Pageant-mad Philippines welcomes home Miss Universe

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray of the Philippines did a homecoming parade. (AFP)
Updated 21 February 2019
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Pageant-mad Philippines welcomes home Miss Universe

  • Beauty pageants are must-view spectacles in the nation of 106 million people
  • Winners are treated like heroines

MANILA: The beauty pageant-mad Philippines welcomed home freshly crowned Miss Universe Catriona Gray on Thursday with a parade through the capital that drew thousands of screeching fans held back by police.
The 25-year-old danced, smiled and waved a tiny Philippine flag from atop a float, shielded from the pounding tropical sun by attendants holding pink umbrellas as some in the crowd scaled utility poles to catch a glimpse.
Manila’s already notorious gridlock was brought to a complete stop by a police motorcycle escort that blocked roads as confetti canons sprayed the crowd, which was pushed back by officers.
“I was overwhelmed when I saw her and she looked at me!” said Ednor Yaunbaes, 22, as he waved a pink flag. “At least I can say that before I die, I already saw a Miss Universe.”
Beauty pageants are must-view spectacles in the nation of 106 million people, and winners of global titles are treated like heroines.
Gray — a student of music theory — beat more than 90 contestants from around the globe in the 67th instalment of Miss Universe, which was held in the Thai capital in December.
Social media exploded with clips of fans jumping for joy and hugging each other as the Filipino contestant went through each successive round and eventually won.
Gray works at a non-government outfit that provides free education for children at a Manila slum and has lent her voice to her country’s most controversial issues, including legalizing medicines that contain marijuana.
Recent pageant success by Filipinos has given a lift to a nation mired in crushing poverty, debilitating corruption and an annual deluge of typhoons, quakes, floods and other natural disasters.
Gray, whose father is Australian, was the fourth Filipino winner of the prestigious beauty pageant, and the second since Pia Wurtzbach in 2015.
“To come back here as Miss Universe 2018, it was such a fast journey. I want to scream!” Gray told reporters on Wednesday.
“It brings me so much pride and honor to be able to bring so much joy to my country of the Philippines.”


Mike Pompeo urges Russia to cease ‘unconstructive behavior’ in Venezuela

Updated 37 min 23 sec ago
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Mike Pompeo urges Russia to cease ‘unconstructive behavior’ in Venezuela

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Russia on Monday the US will not "stand idly by" as Moscow inserts military personnel into Venezuela to support the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.
In a phone call with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Pompeo denounced the growing Russian military reinforcements as prolonging the political crisis in the South American country.
Pompeo told Lavrov that "the United States and regional countries will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela," the State Department said in a statement.
"The continued insertion of Russian military personnel to support the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people who overwhelmingly support interim President Juan Guaido," he said.
Guaido is supported by the United States and most Latin American and European nations but he retains the support of Russia and China, US rivals who have offered political and economic support to him.
Pompeo urged Russia to "cease its unconstructive behavior" and support Guaido.