A PROUD COUNTRY
Binibining Pilipinas Universe Catriona Gray bags the country’s fourth Miss Universe crown, bringing pride and honor to the Philippines
Bangkok — The world was not for her because the universe is.
Miss Philippines Catriona Elisa Magnayon Gray was crowned Miss Universe 2018 yesterday morning in a three-hour spectacle at the Impact Arena that saw Filipinos coming together in Thailand to support the beauty queen.
Gray, 24, bested 93 other candidates in a show aired on Fox that featured swimsuit, evening gown, and several rounds of question and answer competitions. The event also showcased her signature “lava walk” and her knack for answering questions with substance.
Cebuanos celebrated Gray’s victory in the Miss Universe Pageant with much pride and excitement.
“I want to congratulate her for a well-deserved win. We have talked a lot of times about her journey and she really worked hard for this. This is the win she truly deserves and I am so proud that I am able to witness it first hand as her queen sister,” Cebuano beauty queen, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International 2018 Eva Patalinjug told Cebu Daily News.
She said she never doubted that Gray would bring back the Ms. Universe crown to the Philippines.
“She is beautiful inside and out. She is very thoughtful and kind. All of us have bonded like sisters and we all know that we will support each other even after we turn over our crowns,” she added.
Miss Cebu 2015 and Binibining Pilipinas 2018 Top 15 finalist Wynonah Buot said, it was clear, even during the Binibining Pilipinas 2018 pageant, that Gray would bring honor to the country.
“I am so happy to see her out there, doing everything she can to represent the Philippines the best way she knows how and well, Cat never disappoints. I guess it is fair to say that she is the best representative we have ever sent to Miss Universe yet,” Buot said.
“She was not just meant to run the World, she was meant to conquer the Universe,” she added.
South Africa’s Tamaryn Green was the first runner-up, while Venezuela’s Sthefany Gutiérrez finished as second runner-up.
In the final question and answer round, the top three candidates were asked: “What is the most important lesson you’ve learned and how will you apply it to your time as Miss Universe?”
Gray answered: “I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila and the life there is… it’s poor and very sad. And I’ve always taught myself to look for the beauty of it, to look for beauty in the faces of the children and to be grateful.
“And I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe, to see situations with a silver lining, and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. If I could teach also people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children would have a smile on their faces. Thank you,” she added.
Her answer was met with loud cheers and wild applause from the audience.
Gray’s victory cements the Philippines in its status as a powerhouse in the Big 4 pageants which include Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss International and Miss Earth.
With Gray’s win, the Philippines now has four Miss Universe crowns after the victories of Pia Wurtzbach (2015), Margie Moran (1974) and Gloria Diaz (1969).
The country has one Miss World crown (2013); six Miss International crowns (1964, 1970, 1979, 2005, 2013 and 2016); and four Miss Earth titles (2008, 2014, 2015 and 2017).
Gray is a singer and model. She attended the Berkley College of Music in Boston, USA where she earned a Certificate in Music Theory.
Recently, she launched her first original single,”We’re in this Together.”
Gray won as Miss World Philippines in 2016 and subsequently competed in the Miss World 2016 pageant in Washington, D.C., USA.
Although predicted as a strong contender in Miss World 2016, she failed to get the Miss World crown.
“She was robbed of that crown but it is all for the better because look at her now. She is the total package,” said Cebu-based independent film actor Albert Chan Paran, who flew to Bangkok to witness Gray being crowned as the fourth Miss Universe from the Philippines.
After her devastating loss, Gray waited for two years before she joined the Binibining Pilipinas pageant in 2018.
“She came very prepared this time. No single hint of doubt in me that she will not win. She was already the winner,” said Paran, a pageant enthusiast since he was a child raised in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur.
Paran said he visited the National Shrine of the Virgin of the Rule in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu to pray for the intention of Gray’s victory.
“She was so right when she said that she is not only one. We are so many here; she has the entire nation with her and that makes me so happy. What a wonderful Christmas gift,” said Paran.
