Focus on the Philippines: Dubai-based Michael Cinco dresses Pia Wurtzbach at Miss Universe

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Dubai-based couturier Michael Cinco, renowned for his exquisitely detailed dresses, created the royal-blue ball gown worn by reigning Miss Universe Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach during this year’s pageant, which was held in Manila on January 30.

Just before presenter Steve Harvey announced that Miss France, Iris Mittenaere, was the winner, Wurtzbach appeared on stage for her final walk as the pageant’s title-holder, to hand over the crown.

Cinco flew from Dubai to Manila this week to personally fit Wurtzbach for the dress.

“The most stunning Miss Universe ever. Pia’s blue ball gown is my personal tribute to my best friend, Albert Andrada, who designed Pia’s winning gown during Miss Universe 2015,” Cinco posted on social media. He also uploaded video clips while doing the fittings with Wurtzbach, as well as recordings of the competition from his front-row seat at the pageant.

Wurtzbach also wore two Michael Cinco creations – including a modernised version of the traditional Filipino formal attire of terno and barong – during the pageant’s preliminary competition last week.

Cinco moved to Dubai in 1997 to work as a dressmaker, and opened his own couture house in 2003. Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Naomi Campbell are among the celebrities who have worn his designs.

Rachelle Ann Go and Christine Allado cast in Hamilton’s West End run

Hamilton, the acclaimed Broadway musical, is coming to London's West End in November – and two Filipinos have been cast in the lead roles.

Pop star and actress Rachelle Ann Go (pictured) will play Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, wife of American founding father, Alexander Hamilton.

It is Go's biggest break so far in a career that started at age 11, when she appeared in a singing contest on the Filipino TV variety programme Eat Bulaga (Lunchtime Surprise). In 2013, she moved to London after being cast in the lead role of Gigi Van Tranh in the hit musical Miss Saigon. She then played Fantine in the West End revival of Les Miserables.

This month, Go moved to New York City to begin rehearsals for the Broadway production of Miss Saigon, where she will reprise her role as Gigi. This will run from March until August, after which Go is expected to return to the Philippines for a few weeks before flying to London to prepare for the opening of Hamilton on November 21.

Hamilton, a musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, received a record-setting 16 nominations at the Tony Awards last year, winning 11. It also won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Since opening in New York in August 2015, the show has been the hottest ticket on Broadway, with tickets fetching between US$1,500 (Dh5,500) and $6,000 on resale websites.

Almost 300,000 tickets have already been sold out for West End performances between November to June 2018. More tickets will be made available later this year.

"Hamilton is a dream. Thank you for your love," Go posted on social media this week. "I woke up crying today because of so much joy."

Filipino performer Christine Allado has also joined Hamilton's cast. She will playPeggy Schuyler (Eliza's sister) and Maria Reynolds (Alexander Hamilton's mistress).

She posted on her Facebook page: “Thankful and excited and so thrilled for this project which I have been a massive fan of and now get to be a part of.”

Allado recently starred in the West End production of In the Heights, Miranda's first musical. She also starred in the London production of Here Lies Love, by Talking Heads singer David Byrne and DJ Fatboy Slim, the acclaimed musical about former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos.

Lav Diaz’s films receive marathon screenings at London gallery

The films of Filipino auteur Lav Diaz are featured in a retrospective exhibition at the London West Gallery. The showcase opened on January 27 and will run until March 12.

The gallery has been transformed into a cinema, which screens the films all day. A series of talks with artists and film scholars is also being held.

Included in the line-up are Batang West Side (West Side Avenue), Heremias, Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon (From What is Before), Death in the Land of Encantos, Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery) and Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left), which won the Golden Lion top prize at the recent Venice International Film Festival and screened in the Cinema of the World section of the Dubai International Film Festival in December 2016.

Diaz, who has directed 27 feature films, is currently based in Boston, Massachusetts, where he will be a fellow at Harvard University until the summer. As part of his fellowship, Diaz plans to write his next film and research for a book on Philippine cinema.