By John Legaspi
Images from Miss Universe Organization
Since Miss Universe 2015, when Pia Wurtzbach wore that Manila Bay-inspired navy blue dress designed by Albert Andrada, local designers have been dressing up Philippine candidates. The international pageant stage has since taken notice of Filipino craftsmanship. We are seeing candidates from all over the globe donning gowns made by Filipino designers. This was particularly the case during the recent Miss Universe 2019 pageant.
Intricate detailing and queen-like silhouettes were the elegant aspects that Filipino designers brought to the preliminary and coronation nights of Miss Universe. During the prelims, Japan’s Ako Kamo looked like a beautiful black widow in a dark romantic dress made by Joel Escober. Bringing on the sparkles were designers Benj Leguiab IV for Marie Esther Bangura of Sierra Leone and Rau Uson Ablaza for Sissie Luo of Guam. Designer Rian Fernandez created an ombre green dress for Somnang Alyna of Cambodia. Joey Galon made a costume for Fionnghuala O’Reilly of Ireland. Dubai-based designer Michael Cinco gave Mariana Valera of Argentina, Mohana Prabha of Singapore, Natalie Ortega of Spain, Fiona Tenuta of Uruguay, and Alyssa Boston of Canada a touch of couture.
The inspiration is the Philippine Eagle soaring over the flawless turquoise seas embracing our archipelago. Despite its mighty ability to rise far beyond the clouds, it could still manage to look down, possibly examining itself on the shiny water.
Flight of the Filipina queens
Philippine muse Gazini Ganados wowed the crowd wearing the designs of fellow Cebuano Cary Santiago. Like a goddess with birds perched on her shoulders, her national costume was a silver number inspired by the national bird of the country, the Philippine Eagle. The dress rightfully earned her the Best National Costume award (yes, Steve Harvey got it right this time). Her evening gown was a gilded mermaid dress integrated with the avian-inspired vision of the designer.
It was a pretty emotional day for Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray as she relinquished her crown to the new Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa. During her final moments as Miss Universe, Catriona gave even more pride to her country by wearing the designs of Mak Tumang.
At the beginning of the show, Catriona wore a dress inspired by the three main regions of the Philippines, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Her final walk dress, the Reflection, was an ode to the “Philippine Eagle mirroring itself on the sea,” as Mak wrote in an Instagram post. “The inspiration is the Philippine Eagle soaring over the flawless turquoise seas embracing our archipelago. Despite its mighty ability to rise far beyond the clouds, it could still manage to look down, possibly examining itself on the shiny water. This display of both might and humility is the call each of us heeds.”
“As a nation, we are to have a steadfast spirit, yet we also need to take a moment to journey within ourselves,” he said. “By doing so, we can mirror the beauty that is within us, mirror what is true and just, mirror the light that illuminates our path. Silay (to mirror) and pagbubulay (to introspect) make up the Filipino nation’s moment of reflection.”