2018 Miss Universe Catriona Gray with BPCI chair Stella Marquez-Araneta, her Binibini sisters including 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup, Ariella Arida, MJ Lastimosa, Maxine Medina and Rachel Peters, as well as Maymay Entrata...
Catriona reunites with Bb. queens
Celso de Guzman Caparas, Catherine Talavera, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Miss Universe Catriona Gray showcased her iconic “lava walk” wearing Mak Tumang’s red lava gown during the Raise Your Flag homecoming tribute special at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Feb. 24.

Joining Catriona in a fashion spectacle were her Binibini sisters including 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup, Ariella Arida, MJ Lastimosa, Maxine Medina, Rachel Peters, Michele Gumabao, Jehza Huelar, Vickie Rushton, Samantha Bernardo and Maymay Entrata (touted to play Catriona in a Maalaala Mo Kaya episode). The beauties wore ensembles made of indigenous fabrics by local designers, inspired from the wardrobe Catriona donned during the Miss U competition in Bangkok.

The big surprise of the night was the appearance of Catriona’s parents, Ian and Normita, on stage whom she thought to be still in Toronto, Canada. Catriona was teary-eyed upon seeing them and said that they have supported her 110 percent on all her endeavors.

...with 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach... — Photo from Pia’s Facebook page

When asked by host Boy Abunda on what she would miss about the Philippines, Catriona replied, “I will miss my friends, my family, my comfort food — halo-halo, turon, sinigang and of course, the weather! I am really used to tropical temperatures because in New York, it is very cold.”

Another highlight of the show was the tribute given by some kids of Young Focus who gave Catriona red roses. The Tondo-based NGO is the advocacy dearest to Catriona’s heart. In 2017, she helped in raising funds for the acquisition of a rundown building in Tondo which was renovated and later converted into a child care center for the underprivileged children of Smokey Mountain.

Catriona acknowledged all the men and women behind her journey, thanking each of them profusely, from her parents, the Aranetas, her Bb. Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI) family, fashion designers, glam team to the media and supporters.

Vice Ganda provided comic relief when she engaged Catriona in a one-on-one.

...with some kids of the Tondo-based NGO Young Focus... — Photos by Bruce Cassanova of Bb. Pilipinas

Gracing the event were Araneta group CEO, chairman and president Jorge Araneta and his wife, Stella Marquez-Araneta, BPCI chair. Also present were former Bb. Pilipinas queens Chiqui Brosas, Jenette Fernando-Dizon, Alma Concepcion, Patricia Fernandez, Bianca Manalo and ABS-CBN COO Cory Vidanes.

Providing entertainment numbers were Bamboo, Jed Madela, Morisette Amon, TNT Boys, the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra and KZ Tandingan, who sang Raise Your Flag at the conclusion of the event. It will be telecast on ABS-CBN on March 10.

Meanwhile, Catriona is being eyed by Department of Tourism (DOT) as a tourism ambassador.

“We want her to be our tourism ambassador. According to the President (Duterte), he really wants her to be a tourism ambassador,” Tourism Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told reporters during Catriona’s courtesy call at the DOT head office on Tuesday.

For her part, Catriona said she could help further promote the country with her reign. “Promoting the Philippines is something I am very passionate about because I feel like if people will see what we have to offer, the level of interest will spike,” she said.

...and with her parents, Normita and Ian.

 The Senate also honored Catriona by presenting a resolution that cited not only her looks and charm but also her wit, wisdom and positive outlook in answering questions from Miss U judges based on her experience as a volunteer teacher to poor kids in Tondo.

“It gives me great joy to see the joy that I brought to our nation,” she said in thanking the Senate for the citation during a courtesy call also last Tuesday.

She also asked the senators for continued support in empowering young Filipinos like her to give back to their community in their own ways.

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