Margie Moran-Floirendo on Beauty Queens, Marriage and Separation
CRAZY QUILT By Tanya T. Lara
Mention the name Margie Moran-Floirendo and two things come to mind: Miss Universe and Mindanao. The two have played important roles in her life — the first opened doors for her in her personal life (she met her husband Tony Boy Floirendo at a party in New York during her reign) and the second has defined her later work with women’s organizations and community development.
Today, as president of Ballet Philippines, Margie is spearheading a fundraising event called Ballet Barbie, wherein 40 designers — the likes of National Artist Pitoy Moreno, Jojie Lloren and Frederick Peralta — dressed up 198 Barbie dolls that will be auctioned on March 17. Ballet Philippines hopes to raise at least P1 million to fund its scholarship program at the silent and live auctions with bids starting from P6,000 to P11,000 for each doll.
Margie Moran was 19 years old when she was crowned Miss Universe in Athens, Greece, in 1973. It was the year the Greek military overthrew the country’s monarchy, the Watergate scandal broke in Washington, Vietnam War was both escalating and winding down, and back home President Ferdinand Marcos declared himself “president for life.”
This was the world that was swirling around Margie in 1973.
There she was in Athens, the granddaughter of former Philippine President Manuel Roxas, neither too tall (5’6”) nor too thin (she had all the right curves), confidently gliding across the stage — a place she was so used to as she was already a dancer, a stage actress, and a model back in Manila.
While recent beauty pageants have left us cringing and wishing the contestants would fall into the cracks of the earth, during Margie’s time beauty queens knew that you only joined one after you’ve had a good grasp of life at the very least.
Maybe if you had been exposed to the real world and had real conversations, you’d know that saying “My pamily is the most important persons in my life” and “I’d like to thank my parents for my long legged” are not only grammatically wrong but also inane. But, what the hell, those two beauty queens were tall and beautiful and they entertained us tremendously.
Margie, however, was already an accomplished young woman even before she stepped onstage in Greece. And even after she got married two years later — at 21 — she finished her college degree in business management in Boston and her master’s degree in London.
Eleven years later, she had two daughters. Her marriage lasted more than 30 years and then she and her congressman husband, Antonio “Tony Boy” Floirendo, separated.
“We have a very, very good relationship now,” she says, and reflects further on how a broken marriage can end in friendship.
Thirty-seven years ago, on a stage in Greece, she was asked what she would do with her winnings. She said she would invest some of the money, open a hotel, and buy a house for her family, among many other you-have-five-seconds-to-think plans.
Margie Moran-Floirendo eventually did all these things — and then some.
THE PHILIPPINE STAR: Do you also collect Barbie dolls?
MARGIE MORAN-FLOIRENDO: I was a Barbie collector, but I passed them on to my daughters Monica and Gabby, and kept only the special ones like an ‘80s Bob Mackie and Patis Tesoro. I’ve about 12 left, all designer editions and some of them were very expensive at the time they were bought at $300.
What do you want to happen during your tenure as Ballet Philippines president?
I want the company to be viable, to be able to produce good choreographers and dancers. To be able to bring dance to the communities, like in Venezuela where they have a ballet company and an orchestra in every community that are government-funded. Here, I want to experiment with the communities.
Were you also a ballet dancer when you were young?
I took up ballet from eight to 18 years old. Our scholars are usually between 14 and 18 and most of our dancers today are former scholars.
How would you describe your fashion style?
I’m very simple. I like tailored outfits. I also like very nicely done tailored gowns, as well as those work-of-art gowns. I would wear something like an Auggie Cordero for a ball. I like the tailored look because I’m simple and structured in my way of thinking, it’s my personality, it’s my character. I’m a Virgo. I’m very organized. I guess my manner of dressing is that way, too. I like earth colors but I would also wear bright colors. I grew up in the Ralph Lauren style, that town-and-country look.
Are you more of a shoe or a bag lady?
I’ve more shoes, but I also have a lot of bags. I like Hermes and my favorites are Miu Miu and Chanel. But I also have Dolce and Gabbana, which are my most usable ones. For shoes, I love Christian Loboutin.
What’s the most expensive thing in your closet?
My bags. Hermes. I always shop at Rustan’s and the boutiques in Greenbelt 4, and Greenbelt 5 for the local designers. I also go to SM. It depends on what I’m buying.
Who are your favorite designers?
I like Rajo Laurel and Auggie Cordero whom I went back to after many years. Because of Ballet Barbie, I’m in touch with all the designers again.
How has your style evolved through the years since the Miss Universe days?
Of course, fashion has changed, but my basic love for structure is still there. I always experiment with what’s new in fashion. Every time I travel I buy shoes and at least one bag. I normally shop in London and Paris, but only because I’m always there. But I also like to go to New York. I’m a shopper (sighs). When I shop with my friends, they always say I’m the winner. I just came back from India where I bought fabrics and jewelry. I like buying things that give me good memories of the place. I don’t buy just designer things, but also everyday wear.
