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Why Spain’s only Miss Universe cried in Manila almost every night

Now it can be told: Days before Amparo Muñoz was crowned Miss Universe at the Folk Arts Theater in Pasay City on July 19,1974, the Spanish beauty queen was homesick and was crying almost every night.

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“She missed her boyfriend so much! I think he was an actor in Spain. She would always wait for his phone call. And if he would not call her, she would cry,” said Pilar Aldanese who served as the interpreter for Amparo and Miss Nicaragua Fanny Tapia back then, during an exclusive interview at the Pontefino Estates in Batangas City recently.

“She’s in love with a famous actor then,” added Aldanese. “It’s really different when you’re in love.” The interpreter did not mention the name of the actor.

Whenever Amparo gets lonely, she would always remind her about the Miss Universe pageant. “Remember, you are here for your country.”

Aldanese described Amparo as a beautiful person, contrary to reports that she had a violent temper and bad attitude.

“We became friends back then. But when she left, we already lost contact.”

That time, Aldanese was hesitant to be translators for two beauty queens. “The Spanish embassy was freaking out because the pageant was coming and they needed interpreters. First they assigned Miss Nicaragua to me and then Miss Spain.”

Yet Aldanese said that she had no choice but to accept the two girls because Manila lacked interpreters in the early 1970s.

Aldanese said that she would always tell Amparo to smile, wave at the people and be nice to everyone. “Whether you like it or not, smile! And she would follow. She would listen to me and she would say ‘okay.’ “

“You know, you have to understand her. She was very young when she competed in Miss Universe. The pageant was a new experience to her. You just have to explain everything to her,” she said.

Aldanese, who worked for the Spanish embassy for 36 years, said that all the candidates in the 1974 Miss Universe pageant were so nice. “You could sense that there were no rivalries among the girls in those days unlike today.”

The 1974 Miss Universe was historic because it was the first time that the prestigious pageant was staged in Asia. It was also the first time that it was held in Manila. “It was very organized. And there were so many people in the streets during parades.”

Weeks after she was crowned in Manila, everything went smooth for Amparo. But her reign was brief and bittersweet.

After six months, she gave up her crown.

Amparo was allegedly forced to resign when she could not fulfill her duties anymore as Miss Universe. That time, Amparo reportedly refused to go to Japan. The crown, however, was not offered to Miss Wales Helen Morgan, then first runner-up. Other conflicting reports said that Amparo voluntarily resigned.

So far, Amparo was Spain’s first and only Miss Universe since the pageant started in 1952. In the past, Spain has won first runner-up in 1985 and 2013 in the same contest.

Amparo was the second Miss Universe who did not finish her reign. The first one was Armi Kuusela of Finland who gave up her crown in less than a year in 1952 to marry Filipino businessman Virgilio Hilario.

Amparo lived in Manila for awhile but she got into trouble with talent manager Natalie Palanca while shooting a movie entitled “Hayop sa Ganda” with 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz in 1983.

The beauty queen decided to go back to Spain where she continued making movies. She also got married three times.

Then she got into drugs, reports said. In 2005, Amparo wrote her tell-all memoir entitled “Life is the Price.”

Surrounded by her family, Amparo passed away in her home in Malaga on Feb. 27, 2011. She was 56.

There were all sorts of rumors concerning her death, including AIDS and Parkinson’s disease. Up to now, the cause of her death has not been disclosed.