MANILA, Philippines – It's only been hours since their arrival in the Philippines, but Miss New Zealand Tania Dawson and Miss USA Deshauna Barber, candidates at this year's Miss Universe pageant, said they're already feeling the warm welcome from Filipinos.
In a press briefing at Malacañang Palace on Friday, December 9, the two candidates talked about their impressions upon arrival in the Philippines, while Tania spoke about her Filipino roots. They were accompanied by former Ilocos Sur governor Luis Chavit Singson and his daughter, Richelle Singson-Michael, two members of the host committee.
"Well, the first thing that we noticed when we hopped off the plane was the warm welcome that the Filipino people had for us. It’s amazing to hop off the plane and have so many people at the airport ready to see us and their love was really what made this trip amazing," Tania said.
Tania, who is half-Filipino, also said that she and the rest of the ladies are looking forward to the lineup of activities prepared for them – including trips Palawan and Cebu, and eating some of the country's top dishes.
When asked about her Filipino roots, Tania shared that her mom's family members are from Baguio and Pangasinan. She also said this is not her first time in the country.
"So my roots in the Philippines, my mother was born in Baguio City. So she lived in Baguio City through her education and then her father also lives in Pangasinan, Santa Maria, so she’s been in between those two places through her childhood and through teenage-hood when she was in Philippines," Tania said.
"This is not my first time being here either. So this is my third time being in the Philippines. So I have gone back to those roots and met those people and had a good time with them."
Screengrab from YouTube/RTVMalacanang
Deshauna, who is a first-timer in the country, echoed Tania's statements.
" I think Tania covered a lot of what I was going to say. No, but we really were welcomed very, very, very openly. It was around 5 o’clock in the morning when I got here and 2 o’clock in the morning when she got here, so, it’s great to see that you guys are early birds, that you accepted us with open arms. So, we’re just incredibly excited to be here and we look forward to seeing more around the country. "
Screengrab from YuoTube/RTVMalacanang
Deshauna and Tania are among the 10 candidates who are part of a delegation that will participate in the start of the Miss Universe pre-activities, which will start on December 10.
When asked if they've already interacted with Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, Tania said: "I haven’t yet met her, but I’m so excited to be meeting her, and hopefully in this experience while we’re here in the next few days, I’ll get the chance to meet her.
"But from what I’ve heard, she’s an amazing person, from what I’ve seen, she’s an amazing person and she really has embodied what it means to be a Miss Universe."
Deshauna, who is roommates with Pia in their apartment in New York, joked that she's sad that that she won't be able to knock on Pia's door and bother her anymore.
"She's an amazing person. I'm so incredibly excited to know her personally and I think she's just been a wonderful Miss Universe up to this point, and she really represents what the Miss Universe Organization stands for – being confidently beautiful, being humble, and she's the reason why the Miss Universe pageant will be here in January. So she's a wonderful person," she said.
JUST IN: Miss Universe USA and New Zealand candidates here in Malacanang grounds to join press briefing. pic.twitter.com/DtloyDHi6o — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) December 9, 2016
WATCH: Chavit Singson, Miss Universe USA and Miss Universe New Zealand arrive in Malacanang grounds for presscon pic.twitter.com/IS4XJK2DXk — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) December 9, 2016
The two ladies will join other candidates from Korea, Australia, Japan, China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Indonesia in the next few days as they travel around the Philippines. Miss Universe Philippines 2016 Maxine Medina is expected join them. (READ: Miss Universe pageant to kick off in PH with welcome party)
Department of Tourism undersecretary Kat de Castro earlier confirmed in a press briefing that Pia will actively be with the ladies during their stay. She also said they are currently working on a courtesy call with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, December 12 aside from the scheduled visit on January 23. – Rappler.com