Now, it’s time for me to discuss the winner of this pageant and evaluate if it was a well-earned victory.
MISS WORLD PHILIPPINES 2016: CANDIDATE NO. 13 – Catriona Elisa Gray. If you speak to an Irish person, they would declare that “Catriona” should be pronounced exactly as the way you pronounce “Katrina”. And there is an active celebrity who pronounces it as such, Outlander star Catriona Balfe. But we have to forgive this lady for pronouncing her own name the “wrong” way, with the “o” as an additional syllable, as one have to note that her father is Australian (though perhaps of Irish extraction), and one must understand that Australians and Filipinos are not familiar at all with those peculiar Irish spellings, so it’s obvious they will constantly mispronounce her lovely name.
Anyway, from the time she signed up to prepare for this pageant, many fans and pundits have declared that she’s a lock to win the right to represent our country at Miss World in December. With her statuesque 5’10” height and her features that at several angles resemble the beloved Miss World 2013 Megan Young, it indeed looked to be a total cinch. But unlike when Megan competed in her national pageant, this model/singer dominated the lion’s share of the special awards. leaving very little room for the others (turns out only Sandra Lemonon) to win something. Her status as a favorite was very obvious, but is it overkill?
Well, let’s face it–you can’t miss her from the crowd of 24 contenders as she towers over them, and possesses the prettiest face of them all. But on top of all that, she exuded such a regal, serene, and elegant presence onstage both in swimsuit and evening gown that clearly no one else can quite compare. Admittedly her wine-colored satin gown was a very simple construction, and Nick Verreos found it a bit “mumsy” (and objected the use of nude-colored heels underneath the gown), but Catriona elevated this number with her refined catwalk and sublime stage presence.
So one might assume–she can’t have it all can’t she? Well, turns out not only she delivers on the looks and stage presence, she delivered the best answer in the Top 12 Q&A round, and the best speech in the Final Five. For the Top 12 Q&A, she was asked “When you get up in the morning and look in the mirror, what do you see?” She gave this well-composed answer: “I see someone who is constantly trying to be better. I always endure to be always better than the day before, to do things that challenge me, to do things outside the box. And something fulfilling that I have found is when I look in the mirror I want to see someone who gives back to the community, and that is someone who I achieve to be every single day.” Her Final Five speech is a picture of poetic eloquence–I guess it’s the Irish-Australian in her that brought this out: “To be a Miss World is to be passed a torch that burns with passion and purpose. If I am to become MIss World Philippines, I will dedicate my voice and essence to carry that torch and to set charitable causes alight, such as my personal advocacy, the Paraiso Bright Beginnings Project. And I would focus on passing on this torch to empower others because I believe together there is no darkness in this world that our light cannot overcome.”
Assuming that this pageant will employ the challenge points system they have implemented since 2011, Catriona will have the Top Model, Multimedia, and Beauty with the Purpose down pat. But she also won the talent award in this contest–how does it hold up to what typically would be a relatively high caliber of talent? Turns out, she’s one of our strongest talent contenders since Quenerich Rehman’s beatboxing feat four years ago. It turns out her singing voice has this rich, distinctive mezzo-soprano-to-alto tone that works well covering songs by Adele (like “When We Were Young” from 25, as shown as this was her performance piece in the talent competition) or Rihanna’s ballad “Stay”, or Patti Smith’s classic Bruce Springsteen-written song “Because the Night” (though most later generations would think of this as a 10,000 Maniacs song), or repertoire from the late Eva Cassidy (particularly her cover of Sting’s “Fields of Gold”). Noticing that her speaking voice sounds higher than her singing voice, I have a feeling if she challenges herself further, she can probably also do Sia. I foresee her being shortlisted in talent and highlighted in their traditional talent show.
A final observation is that unlike in previous editions, after the coronation, we observed how the contestants spontaneously went into a group hug congratulating the victors. It was a welcome sight as it showed there was genuine camaraderie that developed among the candidates. I suppose it probably was a good thing that a certain camp was absent, as their presence (and focus solely on competitive winning instead of holistic aspects) may have ruined the spirit of sisterhood that this pageant aimed to espouse. I’m looking forward to see how this will all unfold in Washington D.C. in December. All the best for Catriona!