MANILA, Philippines – Both high-security and humble visitors come and go at the Quezon City Executive House, where the Office of the Vice President has been based since Vice President Leni Robredo took her oath.
But security along 11th Street in New Manila, Quezon City, was a little stricter on Tuesday, February 26 since a decidedly special vistor was dropping by: Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray.
There was no pomp and pageantry for the 24-year-old Fil-Aussie’s visit but you could tell there was excitement in the air. Up front, Robredo’s Chief of Staff Undersecretary Boyet Dy waited to greet Catriona, bouquet of flowers in hand.
Inside, a lot of the OVP staff had already gathered. Two rows of staffers – wearing replicas of the now-iconic Tessera earcuffs that Catriona made popular during her Binibining Pilipinas and Miss Universe stints – stood to welcome the Bicolana beauty.
“The reason why this morning is very special to us, because we all know how hectic your schedule is…this is our opportunity to tell you how proud you make all of us not only because you won the crown, but also because you presented the best of the Filipino,” the Vice President, who also hails from Bicol, said in a short message.
During her quick visit, Robredo announced that her office would be donating a piano to Project Gifted, an organization founded by 4th year medical student Serge Aclan. Through Project Gifted, Aclan organized the Lipa City Youth Orchestra, which also performed during Catriona’s visit.
Robredo said the piano was a gift from the production of Phantom of the Opera.
Robredo also gifted Catriona with a landap woven by a community in Marawi City which her office had been working with.
Catriona herself was wearing a suit from Mindanaoan designer Jearson Demavivas’ Bara-Bangsa Inaul collection. The beauty queen has been noted for showcasing Filipino textile when she competed in Thailand during Miss Universe. She even flew to different parts of the country to better understand the context of the various textiles and to ask permission from some tribes.
The OVP also showed Catriona a “Catriona Robot” – a robot built by students from Dr Yanga College in Bulacan who won 2nd place in a robotics competition. The students – who also sent a video greeting for Catriona – had given the robot as a gift to Robredo when they paid her a visit.
While there was, expectedly, no talk of politics during her quick visit, Robredo made it a point to highlight the similarities in their advocacies – the youth and Philippine textile, among them.
Even before she was a beauty queen, Catriona has been working with Young Focus, an organization that works to make sure children, particularly those in Tondo, have access to early education and care.
Speaking before an eager crowd, Catriona talked about the struggle of trying to make a difference – in the country or in any other person’s life.
“For me…if you just look at your life and assess and see a place that you can [go], yeah I can give back in a small way, that matters. Enough small changes or enough small acts of good will or good things can make a difference when put all together,” she said.
Catriona and her team joined Robredo for a private meeting shortly after the program. The Miss Universe is set to pay courtesy calls before the Senate and the tourism department as well. She had earlier paid a quick courtesy call to President Rodrigo Duterte when she dropped by the Philippines after her win. – Rappler.com