When Miss Philippines Catriona Gray arrived in Thailand, everyone – host and foreign delegation – knew and agreed that the Filipina delegate is the girl to read. When she first set foot at the Suvarnabumi airport as a 2018 Miss Universe delegate, she was greeted with a welcome befitting a well-loved international celebrity.
Her arrival in Bangkok is well-anticipated by both Thai and Filipino supporters. It was covered by local media outlets from Thailand as if she were some foreign personality who had just arrived at Thai shores. Her every move was greeted with much fanfare. Fans wearing Philippine sash fashioned like the official sash at Miss Universe followed Gray wherever she went.
No other Miss Philippines has ever experienced the same treatment. Not Gloria Diaz, not Margarita Moran and not even Pia Wurtzbach. Maybe to some extent, Pia but only after she won Miss Universe.
No other Filipina delegate has been marked as the clear girl-to-beat even before arriving in the host country.
If the Miss Universe organization kept track of day-to-day scores of each delegate, Catriona would have been consistently getting good scores. Her wardrobe made Filipino-made fabric accessible to mainstream media and proved to those who were otherwise skeptic of her capabilities that this girl is not only a force to be reckoned with but a force that you’d want to be with you. (Pardon the Star Wars pun.)
After the highly-regarded, much-talked about national costume performance, the first real test where the judges took actual scores that will affect the fate of 94 delegates is the preliminary competition.
Catriona proved that she’s not just beauty and creativity, she also has the gift for gab. Gifted in the communication department, we have no doubts that Gray gave a mighty performance at the closed-door preliminary interview.
Much of the hype surrounding the Preliminary Competition is due to the fact that this is the first time that delegates will be able to size up their opponents.
For the fans, the preliminary competition served as a practice round to the loud cheering gallery. Expected to turn up the decibels are the loud Latino community who has always been present in major league pageants. Of course, fans from the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia will not be denied the opportunity to scream their lungs out for their respective delegates.
Surprising – thought not really – another delegate has been stealing spotlights from known pageant countries. Albania who has been a social media darling both in Thailand and the Philippines has been winning hearts as the pageant progressed. Her authenticity and carefree attitude that may have come with her young age appealed to Miss Universe fans. Aside from our Catriona Gray, this is one girl to look out for.
Flags, lanterns (yes, Catriona Gray’s National Costume inspired lanterns) and banners flooded the packed arena. The gorgeous LED backdrop excited the audience in anticipation. The modern intersecting runway is a design that cements the legacy of Miss Universe – one that has been continuously re-inventing itself. The glorious backdrop of continuously changing design has become a signature of Miss Universe since IMG – the pageant’s new owners – took over.
We want to emphasize that in stark contrast to the Manila’s hosting of the 65th Miss Universe, Bangkok made sure that elements infused in the LED backdrop reminded the audience that the proud capital of Thailand is hosting the pageant. The pillars flashed in the LED is akin to that of Thai temples’.
It is imperative to underscore this observation because such elements were noticeably absent when Manila hosted the 65th Miss Universe. Even the Miss Universe anthem was recorded using traditional Thai instruments producing a distinctive Thai flavor to an otherwise modern melody.
In batches of five, the Miss Universe contestants introduced themselves live at the Impact Arena. Wearing a stunning Sherri Hill dress, Catriona Magnayon Gray was oozing with charisma as he introduced herself to the delight of the fans she has earned in Thailand. Her introduction stamped her class and reminded everyone that she accepted the girl that she is the girl to beat and wont balk in pressure.
In less than five seconds, she sent out a warning cry to possible predators while marking her territory in a no let-up battle.
Admittedly, this is the part of the competition that we are least confident about but excited nonetheless. When she came out in her pink swimsuit created by her majesty Princess Sirivannavari, our jaws dropped – literally. It was an amazing performance – perhaps the best we’ve seen in a long time. Her spunk and personality was felt not just by the whole Impact Arena but also by everyone whose eyes are glued on the livestream.
The energy and aura oozed out beyond the viewing screens that it sent shivers down our spine. It was one hell of a performance worthy of superlatives.
Do we have to mention the slo-mo turn? The much talked about turn that is only a fraction of her Lava walk has captured the imagination of the Filipino people. At this point, we’re just waiting for parody videos reprising Catriona’s famed walk.
Aside from the turn, the powerful strides emphasized her statuesque bodice. “Fatriona,” who? Well eat your hearts out.
Lastly, the final pose at the end of the runway sent goosebumps reminding us of a song, “This is Me.”
After two straight days of hinting the Preliminary gown, Mak Tumang proved that he is capable of outdoing himself. As everyone anticipated Catriona Gray’s choice of gown, we first had to look twice. It was orange, somehow a dull color for Catriona. For a split-second, we were disappointed. Boy did we react too soon.
When she finally reached the intersection, we finally saw how stunning the phoenix gown is. It was every bit an amazing creation. The detailing and the handiwork of Mak Tumang’s gown is in full display to the whole universe.
Inspired by the Mikimoto crown and the Ibong Adarna, Catriona’s phoenix gown is structured beautifully sans the very high slit.
While we agree with a lot of observers that Catriona’s look and styling is much better when she was crowned Miss Universe Philippines, it is still an inspiring performance. It is obvious that her team held back to keep everyone in suspense of the surprise they have in store for the coronation night.
Her team understands that the Preliminary Competition is not the time and venue to peak. It’s strategic for them to just give the audience a glimpse of what they have in store on December 17.
Overall, Miss Philippines Catriona Gray simply enjoyed the show. There is not a hint of pressure in her performance despite carrying the torch of being this edition’s girl-to-beat.
Trust us, if what we’ve been hearing is true, we are in for a show Monday morning. A show for *fingers crossed*, the fourth Miss Universe crown of the Philippines.