She confidently breezed her way through all four rounds of the world's top beauty pageant to claim the coveted title of Miss Universe, and Catriona Gray's evening gowns told a story as she did so.
Miss Philippines chose a home-grown designer, naturally, to dress her for her standout moment. That designer was Mak Tumang, and he took the opportunity to tell the story of their country’s rich culture through his intricate gowns.
For the semi final, which took place in Bangkok on Friday, Catriona wore a form-fitting, flame-orange tapered gown, delicately beaded to resemble the feathers of the Adarna – the mythical bird of the Philippines.
Explaining his design on Instagram, Tumag said: “The 'Ibong Adarna' is a mythological pulchritudinous bird that could change in several fascinating guises.
"Its enchanting voice can enable complete healing to anyone who hears it. Some artists liken it to the mythological Phoenix where it recurrently regenerates itself by arising amidst a spectacle of flames and candescence.
"This makes it a fitting symbol of resilience, rising and rebirth.
“Catriona has a resilient, tenacious and unwavering spirit. Her voice is truly captivating, literally and figuratively. She uses it to influence, advance her timely causes and both melt and heal hearts. Her willpower and burning passion drive her to make every Filipino proud in whatever she does. She is the blazing Adarna!”
What about her final dress? It was all about lava
The same theme was followed for Catriona’s final dress, which saw her lift the crown. A combination of fiery deep reds, the show-stopping, hand-beaded dress symbolises the Mayon Volcano, found on the island of Luzon.
“The prominent and iconic Mayon Volcano is the penultimate inspiration for this creation,” Tumang explains. “Folk tales have it that it was named after the mythological heroine ‘Daragang Magayon’ (Beautiful Lady).
"Despite its pulchritude [extreme beauty] is the fact that it is the most active volcano in the Philippines, erupting numerous times in the past half a millennium. Catriona can be considered as the modern-day Daragang Magayon. She embodies the Filipina’s beauty, intelligence and burning passion. This lady is definitely on fire.”
Catriona beat 92 other contestants from around the world to take the crown. The honour comes two years after the 24-year-old won the Miss World Philippines title.
South Africa's Tamaryn Green was the runner up, while third place went to Sthefany Gutierrez of Venezuela.