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.”


Suspected extremists kill 10 Mali soldiers: security source

Updated 43 min 53 sec ago
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Suspected extremists kill 10 Mali soldiers: security source

  • Malian source said a camp in Guire town was attacked
  • A local resident said he heard gunfire in the area

BAMAKO, Mali: At least 10 Malian soldiers died Sunday in an attack by suspected jihadists in the center of the African country, a security source told AFP.

“There are at least 10 dead soliders,” the Malian source said. “Yes our camp at Guire was attacked on Sunday about five in the morning.”

“The terrorists came out of the forest. They were on motorcycles and pick-up trucks. They burnt vehicles and took away others,” said the source, who asked not to be named.

The Mali armed forces confirmed the attack on Twitter and said reinforcements were being sent to the Nara sector, about 370 kilometers north of the capital Bamako.

A local resident contacted by AFP said there was heavy gunfire and the military “were taken by surprise” in the attack.

“I saw two terrorists put their motorcycles in an army vehicle and drive off with it,” he said.

On Saturday a UN peacekeeper was killed and four others wounded when a mine exploded as their convoy passed through central Mali, the latest in continued violence.

The UN mission was established in Mali after radical militias seized the north of the country in 2012 before being pushed back by French troops in 2013.

A peace agreement signed in 2015 by the Bamako government and armed groups was aimed at restoring stability. But the accord has failed to stop the violence.

The latest attacks come as President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita pursued consultations to pick a new prime minister — two days after the previous one, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, resigned with his entire cabinet, under fire from the ruling and opposition parties for failing to clamp down on the unrest.