The cheers for Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray in Bangkok, Thailand last Monday, December 17, were as loud as that of those in Tondo, Manila, coming from the poor children whom she has been committed to since 2015.
In a report from Inquirer.net, Young Focus International Foundation (YF), one of the focus of the 24-year-old beauty queen’s advocacies, said that while they wished for her to win the pageant, they didn’t expect that she would, indeed, end up as the new Miss Universe.
“I mean, what were the chances, right? There were 94 contestants,” said YF’s director, Paul van Wijgerden.
When I was 13, my mum told me "Honey, I dreamt of you winning @missuniverse in a red dress." At that time I thought nothing of it, and today my mother's dream came true. ✨ Where do I even begin? Lord God, I lift everything up to you - to glorify and honour you. 🙏 Philippines 🇵🇭 what an amazing honor it has been to carry your name across my chest and to embody you in all aspects. I may now carry the sash of Miss Universe, but I'll forever be your Miss Philippines. ❤️💙💛 To my team @carlosbuendiajr @bragaisjojo @mitagray @binibiningnicolecordoves @jololuarca @justine.aliman19 @ton_lao @vheecostyle @francischee_ @styledbypatrickhenry @visionerickson @ardelpresentacion @mackycombe @harleybarleyyy @jellyeugenio @hairbybrentsales @memayfrancisco @mimsqiu @momoisupe @tesserajewelry @maktumang @jearsond @theaiveeclinic @empiredentallounge @jed_jimenez I wouldn't have been able to do any of this with all your time, effort and love 💛 #MissUniverse @missuniverse
Being one of their recognized sponsors, Catriona’s recent victory has also banged the drum for YF. For starters, the e-mails and calls they received jumped from 10 to 15 to “more than 100” from interested sponsors.
“The messages never stopped. We weren’t prepared for it. … And we still do not have any idea how to deal with it.” said Wijgerden.
Looking back three years ago when the new reigning queen first got in touch with them, the director confessed that he was initially wary of Catriona’s intentions for the foundation.
“I was cautious in the beginning. We’ve been used by many celebrities already,” said Wijgerden.
However, Catriona proved herself to be of service to YF more than they expected. The foundation’s program coordinator, Mark Soriano, can vouch for the Filipina-Australian beauty having a heart of gold.
“She’s just a normal girl with a sincere heart. … She’s the celebrity who does not cover her nose when visiting Smokey Mountain. She’s the beauty queen who does not apply rubbing alcohol after visiting the slums. She’s very humble. She has a kind heart. She told me, ‘Win or lose, I will continue helping you’,” said Soriano.
It can be recalled that Catriona’s winning answer in the recently concluded pageant had to do with the work she does with YF. When asked by host Steve Harvey on which life lesson she would apply in her time as Miss Universe, she answered the values she learned from being exposed to the slums of Tondo, where the said foundation is located.
“I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila and the life there is very... it's poor and it's very sad. I've always taught myself to look for the beauty in it, to look in the beauty of the faces of the children and to be grateful. And I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining, and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. And this, I think, if I could teach also people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children will have a smile on their faces. Thank you,” said Catriona.