The overwhelming favorite won the much-coveted Miss Universe Philippines crown at the 2018 Binibining Pilipinas competition, which stretched from Sunday evening to the wee hours of Monday, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.
Catriona Elisa Gray, a 24-year-old half Filipino-Australian model-singer representing Albay, is the country’s bet at the next Miss Universe, besting 39 other Binibinis.
She also had the lion’s share of special awards: Pitoy Moreno Best in National Costume (designed by Jearson Demavivas), Best in Swimsuit, Best in Gown (designed by Mak Tumang), Jag Denim Award and Miss Ever Bilena. With her Binibini triumph, Gray becomes the second Filipina to win two major beauty titles, after winning Miss World Philippines 2016 and placing Top 5 at the world finals. The other is Carlene Aguilar, who was Miss Earth Philippines 2001 and Binibining Pilipinas World 2005, where she was both a finalist at the international tilts.
Maria Ahtisa Manalo, 20, from Candelaria, Quezon province, was crowned Binibining Pilipinas International. Among the winners, Manalo pulled the most pleasant surprise, as she hardly figured in pageant experts’ predictions.
On her third attempt at a title, Davao City’s Jehza Mae Huelar finally won as Binibining Pilipinas Supranational. The 23-year-old former executive assistant and model is dubbed the “Seafarers’ Queen,” being a daughter of a seaman and advocate for seafarers’ rights.
Eva Psychee Patalinjug, 23, won as Binibining Pilipinas Grand International. A registered nurse from Cebu City, she was also crowned Mutya ng Pilipinas-Asia Pacific International in 2014. She was also declared the Face of Binibini, or Most Photogenic.
The Binibining Pilipinas Intercontinental 2018 is Karen Juanita Gallman from Ubay, Bohol. The 25-year-old analyst previously competed at Binibining Pilipinas in 2012, finishing in the Top 12.
Sports superstar and showbiz royalty Michele Theresa Gumabao was crowned Binibining Pilipinas Globe. The 25-year-old from Quezon City is a volleyball player-model-social media influencer. She also won Miss Cream Silk. The second runner-up is Samantha Mae Bernardo, 25, from Puerto Princesa, Palawan; while the first runner-up is Vickie Marie Rushton, 25, from Talisay, Negros Occidental, who was also the Mutya ng Pilipinas International 2011.
The Binibini as a millennial Filipina
From 40 candidates, the Binibinis were whittled down to the Top 25, who competed in swimsuits designed by Domz Ramos and evening gowns created especially for them by their preferred designers.
A Top 15 was then chosen. They are the aforementioned winners and runners-up together with Murielle Adrienne Orais, Maria Andrea Abesamis, Juliana Kapeundl, Anjame Magbitang, Edjelyn Joy Gamboa, Wynonah Van Joy Buot and Sandra Lemonon.
Abesamis is a “legacy,” her mother being Binibining Pilipinas Universe 1984/Miss Universe 1984 Third Runner-up Desiree Verdadero Abesamis.
Orais, winner of Miss PAL, was Miss Philippines-Water 2011. Buot was Miss Cebu 2015.
The Binibinis are all undoubtedly beautiful, and the pageant showcased them as “stunning masterpieces,” as it also paid tribute to artists, such as the late Fashion Czar of Asia, Jose “Pitoy” Moreno, and the painter Betsy Westendorp de Brias.
But it was during the Question and Answer round, moderated by actor Richard Gutierrez, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Binibining Pilipinas Grand International/Miss Grand International 2016 First Runner-up Nicole Cordovez, that the awesome women separated from the giddy girls.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, chairman of the board of judges, asked Huelar: “What do you think is the most important quality of a millennial woman?”
Huelar replied: “I think the most important quality a millennial woman have is to have a vision. With her vision, she should have this attitude and perseverance so that she can achieve her goals. And if she’s good at vision, she will be able to express herself freely. So I would hope that all the millennials out here would really adhere to our culture and our tradition so that we can inspire others, we can impact people. Thank you.”
Ambassador Kim asked Gray: “After the devastating war, Marawi is now on its way to recovery. What is your message to the young women of Marawi?”
Gray’s winning reply: “My answer and my message to the women is to be strong. As women, we’re the head of the household and we have amazing influence not only in our families, as mothers, sisters and friends, but also in our community. If we could get the women to stay strong and be that image of strength for the children and the people around them, then once the rebuilding is complete and is underway, the morale of the community will stay strong and high. Thank you.”