THERE’S long been a strong mutual attraction between the most beautiful ladies in the land and the famous athletes in the world. Need proof? Just ask 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach.
Filipino-Swiss race car driver Marlon Stockinger recently took pole position in the chase for Wurtzbach’s heart. The two made headlines last month after photos of the couple in a Hawaiian beach went viral on social media. Wurtzbach has since confirmed they have a relationship.
But even before Stockinger and Wurtzbach became a couple, many athletes, including PBA players, have won the hearts of beauty queens. Some have kept their muse while others have not been as romantically fortunate.
San Miguel point guard Alex Cabagnot, for example, started dating 2006 Ms. Earth candidate and TV host Ginger Conejero in 2011 and have been going steady despite the challenge of maintaining hectic careers. Conejero can also hold her own in the athletic front, having swam for the University of Southern California.
Sarah Jane Paez also won Binibining Pilipinas Ms. Universe in 1989, the same year Benjie Paras became the PBA’s first and only rookie MVP. The two, who are also batchmates at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, reportedly started dating then but the romance was short-lived.
Miss Philippines Earth Fire 2011 Michelle Gavagan and Mahindra Floodbuster guard Ryan Arana were also once rumored to be a couple some years ago. But Gavagan is now based in the US while Arana and wife, the former Erika Ono, recently became parents to a baby boy.
Arana’s Mahindra teammate Alex Mallari was also once rumored to have snagged the heart of 2014 Binibining Pilipinas Ms. Universe MJ Lastimosa.
Other PBA players romantically involved with beauty queens include GlobalPort rookie Von Pessumal and 2014 Binibining Pilipinas 1st Runner-Up Laura Lehmann; Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar and Miss World Philippines 2015 1st Princess Cassy Naidas; and Alaska's Chris Banchero and Justin Ruth Gascon, a 2011 Binibining Pilipinas International candidate.
There have been times, though, that the relationships end with “I do’s.” Jennifer Pingree, 1990 Binibining Pilipinas Ms. International titleholder, and 1990 PBA Rookie of the Year Gerry Esplana tied the knot. Maria Rafaella Verdadero, a former Miss Philippines-Australia and Ms. Binibing Pilipinas-World 2003, married four-time PBA All-Star Nic Belasco in 2004.
It’s not just PBA players, though, as golf star and grand slam-winning PBA coach Tommy Manotoc also took Aurora Pijuan, Miss International 1970, to the altar when they got married in the Dominican Republic. One of their children, TJ, is now a TV sportscaster. But the marriage would end in divorce. Pijuan is now an active proponent of Gawad Kalinga and is an outspoken critic in Philippine politics.
Azkals defender and 2016 Philippine Football Federation Hero of the Year Simone Rota and Miss Universe Philippines 2013 Ariella Arida have also been reportedly dating since 2015.
There was also the romantic interlude between Anjanette Abayari and David Bunevacz that unfortunately ended in a messy breakup between the dethroned 1991 Ms. Binibining Pilipinas Universe-Philippines (due to citizenship issues) and the SEA Games gold medal-winning decathlete. Abayari had a run-in with the law involving a drug case in Guam but has since been cleared to return to the Philippines while Bunevacz has been married to former talent manager Jessica Rodriguez and is now based in the US.
Despite the differences in how their stories have ended or continue to unfold, the ever-present attraction between beauty queens and sportsmen will only add more to this list.