“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” were the exact words uttered by Neil Armstrong as he became the first human to set foot on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. Held on the eve of the Apollo 11 moon landing, regarded as the most significant event of the 20th century, was the 1969 Miss Universe pageant won by then 18-year-old, Miss Philippines Gloria Diaz.
Diaz was asked the question, “In a next day or so, a man will land on the moon. If a man from the moon landed in your hometown, what would you do to entertain him?” To which she replied, “Oh, just the same things I do. I think if he has been in the moon for so long I think when he comes over he wants to change, I guess.”
While the eyes of the world were glued on the Moon landing, Diaz was taking the spotlight on the Miss Universe stage. Her victory and physical assets were said to have been relayed to the Apollo 11 crew members while on their mission out in the universe. Fifty years after Apollo 11’s voyage into history, Diaz also marks the 50th year of her Miss Universe victory.
Born Gloria María Aspillera Díaz in Aringay, La Union on March 10, 1951, Diaz is the country’s first Miss Universe winner. She became an instant celebrity upon her return after winning the title in Miami, Florida.
Diaz was introduced in the movies in the 1974 Celso Ad. Castillo classic Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa, for which she received a FAMAS nomination for best actress. She starred in other critically acclaimed film such as Eddie Romero’s 1976 epic Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon?, Danny Zialcita’s 1983 trend-setting Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi and Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s 1998 opus Jose Rizal, for which she won her first acting trophy for best-supporting actress at the 1998 Metro Manila Film Festival.
Thereafter, she went on to win best supporting actress at the 2002 Gawad Urian for Lav Diaz’s Batang Westside and at the FAMAS for Cholo Laurel’s Nasaan Ka Man in 2006 and Joel Lamangan’s Zagrada Familia in 2010.
Diaz continues to be in the limelight, starring in films and television series, and sitting as judge in beauty pageants, while playing mother to her children. “Aging doesn’t bother me, so you shouldn’t be stressed about it, too,” Diaz once said in an interview.