There was an event years back when Catriona Gray, still the reigning Miss Universe Philippines, was photographed with Miss Universe winners Iris Mittenaere of France (2016), Pia Wurtzbach of the Philippines (2015) and Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa (2017).
That scenario was repeated Saturday night, when the half-Italian Silvia Celeste Rabimb Cortesi, just proclaimed Miss Universe Philippines 2022, proudly posed with Pia, Iris and Demi-Leigh plus the current queen, Harnaaz Sandhu of India.
Unstoppable Bella: Silvia Celeste Cortesi (Photo by Troi Santos/BM)
As her story would have it, Catriona eventually joined that exclusive sisterhood. Will Celeste have a similar destiny?
Consider another parallelism: Before she became a Binibini, Catriona was Miss World Philippines 2016. (The rare feat of winning two prestigious national titles was achieved first by Carlene Aguilar, who was Miss Philippines Earth 2001 before she was crowned Binibining Pilipinas-World 2005.) Celeste, meanwhile, was Miss Earth Philippines 2018 and finished at Top 8 at the international finals.
Celeste was declared the Best in Swimsuit, an award previously won by Rabiya Mateo in 2020 and Beatrice Luigi Gomez in 2021 before both were crowned winners.
Battle of Crossover Queens
Celeste, 24, representing Pasay, bested two other crossover queens: Miss Taguig Maria Katrina Llegado, 24, who was Reina HispanoAmericana Filipinas 2019 and 5th Runner-up at Reina Hispanoamericana 2019, and Miss Makati Michelle Daniela Marquez Dee, 26, who was Miss World Philippines 2019 and Top 12 at the world finals.
Michelle was declared Miss Universe Philippines Tourism while Katrina finished as fourth runner-up. The beautiful Belgian-Boholana Pauline Amelinckx, 26, is the new Miss Universe Philippines Charity, a notch above her third-runner-up finish in 2020. The first runner-up is Misamis Oriental’s Annabelle Mae McDonnell, 21, who is also the reigning Miss Kuyamis.
The third edition’s coronation night used the theme “Uniquely Beautiful” to celebrate Filipina womanhood. It was held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Bay City, Pasay City. The 31 candidates that remained after Miss Benguet’s withdrawal were trimmed to 16, including Aklan’s Jona Sweett, Ilocos Sur’s Jewel Alexandria Palacat, Iloilo City’s Dorothy Marie Gemillan, Laguna’s Sonja Jeyn Tanyag, Nueva Vizcaya’s Gillian Katherine De Mesa and Palawan’s Angelica Lopez.
The Top 10 included Albay’s Julia Eugénie Augustias Saubier, Baguio’s Ghenesis Latugat, Cebu City’s Chantal Elise Legaspi Schmidt, Cebu Province’s Lou Dominique Piczon and Iloilo Province’s Vanessa Ann Caro.
I thought Albay and Cebu City were the most engaging subjects at the Top 10 casual-interview round, and Bohol gave my favorite answer at the final round. Pauline was asked: What is that one life-changing decision that you’ve made, and what was its impact on your life?
“The life-changing decision that I’ve made is to join Miss Universe Philippines again, despite being bashed before for my body, being doubted by people. I found strength in myself. And this story can be a testament for other people to draw strength from, too. That a second chance can be just as sweet, and you can still achieve your ultimate a second time around.”
Universal Queens: Newly crowned Miss Universe Philippines Silvia Ceeste Cortesi is surrounded by Iris Mittenaere of France (2016), Harnaaz Sandhu of India (2021), Demi-Leigh Tebow of South Africa (2017) and Pia Wurtzbach of the Philippines (2015). (Miss Universe Facebook)
However, it was Celeste’s sincere reply that clinched her the Jewelmer crown named “La Mer en Majesté,” or “The Sea in Majesty” made of South Sea pearls. She was asked: If you could stop time for a day, how would you spend it?
“If I could stop time, I would spend it with my family, especially my mother. It’s been two years since I haven’t spent time with my family because they live in Italy, and I came here in the Philippines just by myself. If I had a chance to spend one day, I would definitely be with my mom, and I would just tell her how much I love her and I miss her. ”
Mabuhay ang Malikhaing Pinoy!
Special disclosure: I got my invitation to watch “the most beautiful night in the Philippines” because of Albert Andrada, the MUP head of designers who famously designed Pia’s national costume and coronation gown.
It was as much a night of beauty and glamour as it was a showcase of creativity of the Filipino designers. It is the advocacy of MUPh national director Shamcey Supsup Lee, who is running for Congress under the Arte party-list, to uplift the neglected design, manufacturing and textile industries.
Serving as hosts, Pia wore splendid designs by Gladi Echavarre and Atsuko Kudo, Louis Pangilinan, Jaggy Glarino, and Mark Bumgarner while Iris wore a tantalizing Michael Cinco terno dress. As a judge, Harnaaz was ravishing in a Mark Bumgarner.
The Best National Costume award went to Albay’s Julia Saubier, who wore a “modern take on Haliya, the Bicolana Goddess of Moon, in moonlight blue created by Erjohn de la Serna.
Annabelle was in Jermaine Nabong, Katrina in Pablo Mendez III, and Celeste in a Val Taguba. Michelle in Francis Libiran was adjudged the Best In Gown.
Libiran also created Beatrice Luigi’s androgynous tuxedo in wool brocade during her first appearance, which turned emotional. She will become one of the all-time great beauty queens we’ve ever had. Her message after her Miss Universe 2021 stint still rings heartwarming:
I hope I made you all proud!
This was the best experience in my life!
It’s an honor and a blessing to represent the Philippines and the LGBTQIA+ community, in raising my advocacy and breaking the barriers and stereotypes.
Gihigugma ko ang akong nasud nga Pilipinas and everything I do from this day on will be for you.
I am Beatrice Luigi Gomez.
Your Miss Universe 2021 – Top 5 Finalist
May the celestial beings be as kind to our new queen, Silvia Celeste Cortesi.