Before 1964, the Philippine delegate to the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant was chosen by various organizers and sponsors that included such institutions as Boys Town, Casino Español of the Philippines, Elks Cerebral Palsy, and, in the case of the first ever search for Miss Philippines of 1952, Khan Cigarettes, which received its franchise from the Miss Universe Committee.
In 1963, long-time impresario Alfredo Lozano acquired the pageant franchise through his promotions company, Japonica Consultants Inc., which staged the 1963 quest in cooperation with sponsors Gentex and the Philippine Couture Association. That year’s edition, which ended with the selection of Lalaine Bennett, was met with criticisms—from the quality of the contestants to the drab production and even lousier entertainment.
The search for the queen had to conform to the international standards imposed by the Miss Universe committee, which set age, height and physical criteria for contestants. The local winner also acquired a new title—Binibining Pilipinas (Miss Philippines) – and with it came the honor of representing the country in the world’s most prestigious beauty competition.
That honor---of being named the first ever Bibining Pilipinas--- turned out to be reserved for a beautiful Fernandina, then 21 year old Maria Myrna Sese Panlilio. Myrna Panlilio, born in 1943, was the eldest of 4 children of Enrique M. Panlilio and Jaina Sese. She went to local school and completed high school at St. Scholastica. Her college years were spent in Maryknoll and upon graduation, she was immediately taken in as a teller for Merchant’s Bank. Though already employed, the beautiful Myrna was egged on to join beauty pageants. In fact, two days before the Bb. Pilipinas, she was at the 1964 Maid of Cotton contest, won by Bettina Herrero.
Undeterred, she made it as one of the 15 official candidates to the 1964 Bb. Pilipinas Pageant, trimmed down from a total of 28 applicants. The finals were originally scheduled for July 3, but had to be postponed due to Typhoon Dading. Two days later, in a spectacular beauty show at the Araneta Coliseum, Myrna Panlilio was crowned as our country’s first Binibining Pilipinas, succeeding the outgoing queen, Lalaine Bennett, who had placed fourth at the 1963 Miss Universe.
Myrna’s runners-up included Bb. Waling-waling, Milagros Cataag and Bb. Ilang-ilang, Elvira Gonzales (mother of another future binibini, Charlene Gonzales). One other losing candidate was Milagros Sumayao, a former Miss Press Photography winner like Elvira, who would later be known in showbiz as Mila Ocampo (mother of Snooky Serna).
The new Binibining Pilipinas won a slew of prizes that included P2,000 in cash , gold trophy from the Lions Club, a complete wardrobe from the Philippine Couturiers’ Association, Helene Curtis beauty products and a Regal sewing machine. She also won the right to represent the country in the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in Miami Beach, Florida with the title going to Miss Greece, Korinna Tsopei. Myrna enjoyed her stint in the U.S. though, and even attended a Democratic Convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, visited the World's Fair and met Shirley Temple! She also played host to Miss Universe 1964 when she came to visit the Philippines in 1965.
After her reign, Myrna went right back to her work at the bank. Two years after her reign, she married the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ramon N. Borromeo (+) in June 1966. Dr. Borromeo’s mother had been also been a beauty queen from Cebu--Amparo Noel, the 1912 Queen of Visayas. She settled down to a suburban life and became an active member in several socio-civic organizations. The Borromeos had three children: Ramon Jose (1967), Patricia Ann (1971) and Mitzi (1977). Patricia or Trisha was well known as a model and as a former girlfriend of actor Richard Gomez, but sadly passed away in 2003 from lymphoma. In her memory, Myrna put up the Trisha P. Borromeo Legacy Association, which aimed to support the University of the Philippines - Philippine General Hospital Pediatric Cancer Ward.
Myrna’s name re-surfaced during the term of Pres. Joseph Estrada when she was named as Executive Director of the Nayong Pilipino. On 17 July 2009, Myrna unexpectedly passed away from a gall bladder disease at the Makati Medical Center. She was just 66, but Myrna’s place in Pampanga’s history had already been sealed on that one fateful night in June—with the proclamation of a Kapampangan as the country’s first Binibining Pilipinas—the most beautiful Filipina of 1964.