Martial Law Stories: The “Torture” of Playing for Miss Universe 1974

The Circus Band. Front Row: Hajji Alejandro, Paco Gamboa (bass guitar)+, Rudy Lozano (lead guitar)+, Clown mascot in place of Pabs Dadivas who had not arrived yet from the U.S., Boy Katindig (multi-digital keyboards), Walter Calinawan (drums)+  Second Row: Gerry Paraiso (piano)+, Ceres Jacinto, Basil Valdez, Jacqui Magno, Tillie Moreno, Pat Castillo (Photo by Jaime Zobel)

The Circus Band. Front Row: Hajji Alejandro, Paco Gamboa (bass guitar)+, Rudy Lozano (lead guitar)+, Clown mascot in place of Pabs Dadivas who had not arrived yet from the U.S., Boy Katindig (multi-digital keyboards), Walter Calinawan (drums)+

Second Row: Gerry Paraiso (piano)+, Ceres Jacinto, Basil Valdez, Jacqui Magno, Tillie Moreno, Pat Castillo (Photo by Jaime Zobel)

The Circus Band gigs normally ended before midnight, but we had to sleep in the band room when we felt we might not make it safely home before the curfew hours took effect.
The Circus Band, Weekend Magazine Cover (Photo by Jaime Zobel)

The Circus Band, Weekend Magazine Cover (Photo by Jaime Zobel)

One night during the 1974 Miss Universe pageant we had to stay in the club after the gig, (I think we were already playing at Rino’s) to wait out the curfew hours and drive directly to Nichols [now Villamor] airbase because, on a last minute whim, the first lady Imelda Marcos sent someone to inform Atek (Jacinto, Circus band manager and musical director) that we were to do a command performance at her residence in Leyte for the Miss Universe winners and participants. That was a tough and not so pleasant experience, but also such an adventure.

We were ushered into a C-41 war plane used to load armored trucks, tanks, and soldiers, and the seats were just on the sides of the plane, so most passengers were standing from the time the plane took off, was in flight, to when it landed on the tarmac at the Leyte Airport. There were no seat belts! Nora Aunor was with us, sitting calmly in her usual quiet way observing the same surreal moment.

Attending the 1974 Miss Universe Leyte event gave me a closer view of the rich and famous, the courtiers, the cringe-inducing sycophants, and the endless, overflowing parade of food delicacies. When Imelda Marcos arrived at our cottage to welcome her invited guests, her retinue of Blue Ladies, who happened to be accommodated in the same cottage as ours, went rushing out, all dancing with raised, welcoming, open arms and singing “Minamahal, Minamahal Kita!” My eyes just rolled in disgust.

The Circus Band (1974) (Photo courtesy of Ceres Jacinto)

The Circus Band (1974) (Photo courtesy of Ceres Jacinto)

The next day we went to the Leyte Airport early morning to get back home ASAP. The C-41 was delayed for hours. When it came, we boarded only to disembark again because of an oil leak. We waited the whole afternoon for another plane until the airport closed. We had no choice but to sit on the tarmac, waiting for that (replacement) cargo plane. In the early evening the plane finally arrived. 

The cargo plane was packed with soldiers. Most of them were standing up holding on to their guns. That ride with the military reminded me of a dystopian movie where things look dark, depressing, grimy, and hopeless. I remember just staring up at the gloomy hanging light bulb and trying to control my shivering because of the heavy coldness of the ride up in the sky.  

Since the Leyte airport was already closed when we left, we didn’t have the chance to go to the restrooms prior to boarding. Our bladders were full, and we were trying our best not to focus on it. One of the girls, Tillie Moreno, was already in tears. Quickly, someone offered a rubber-hose-looking contraption to resolve the torturous situation. This long tube hose was the equivalent of a “john.” There were no women in the military yet at that time, or at least none who rode the C-41. What a dilemma!

The Circus Band (1974) (Photo courtesy of Ceres Jacinto)

The Circus Band (1974) (Photo courtesy of Ceres Jacinto)

The Circus Band (1974) (Photo courtesy of Ceres Jacinto)

The Circus Band (1974) (Photo courtesy of Ceres Jacinto)

We tried to figure out how a female could use that contraption in privacy. There was no way around it. Just then Tillie’s “knight in shining armor,” Richard Tan, just scooped her up, sat her on his lap, embraced her tightly to keep her warm until we landed.

When the plane landed, despite the darkness, we all ran to the fields of Nichols Air Base to relieve our full bladders, each one finding his/her own spot where the “talahib” (elephant grass) were real tall. Oh, what a relief it was! I swore to myself never, never again. I will call in sick if ever there were another command performance. Little did I know that I spoke too soon.

I thought that was the end of the 1974 Miss Universe Pageant party adventures. The next time we were invited, it was to perform at the presidential yacht party for the 1974 Miss Universe participants. But I will save that story for another day.


Ceres Jacinto was one of the female vocal soloists of the Circus Band. In 1974 she relocated from San Francisco, California, and joined the band. Ceres added to the band the sound of San Francisco Bay Area’s “cold blood” blues rock and Chaka Khan’s funk styles.