Are you running for public office?
Not in this election. I’ve never held public office. I was more in the NGO world. I almost ran for governor of Davao del Norte, but I would run against an estranged family member, an in-law, who is the incumbent. There were negotiations, but I backed out at the last minute.
When did you formally separate from your husband?
We’re not legally separated or annulled. We separated more than 10 years ago, and we’re very, very good friends.
How do you get to that point, how do you get past a broken marriage and settle into a good friendship?
You go through several stages, from anger to forgiveness to acceptance. I think when you reach acceptance, when you respect each other’s space, are able to communicate again, and are bound by your children and common ground like politics, you can remain friends.
Take us back to that story. How did you meet your husband?
We met in New York. I was Miss Universe and Imelda Marcos threw a party and she invited me. I was the youngest in that group and Mrs. Marcos said to my father-in-law, “Mr. Floirendo, why don’t you invite your son?” Tony Boy was then studying in Boston. We dated from that time on and married two years later.
Was it love at first sight?
What’s the overriding feeling now when you remember the past?
We lived in Boston and we were both studying there. I finished Business Administration in Boston and my master’s at the University of London. You always try to remember the good times to be able to maintain the friendship. You have to try to forget and forgive the bad times. Only then can you get on with your life.
How many kids do you have?
We have two girls. I had them later in age, after 11 years of marriage. Monica finished in Bristol University; Gabby is in first year college. They both started in Ateneo de Davao because we lived there, and then we came to Manila where they did Grades six and seven. Then they went to boarding school in England.
What’s your advice to women getting into marriage now?
I got married at 21, very young. It’s fortunate now that because of technology and youth education, women have ambition in life. Before, women’s ambition was to get married and have kids. It was hard to become your own woman then. Now, that’s not true anymore. I tell my daughters I want to have a grandchild and they say, “Mooom, I’m too young.” Baligtad na. I encourage my daughters to enjoy life and to educate themselves further for enrichment. That’s important for any woman. Continuous education is paramount to being the best, you have to be skilled at something. Whatever you’re doing, whether you’re in business or the arts, you have to continue learning.
I have a very rich experience in business because I started in advertising. I was in the travel industry for over 20 years, I started the tourism industry in Davao, I was involved in the development of a resort (Pearl Farm) in a place that was in conflict.
Is that why you had children later in life?
Hindi naman. Later, I got into NGOs, I did two books, I did a documentary on Mindanao. I got very much involved in women’s organizations, in conflict resolution, then I got into helping build houses with Habitat for Humanity. And now, I’m with Ballet Philippines. I was already promoting the arts in Mindanao in my community work for 20 years. I always want to link what I’m doing now with what I am doing for the communities. I bring kids from the public schools to the Cultural Center. I want them to see life from a totally different perspective so when they do their fiestas or school shows they have a better understanding of the performing arts.
Do you miss your old life in Mindanao?
I’m based in Manila but every two weeks I go to Davao.
Why did you separate?
Well, when you marry young, you’re not able to fulfill all the things you want to do. You drift apart.
How’s your relationship with your in-laws?
We have a very good relationship, like nothing ever happened.
How did you get your daughters through your separation?
They didn’t feel it, only the initial breakup. We never fought over them. The communication and explanations were very clear with them.
How would you describe your daughters?
Monica is quiet and shy. She finished politics in the University of England, and is now working for Bloomberg TV and a political consulting company. Now, all of a sudden, she wants to do culinary because she’s a big foodie. At 23, she can do anything. Gabby, like her sister, is studious. She’s a natural leader, she’s academic and also a party girl. She says, “Ma, I’m well balanced.”
Are you in a relationship right now?
And your husband?
What’s your advice to women who are in unhappy relationships?
My advice is always to not marry young. You need to mature and fulfill all the things you want before you get married; if you do that after, it tends to break up the marriage. For one, women have to be independent — financially, educationally and mentally — because it will enrich their marriage.
What’s your advice to beauty queens?
Every girl’s ambition seems to be to become a beauty queen, a model or an actress.
Even before, that was their dream. Back then you started as a model and then became a beauty queen. Joining a beauty pageant is just a steppingstone to something that is better. It can give you good exposure if you win and it’s a good experience to be work with other people in a contest. It’s about being a good sport. I was already in the performing arts with the CCP and Karilagan before Miss Universe. I was a model and a dancer. I did The Best of Broadway, Kismet, Camelot, and My Fair Lady.
Many women today join it raw.
They should get experience first. Even the beauty pageants abroad, the women are older, they’re in their 20s.
With all your experiences in women’s organizations and development, you seem a natural fit for public life.
I did consider this election but it’s not the right timing. I hope it happens when I’m not too old.