Miss Universe Catriona Gray (center) is joined by Consul General Claro Cristobal, Consul Arman Talbo and Filipino-American media prior to her meet and greet with the Fil-Am community. (AJPress Photos by Troi Santos)

BEFORE going to the Philippines for her big homecoming, Miss Universe Catriona Gray spent an unusually warm winter afternoon with fellow Filipinos for a meet and greet at the Philippine Center hosted by the Philippine Consulate General New York.

The new Miss Universe will have her grand homecoming in Manila this month. She said she is excited to go home to meet her fans and loved ones.

Gray on Monday afternoon said that just being in the consulate is already like taking a trip back to the Philippines and reminisced when she was at the Philippine Center for the first time in 2016 a few days proceeding to the Miss World finals in Washington, DC.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone for being here today. I feel like I’ve taken a step back home in the Philippines seeing you all,” Gray said as she thanked the roomful of Filipino community leaders from the various states in the northeast who attended the event. “I am a little homesick but I am going back for my homecoming mid February and I’m very, very excited.”

Consul General Claro Cristobal and Consul Arman Talbo joined Gray at the presscon prior to her meeting the community.

“It has been a wonderful two months so far and I am really excited to go home and see everyone for the homecoming,” Gray added. According to press announcements, Gray will have a grand homecoming on February 21 and 23 in Manila.

“As I said earlier in the room next door, it makes me feel like I’ve taken a little bit of a trip home to the Philippines. Seeing all of your faces so many kababayans dito— Thank you so much po for being here,” she said, addressing the capacity crowd.

Dr. Aida Navidad Rivera and a group came all the way from Philadelphia to attend the meet and greet with the Filipina Miss Universe.

“Miss Catriona Gray is politely beautiful. She is beauty and brains, well spoken and engaging,” Dr. Aida Navidad Rivera said. “The Miss Universe title rightfully belongs to her.”

“The event was of mutual expression of appreciation of who we are as Filipinos in the diaspora,” Rivera added.

Miss Universe Catriona Gray is all smiles as she stepped out of the Philippine Center in New York. She will be busy in the next few days attending New York Fashion Week.

For another community leader, it was a pleasant opportunity to see Gray again, after meeting her back in 2016.

“And she has blossomed so beautifully and oozing with confidence at that. She carries and embraces the Miss Universe crown so professionally,” said Joji Jalandoni. “It is a perfect vehicle to benefit her cause which is promoting education and increasing awareness of HIV in the Philippines.”

Yet another group from Tom’s River, New Jersey is thankful to the consulate for the chance to meet the Miss Universe and have their photo taken with them.

“Catriona is a very special lady in her own way, she is very beautiful inside and out, always smiling and (she) looks happy,” said Joji Ortega Babuschak. “I admired her more when she talked about her advocacy, I wish I can raise some money to support her mission to help our less fortunate children back home and folks who have HIV.”

Promoting Filipino fabrics

Gray was known to wear Filipino designed gowns using local textiles and fabrics during her time as a candidate for Binibining Pilipinas and again at the Miss Universe competition in Bangkok.

At the consulate event, she wore a full hand-embroidered modern Filipiniana and Victorian inspired barong designed by Orias Studios.

“I’ve fallen in love with our Filipino textiles and fabrics. As a Miss Philippines, yes I wore the sash but if I were to remove the sash, I wanted to look like a Miss Philippines,” she said, explaining why she collaborated with Filipino designers for her gowns and accessories.

“We have amazing Filipino designers and our textiles are unique to us, they’re nowhere else in the world. If I could just share that in a way, I know it doesn’t encapsulate the whole of our culture, but it is a small aspect that I feel like, specially my age group would really sit up and pay attention,” Gray added.

Responding to a question about how she sees herself in five years, Gray rattled off a couple of items in her list, including a possible career in music and business.

“I would love to have my own business, but with a livelihood program. I have this love developed for our fabrics and textiles and I would love to have a business reflect that,” she said.  

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