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25 April 2006


chat silayan
succumbed to colon cancer and i couldn’t get myself to sleep. she was only 46.

she caught my attention the very moment she became a popular runner-up to miss universe at sejong cultural center in seoul, korea.

some years later, i met chat briefly during my first and only gig as a pre-med student. she was featured to judge a school pageant. i had been deglamorized to lead judges like chat, dumaguete-bred model matea leah tagle and designer renee salud to their appointed seating places. when i brought her to the judges’ aisle, chat silayan smiled and said thanks. after that, i grew even more delirious over chat silayan. she appeared vivacious and charming.

in 1980, miss universe pageant wasn’t shown live on philippine tv. bb. pilipinas had not been doing well overseas but for melanie marquez’s victory as miss international in tokyo the year before. there was political turmoil in the philippine countryside. filipino women were also beginning to see empowerment beyond pageantry and the usual domestic chores.

still, chat silayan’s 3rd runner up finish made it to the headlines of marcos-controlled newspapers such as the daily express, the times journal, bulletin today, metro manila times and the evening post. she had surely landed on the cover of sunday supplements and women's magazines. gma channel 7 finally aired the much-delayed telecast of miss universe days after chat flew back to manila.

many filipinos can still remember how chat glided through it all. during the swimsuit competition, she commanded sejong with playful arms long before miss venezuela and miriam quiambao. she enthralled the audience to scream “happy birthday rosario!” while being interviewed by pageant host bob barker. then she responded by uttering a native korean phrase, kamsahamnida! (thanks very much), for which she was wildly cheered on. but chat made her biggest splash in pageant history by scoring heavily during the evening gown parade. she was wearing renee salud’s skillfully-crafted serpentina gown. fully-beaded in baby blue, she descended sejong’s stage like royalty. she turned heads and mesmerized everybody. the judges were even more impressed, chat's scores climbed up steadily. she placed second to the front-runner, shawn nichols weatherly of the united states.

weatherly has been confined to oblivion after miss universe and a season opposite david hasselhoff in baywatch. but the impact of chat silayan’s performance at miss universe stays in perfect shape. in fact, many pageant hopefuls, debutantes, actresses, socialites and other celebrities have been frequently immortalized in silayaneque serpentinas. chat's graceful collaboration with renee salud must have contributed to such persistence.

during the mid 1990s, i was fortunate enough to obtain a research fellowship from the korean government. immediately after my arrival at kimpo airport, i rushed to sejong cultural center to relive the glory of chat. it was pure exhilaration to kiss the steps of sejong cultural center. to my mind, chat has brought honors to the country by placing in the top 5. so did hajji alejandro, ryan cayabyab, freddie aguilar, snaffu rigor, lester demetillo, leah navarro, nonong pedero, something special, aniano montano, eugene villaruz, louie reyes, tillie moreno, jun latonio, celeste legaspi and willy cruz before and after. aside from chat, filipino artists have been triumphant during successive editions of the now-defunct world popular music festival at sejong. it was just so rightful to pay homage to philippine victories there.

it’s rather unfortunate that i wouldn’t even get to see chat ever again. even as i got to know many of her friends and acquaintances. in fact, it was chat’s bb. pilipinas contemporary,
lampel potenciano (miss young international runner-up, entrepreneur and nonfiction writer), who first relayed the sad news to me only minutes after chat had passed on. in a way, i have been touched by chat silayan because of such pleasant associations.

suddenly, i remember chat’s impressive debut opposite national artist fernando poe jr. in "ang maestro". soon after making that film, chat became the co-emcee of eddie ilarde and bobby ledesma in suerte sa siete, student canteen and discorama. she sang beautifully with other luminaries in seeing stars with joe quirino. she produced la salud filipina, a fashion tribute to filipiniana. she took so many other noteworthy film and tv assignments. she even got to host her own dramatic anthology. but true love beckoned. god and family became her top priorities. miss universe laureate chat silayan would rather live peacefully away from the klieg lights.

