By Robert Requintina
Barring unforeseen circumstances, newly crowned Miss Universe Catriona Gray is expected to arrive in Manila today, two days after she won the title in Bangkok, Thailand.
This would be the first time in recent years that the winner of the Miss Universe beauty pageant will break routine when it comes to homecoming.
In the past, the winner immediately travels to New York City following the crowning as Miss Universe.
But in Gray’s case, she will go back to Manila first before flying to New York City.
Gray is expected to arrive in Manila this afternoon and is scheduled to hold a press conference immediately after arrival, according to a press invitation sent out to media outfits.
Expected to join Gray in her first press conference in Manila as 2018 Miss Universe are former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson and his daughter Miss Universe 2018 judge Ms. Richelle Singson-Michael. The beauty queen will share her plans to media during the press meet.
The Australian-Filipino beauty queen is also expected to attend a charity event for a private organization during her stay in Manila.
After her brief Manila visit, Gray will move into her lavish New York City apartment to begin her reign.
The new apartment, which will also come with a year-long salary as Miss Universe and living expenses, is part of her prize package.
2017 Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel Peters has already moved out of the luxurious apartment after she packed up in November.
Gray will receive hair care products, shoes, and accessories for prizes. She will also get dermatology and skincare services, professional health and nutrition consultation, dental services and extensive travel representing sponsors and charitable partners, and access to various events, including casting opportunities, movie premiers, screenings, Broadway shows, and launch parties.
The beauty queen from Oas, Albay in Bicol said that she is excited to travel to New York to commence her reign.
“I’m so excited! I have so many Broadway shows that I love to see. And it would be awesome to experience autumn and winter,” says Gray.
Gray said she also wants to see the world during her reign. “I definitely want to visit Indonesia. I’ve never ever been… And also I want to visit Europe. I’ve never been to Europe.”
Gray said she still could not tell where she will celebrate the holidays next week. But she said she wants to be with her family and friends. “I want to see my family and my team because I won’t be able to achieve this without them.”
Before she leaves for Manila and New York, Gray said that she wants to try green mangoes and Thai milk tea.
“I’ve been craving the green mangoes from the street vendors and also the Thai milk tea. I hope I can have some as Miss Universe,” added Gray.
“As Miss Universe, I would like to expand my platform on education and HIV/AIDS in the Philippines. It’s something that I am passionate about because few years ago, I lost a friend from complications on HIV. I want to pursue public HIV testing. Other than that I want to promote education for the youth in impoverished areas. And of course, I will promote other causes that come my way,” the beauty queen added.
Some members of Team Catriona include fashion designer Mak Tumang, shoe designer Jojo Bragais, mentor Carlos Buendia Jr., casting director Harley Tan, and stylists Ton Lao and Brent Sales.
Advocate of PH tourism
Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat thanked Gray and praised her for being a “passionate advocate of Philippine tourism.”
Puyat expressed the entire tourism department’s appreciation for Gray’s passion in showing the Filipino culture and tourism throughout the Miss Universe competition.
“Throughout the Miss Universe competition, Miss Gray evoked the Filipino people’s essential attributes of friendliness, cheerfulness, hospitality and kindness when she was around the representatives of different nations,” Puyat said in a statement late Monday.
Puyat said that while preparing for the international pageant, Gray took time to do a series of video clips promoting some of the country’s unique and fascinating destinations and diverse cultures such as the Luzon’s Rizal Park and world-renowned El Nido, Palawan; the resilience of the Visayan people, particularly in Tacloban City; and Mindanao’s multi-faceted South Cotabato.
“A passionate advocate of Philippine tourism and a partner of the Department of Tourism in and out of the Miss Universe stage, Miss Gray has raised our flag through her words and actions,” Puyat said.
“She has single-handedly led more people all over the world to discover that, indeed, it is more fun in the Philippines,” she added. (With a report from Betheena Kae Unite)