Runaway favorite Catriona Gray won this year’s Miss Universe-Philippines crown during the grand coronation night of the 55th edition of the Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant held Sunday, March 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The towering 24-year old Filipino-Australian charmer represented the province of Albay where her grandmother and great grandmother were born.
Born and raised in Cairns, Australia, Catriona is an only child who holds a Master Certificate in Music Theory from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. The well-traveled fashion and commercial model is also a singer and a blogger. In addition to dabbling in photography, art, cooking and traveling, Catriona is also a martial artist who holds a black belt in choi kwang do.
From the minute she announced her participation in Binibining Pilipinas last January, Catriona Gray was the odds-on favorite to win the pageant’s top prize.
Two years ago, she won the Miss World Philippines 2016 crown in lopsided fashion. In addition to earning the right to represent the country in that year’s Miss World pageant where she finished in the Top 15, Catriona also won 10 of the national pageant’s 14 special awards including Best in Long Gown and Best in Swimsuit.
History sort of repeated itself two years later as Catriona’s performance in Binibining Pilipinas pretty much mirrored her Miss World Philippines experience. She won five special awards, the most by any contestant, including, yes, Best in Long Gown and Best in Swimsuit. She also won the Pitoy Moreno award for Best in National Costume, Miss Ever Bilena and Jag Denim Queen.
Looking regal all throughout the evening, Catriona also drew the loudest cheers in the Big Dome every time she gets the spotlight.
In the question and answer portion, she was asked by United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim about her message to the women of war-torn Marawi City.
Her winning reply? “My answer and my message to the women is to be strong. As women, we’re the head of household and we have amazing influence, not only in our own families, as mothers, sisters and friends, but also in our community. If we can 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 underway, the morale of the community will stay strong and high.”
Catriona is seeking to become only the fourth Filipina to win the Miss Universe crown previously won by Gloria Diaz (1969), Margie Moran (1973) and Pia Wurtzbach (2015).
Her Binibining Pilipinas victory, however, was the only predictable thing about the pageant as the playing field for the five other crowns was pretty much leveled for the other 39 contestants.
Doll-faced Ahtisa Manalo from Candelaria, Quezon, one of the youngest candidates at 20 who is also aspiring to be a police officer someday, won the Binibining Pilipinas-International crown.
Proving that the third time is definitely the charm, Jehza Huelar won Binibining Pilipinas-Supranational. Dubbed as the “Seafarers Queen” due to her work in the country’s maritime industry, the 23-year old Davao City native finished 2nd runner-up in the pageant’s 2016 edition but only managed a Top 15 finish last year. This time, she took her game to another level as she was among the standouts in the long gown, swimsuit and the Q & A competitions.
Cebuana Eva Patalinjug won Binibining Pilipinas-Grand International and the Miss Photogenic Face of Binibini special award. The 23-year old registered nurse previously won the Mutya ng Pilipinas-Asia Pacific International title in 2014.
Another Fil-Aussie contestant, Karen Gallman won Binibining Pilipinas-Intercontinental. Considered as one of the prettiest faces in this year’s batch, Karen previously competed in Binibining Pilipinas 2012 and won Miss Photogenic back then. Now 25, she represented her home province of Ubay, Bohol.
Volleyball superstar and TV sports personality Michele Gumabao won Binibining Pilipinas-Globe. The 25-year old pre-pageant favorite from Quezon City also won the Miss Cream Silk special award.
Vickie Rushton and Samantha Bernardo finished first and second runner-up. Other winners of special awards were Sherry Ann Tormes who won Miss Friendship and Miss Talent and Murielle Orais who won Miss Philippine Airlines.
The pageant night was hosted by actor Richard Gutierrez, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and Miss Grand International 2016 1st runner-up Nicole Cordoves. Robi Domingo served as host in the pre-taped Road to the Crown primer.