surrounded by mostly poor and lower middle class neighbors in sampaloc as an impressionable thirteen year old, it was joyful to see chat put the philippines back on some kind of track. chat silayan did whatever she can to make people remember her country. sliding through my family's black and white tv screen almost three decades ago, chat has inspired me to develop an interest in moving across the world and doing my best to encourage others through my professional growth and experiences.

i'll never get to be as popular as chat silayan. but i can still be an instrument to do my country proud.
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sejong cultural center in seoul, korea
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the 1980 miss universe top 5 at sejong cultural center in seoul, korea (l-r): delyse nottle of new zealand (3rd); linda gallagher of scotland (2nd); maria rosario rivera silayan of the philippines (4th); shawn nichols weatherly of south carolina, u.s.a.; (miss universe 1980); and eva brigitta anderson of sweden (5th)
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chat silayan and the rest of the 1980 miss universe top 5 with popular american game show host bob barker
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maria rosario rivera silayan-bailon
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(an earlier version of this narrative appeared on page A2-2, in the lifestyle section of the philippine daily inquirer, dated 1 may 2006)


Blogger Jay said...


Tue Apr 25, 09:34:00 PM 2006  
Blogger NeiLDC said...

its was too sad that we lost a good actress, and a beatuy queen that was too early age.. im biding my condolences.

Wed Apr 26, 06:23:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing this with us.
Good memories of Chat. We will always remember her and love her.

Fri Apr 28, 12:48:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Misispi said...

she was beautiful, wasn't she? and everytime, it's difficult to find the right words to say on a friend's passing, and then you take comfort in the thought of having known how it is to be touched by that friend's life, in a way, and know that you're all the better for it.


Fri Apr 28, 10:17:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing this. It appeared in Inquirer today. Warmest regards, MANN R

Mon May 01, 03:07:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous ^___^ said...

tokyo daigaku no gakusee deshita ka? watashi mo. :) ima, mitaka ni sunde imasu. koko tenki wa taihen! kino wa hontoo ni atsukatta desu, demo ima ame ga furimasu. kaminari mo arimasu. osturaria wa doo deshita ka?

Tue May 02, 03:56:00 PM 2006  
Blogger wendell said...

hai, tokyo daigakusei deshita. 1993 kara 1995 made. todai mitaka ryo ni sunde imashita. monbusho no shogakinsei deshita kara. boku wa, firipin kokuritsu daigaku no sensei desu keredo ostoraria kokuritsu daigaku no daigakusei desu (kenkyu arimasu). boku no mitaka no heya wa, B-118 deshita.

boku no o-namae, nihongo de, kapi-ri hose desu. dozo o-karada, taisetsu ni. mata ne. domo..

Wed May 03, 12:30:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous ^____^ said...

ah soo desu ka? watakushi no namae nihongo de wa chiru desu! ^______^ firipin jin desu... nihongo wa chotto muzukashi ne? UPd de zenzen nihongo o benkyoshimasen deshita kara... nihon ni sennen juu gatsu ni tsukimashita. demo kotoshi, firipin ni kaerimasu. watakushi no puroguramu wa ichinen dake... zannen ne? demo daijobu desu yo. firipin daigaku ga daisuki desu !


yoroshiku ne!
ja mata, ki o tsukete ne?

chiru (^___^)

Thu May 04, 01:41:00 AM 2006  
Blogger TheresNoTylerDurden said...

Love the blog. The fonts are way to small though. Take care.

Thu May 04, 01:47:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous ^____^ said...

gomen... shogakinsei wa ... wakarimasen!


Thu May 04, 01:48:00 AM 2006  
Blogger wendell said...

kowai kimochi. shogakkin nai desu kara. kawai sou. gambatte ne.

Thu May 04, 01:34:00 PM 2006  
Blogger wendell said...

chiru-san: shogakkin no imi wa: eigo de, "scholar" desu you. monbusho no shogakkin, eigo de, monbusho scholar desu. naruhodou? mata oaishimashiou.

Thu May 04, 03:50:00 PM 2006  

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