WATCH: Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Iris Mittenaere on their PH visit

Alexa Villano
WATCH: Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, Iris Mittenaere on their PH visit
Demi-Leigh and Iris talk about the warm welcome they received since arriving in the country

MANILA, Philippines – They have only been in the Philippines for two days, but Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters and Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere are already filled with many memories of the country.

In an interview with the press at the Jollibee Biopolis branch on Thursday, December 7, Demi-Leigh, who became South Africa’s second Miss Universe title holder in 4 decades, said she was thrilled to be in the country and also spend time with kids from the Kanlungan sa Er-ma, a non-governmental organization for children.

“It’s so amazing and so heartwarming to see all of the people around us….Everyone just wants to feed me and and give us nice things so I think it just [embraces] how wonderful the people, the spirit in the Philippines are. And I think to be able to share the spirit of the holiday and the Christmas season with the kids is just great,” she said.

Demi-Leigh also talked about the advocacies she will push for. Aside from working with groups tied with Miss Universe such as Smile Train, Demi-Leigh said she wants to focus on empowering women and kids. Back in South Afica, she started a program called #Unbreakable, where they teach women how to defend themselves. (READ: Meet Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters)

“I would like to focus on empowering women and children by giving them skills nad knowledge on how to overcome difficult situations and how to prevent difficult situations. I think it’s very important and real problem all over the world today,” she said.

Demi-Leigh also mentioned during a press conference on Wednesday, December 6, that aside from her advocacies, the issue of HIV-AIDS is also a program she wants to be involved in since it continues to be a big problem in South Africa/



Second home for Iris

Iris, who won the title in Manila in January, said that she was fortunate to be back in the country which has a special place in her heart.

“I feel so happy to be here. I was waiting for this moment since almost one year,” she said. “So I feel happy, I feel like a little bit like home.”


“I’m so excited about everything but I want to know more. I want to travel more around the Philippines so that’s why I’m here and I’m very happy.”

Iris has returned to France since crowning Demi-Leigh  in Las Vegas on November 26. She also said that will still be busy with a number of projects but her focus will be to finish her studies. Before she became Miss Universe, Iris was a dentistry student.

“I’m going back to my dentistry in school next September because I really want to finish my studies. So I’m going to try to do everything like Wonder Woman, but I think we can do everything because we’re [a] strong woman, so I’m going to try to finish my studies and continue to work as a model and as a host,” she said.


Prior to their visit to Jollibee on Thursday, Demi-Leigh and Iris also had time to spend with selected fans during a lunch hosted by Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo at Dusit Thani. The visit of the candidates is part of the Bring Home a Friend program, which was relaunched in October. (WATCH: Piolo Pascual performs DOT ‘Bring Home a Friend’ theme song)

FAN MEET. Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, and Miss Universe 2016 Iris Mittenaere talk with Miss Universe fans. Photo from Department of Tourism

MISS U FANS. Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo interact with some Miss Universe fans. Photo from Department of Tourism

The ladies are set to visit 3 locations in the country before flying back to their respective countries. –





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Alexa Villano

Alexa is one of Rappler's Lifestyle and Entertainment reporters, covering local entertainment news to a wide range of topics from beauty pageants to reality shows.