After the show we celebrated our farewell fun and picnic at Taal Lake. And went our own ways. I went to a private exclusive Roman Catholic school, San Beda College, run by the Benedictine Monks.

Nini is seated second from left, second row. Author is second from left, front row,  with the rest of the cast during the dress rehearsal. Picture also shows Miss Sarah Joaquin, sister of the famous writer and poet Nick Joaquin, and Nena Sanchez.

Nini is seated second from left, second row. Author is second from left, front row, with the rest of the cast during the dress rehearsal. Picture also shows Miss Sarah Joaquin, sister of the famous writer and poet Nick Joaquin, and Nena Sanchez.

One day, I was shocked and stunned to read from the newspaper and later on television news, Nenita became 1968 Miss Philippines. I saw the actual full coverage of the International beauty pageant competition on television. I was so proud to see Nini walking on the ramp, with her dazzling smile on her radiant evening gown, and the sexy swimsuit portion. Nini looked so elegant, a true Filipina beauty. I remembered how much I prayed and wished, hoping she would win the International title. Nini made it to the semi-finals.

In the Miss Universe pageant, which is a major competition and a prestigious organization, the Philippines had two winners: Gloria Diaz in 1969 and Margarita Moran in 1973. Then in the Miss International, the Philippines had five winners: Gemma Cruz in 1964, Aurora Pijuan in 1970, Melanie Marquez in 1979, Lara Quigananin 2005 and Bea Santiago in 2013. How the Filipinos and these pageant organizations spend their time, effort, and a great enthusiasm with all these beauty competitions is beyond me.

Not long after, Nini got married to Miguel Prieto from a wealthy clan, I talked to her on the phone, congratulating her for having her first baby girl, and we promised ourselves to keep in touch. Nini is known for her civic work and a lady of enduring style. She became a Makati City Councilor and a Forbes Park Kagawad.

In 1973 she left for England and never heard of her ever since. Not until 2001 when I went on holidays in Manila. I was invited to spend a few days to stay with a good friend, who resides in the affluent community of Forbes Park, a gated exclusive enclave in Makati, beside Manila Polo Club. The subdivision has million-dollar homes with electric fences and gates, guard dogs and surrounded by private securitiy. The host of the house I was staying is a well-known fashion designer and businessman. On the second night we had a garden party, catered by waiters in tuxedos. Guests were the Hechanovas and Cojuancos. The following day, I was dragged to attend a fashion show at Makati Shangri-La Manila. I met Pitoy Moreno and Ben Farrales, some of them not familiar to me. Then I was introduced to Conchetina Sevilla Bernardo, a former fashion model, still stunning and I told her how stunningly beautiful she still was, and she gave me the most seductive smile I ever had from a high class lady like her. She is married to Joseph Delano Bernardo, then Ambassador to Spain.

And then the talk of the town, the international socialite, Lady Minda Feliciano Lonsdale. Once a girlfriend of Hollywood Actor Michael Caine. Minda’s circle of friends were actors like Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins and Lady Diana Spencer who introduced her to a television executive, businessman and from a noble English family, Lord Norman Lonsdale. And of course my friend’s neighbour, Nini Prieto Licaros, now a prominent socialite, the former Miss Philippines. But Nini couldn’t attend. She was in New York City, I was told. I was confused, you mean, I said, Nini Prieto, my friend explained to me that Nini married for the second time, to Abe Licaros, from a well respected and very wealthy family. I was not surprised. This was her dream, why not? Nini has the tools, beauty and class. A very successful businesswoman, well traveled. Always on the front pages of every high society newspaper and magazine. She’s constantly in two places, from her sprawling Forbes Park home to her Manhattan, New York penthouse apartment. When you know very well that you have the capacity, and all the necessary tools and equipment, grab it. She’s beautiful outside and she must have a brilliant mind. Why not?

It’s common sense, that we all aim to succeed in this one life. Are there rules to follow? Or guidelines to help us? There is this old rule that we should welcome failure and learn from it. I defined success in many different ways. Some say it’s economics, some say how much knowledge you acquired and others say it’s just a matter of fact? To me, I am very happy. To all of you out there who read my article, I hope I made you happy and you learned something from me. Or are we all CHISMOSO? I am.

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Joel Recla is Producer/Radio Host, C.H.I.N. Radio and Television International.

Joel Recla is Producer/Radio Host, C.H.I.N. Radio and Television International.