Armi Kuusela of Finland met her first husband Virgilio “Gil” Hilario of the Philippines 69 years ago. She was newly crowned as Miss Universe 1952 and he was studying banking, marketing and foreign trade in Columbia University in New York City, New York, United States while working with the Philippine National Bank in New York.
On May 24, 1952, Kuusela won the Finnish national beauty pageant Suomen Neito. Representing Finland, she won the inaugural edition of Miss Universe in Long Beach, California, USA on June 28, 1952.
As Miss Universe 1952, Kuusela started a world tour on February 22, 1953. Invited by the committee of the Philippine International Fair, she arrived in the Philippines on March 9, 1953.
Crowning Miss Philippines 1953
On March 12, 1953, Kuusela visited the Congress of the Philippines. When Ilocos Norte congressman Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, then 37, met her, he introduced himself as the only eligible bachelor in the House of Representatives.
On March 20, 1953, Kuusela crowned Miss Luzon 1953 Cristina de Leon Galang, then 19, of Tarlac, Philippines as Miss Philippines 1953. Galang’s escort was Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., then 22, of Tarlac.
The runners-up were Miss Visayas and Pearl of the Orient 1953 Violeta Villamor, Miss Mindanao 1953 Gilda Gruet Walstrom, Miss Manila 1953 Norma Jimenez and Muse of Manila 1953 Imelda Trinidad Romualdez, then 25. On April 9, 1953, Kuusela danced the rigodon de honor with Galang, Villamor, Walstrom, Jimenez and Romualdez at the Philippine International Fair’s Farewell Ball.
On April 11, 1953, Kuusela left the Philippines and travelled to Hong Kong and Japan. Marcos and Romualdez met on April 6, 1954 and got married on April 17, 1954.
Dancing in Baguio City
Baguio City was one of the places Kuusela visited in the Philippines as part of her world tour as Miss Universe 1952. At the time, she was 18 while he was 25.
Hilario, who was an expert in mamba, rumba and samba, met Kuusela at a formal dance at Pines Hotel in Baguio City. It was Charlie Hollman who introduced the two to each other.
It was love at first sight for Hilario. He followed Kuusela after her visit in the Philippines ended.
On April 26, 1953, Hilario and Kuusela arrived in Tokyo, Japan on separate planes. He successfully wooed her in Tokyo and she was so in love with him that she decided to give up her Miss Universe 1952 before her reign ended just to be with him.
Getting married in Tokyo
On May 3, 1952, Hilario defended Kuusela from an intoxicated American newspaperman who tried to harass her inside the Cosmopolitan Nightclub in Tokyo. At the time, the couple was already engaged and set to be married on her 19th birthday on August 20, 1952.
But Hilario and Kuusela decided to get married on May 4, 1952 instead. Reverend Father Bruno Blitter officiated their wedding at the Saint Ignatius Church in Yatsuya, Tokyo with her older sister Irma Kyromies as the maid of honor and Hilario’s friend Roberto Villanueva as the best man.
After enjoying their honeymoon in Hawaii, USA and touring the U.S. and Europe for two months, Hilario and Kuusela settled in the Philippines. They played themselves in the film “Now and Forever,” which was about their love story.
Filmed in Baguio City, Metro Manila and Tokyo, “Now and Forever” was written by Armando de Guzman and Manuel A. Garcia, directed by Rolando del Mar and released in the Philippines on December 29, 1953. Joining Kuusela and Hilario in the cast were Oscar Keesee, Ramon Olmos, Benjamin Lagmay, Ricky Blake, Caviteno Ilano, Rita Rivera, Manolo Valdez, Belle Gonzales and Paraluman.
Between 1955 and 1965, Hilario and Kuusela had five children. He owned and operated Gilarmi Corporation, a real estate development company in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines.
Leaving the Philippines
On September 7, 1975, Hilario died of heart attack. On June 8, 1978, Kuusela married U.S. Department of State senior officer Albert N. Williams.
Kuusela and Hilario’s five children are Arne Hilario, Anna-Lisa Hilario De Gari, Jose “Jussi” Hilario, Eva-Maria Hilario Hess and Miguel “Mikko” Hilario. Only Mikko is still in the Philippines.
Hess is in Foster City, California while Jussi is in Vancouver, Canada, Arne is in Santiago, Chile and De Gari is in Barcelona, Spain. Their mother and Williams lived in Barcelona, Spain from 1979 to 1983, in Washington, D.C., USA from 1983 to 1985 and in Izmir, Turkey from 1985 to 1989 then retired in La Jolla, San Diego, California.
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