Binibining Cebu Tourism 2018 Kim Covert echoed Paran’s sentiments saying she sees Gray as a total package.
“She was very calculated from day one. She waved our flag high. I knew she would win from her essence alone,” Covet said.
Paran also praised the host country, Thailand, for the excellent production and pre-pageant activities.
Unlike her Miss World battle where she competed with the Aces and Queens as her beauty camp, Gray’s Miss Universe journey was all about forming her own team.
This include having her friend, Mak Tumang design the now famous Ibong Adarna gown which Gray wore during the preliminary competition
Tumang is the same designer of Gray’s fiery red gown, which was inspired by Bicol region’s Mayon Volcano.
Aside from active social media accounts, Gray and her team also produced videos of the country’s three geographical divisions which highlighted stories of hope, resilience and creativity.
This year’s Miss Universe competition adapted a different format.
Instead of the random announcement of semi-finalists, five countries were called from the three regions of Africa and Asia Pacific, Europe and Americas. Five other countries referred as wild card spots were called to complete the Top 20 semi-finalists.
Each of the 20 semi-finalists gave opening statements on what they want the world to know about them.
Gray shared, that she found out that lack of child support, not poverty, kills the dreams of children. She said she learned this from working in some of the poorest areas of the Philippines .
“A child once told me, ‘Cat, that’s just not my life, and those dreams aren’t made for me.’ But I stand here today because someone believed in me and we owe it to our children to believe in them,” she said.
The 20 semi-finalists were trimmed down to Top 10 composed of: South Africa, Vietnam, Venezuela, Philippines, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Nepal, Canada, Thailand and Puerto Rico.
The 10 finalists competed in the swimsuit and evening gown competitions after which the Top 5 finalists — composed of Puerto Rico, Vietnam, Philippines, South Africa, and Venezuela — was announced.
The five finalists underwent another round of question and answer test.
Gray was asked about her stand in legalizing marijuana to which she expressed approval for its medicinal use but not for pleasure.
Earlier in the competition, host Steve Harvey asked Gray: “If you were going to write a song about your experience here at Miss Universe, what would you call it?”
Gray said she will call the song “Raise Your Flag” because she came to Bangkok “not as one but as 104 million Filipinos.”
“As Miss Philippines I’ve always felt the love and support of the Filipino people and I think I brought half of my country here tonight,” she responded.
Bangkok’s Impact Arena was filled with Filipino supporters from all over the region to support Gray. Filipinos flew to Bangkok from different cities and towns in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, Cambodia and the US.
They gave the loudest cheers for Gray, whom they described as the pageant’s sure winner.
Bobby Manalang, 38, works for Disneyland in Hong Kong but took time off to fly to Bangkok to support Gray.
He has been an avid fan of pageants since Melinda “Dindi” Gallardo won as Bb. Pilipinas Universe in 1993.
Manalang wore a pintados costume to the pageant. He is originally from Davao and is now based in Hong Kong.
His friend, Rowell Cuenza, attended the pageant in transformed Jollibee costume.
A self-confessed drag queen, the Hong Kong-based Cuenza said he made sure to come to the pageant in style to make a mark.
For first-time pageant observer and Dumaguete native Milani Eppler, experiencing the competition in the flesh was an exciting ride.
“I did not have any tickets for this. I was due to fly to the Philippines today (December 17) but my friends are coming over to watch the show so my husband said we can just delay our trip,” she said.
Eppler said she was proud of witnessing a pageant whose representative brought pride and joy to Filipinos.
After the pageant, Cebu Daily News was able to have a quick interview with Gray’s boyfriend, Clint Bondad, who revealed that he had no doubts about her winning the crown.
“It was great. It was amazing,” he said referring to Gray’s performance in Miss Universe.
Miss Australia Francesca Hung, who finished as part of the Top 20 semifinalists, said Gray deserves the win for her “great performance and hard work.”
A highlight segment of the show was the presentation of Miss Spain, Angela Ponce, the first transgender woman to compete in Miss Universe.
Her presence was met with applause from the audience. / With Inquirer.net
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