Catriona Gray's national costume up for public viewing on Rizal Day

MANILA, Philippines – Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray's national costume will be displayed for public viewing at the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) on December 30, Rizal Day, according to NHCP Chairman Rene Escalante.

The piece caught the interest of the NHCP for the many cultural and historical references in its design.

The costume pays tribute to the 3 major island groups in the Philippines: a Pintados bodysuit to represent the Visayas, beaded accessories and shoes to represent Mindanao, and a giant parol to represent Luzon.

At the same time, it depicts important events in Philippine history with a mural on the flip side of the parol. Bordering the parol piece, it bears the words of the Philippine national anthem, written in Baybayin.

According to Catriona's mentor Carlos Buendia, every element in the costume's design was carefully considered. Catriona and designer Jearson Demavivas personally sought permission from the various people whose indigenous patterns and designs were included in the costume.

He also said that Catriona did not mind wearing such a heavy costume (the parol alone weighed 50 kilos, while the rest of the ensemble weighed a little over 10 kilos) because she was bent on showcasing Filipino culture. 

"She had no concerns about difficulty, but her concern is how to showcase the culture," Buendia said.

This is the first time the NHCP is exhibiting a national costume from a beauty pageant, at least as far as Escalante knows. 

He said they took particular interest in this ensemble because it is "really one-of-a-kind." He added that the costume is one of the many ways that historical knowledge is shared.

"Ang kagandahan po nito, hindi lang Pilipino ang audience. Alam naman po siguro natin kung ilang bilyon ang nanonood ng beauty pageant na ito," Escalante said at the official launch of the Philippine Quincentennial Commemorations on Friday, December 21.

(The beauty of this is, the audience was not just Filipinos. We know the pageant was watched by billions.)

He went on to thank Catriona for helping the commission "in promoting Philippine history in a simple yet very effective way."

Escalante said they are also proposing that the piece be displayed in museums outside of Manila. He mentioned the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite, the Museum of Political History in Malolos, Bulacan, and the Pamintuan Mansion in Pampanga.

For Catriona, having the costume displayed by the NHCP is "mission accomplished."

Buendia shared that they experienced technical difficulties during the national costume competition at Miss Universe 2018 – the parol did not light up as it was meant to onstage, and the runway was carpeted, making it difficult for Catriona to wheel the parol along behind her. (IN PHOTOS: Catriona Gray's Miss Universe 2018 national costume)

"No'ng una nasasad siya na 'di umilaw, tapos binabash siya na actually may mga nagsabi pa nga na nagkalat daw siya sa stage. Malungkot siya. Pero no'ng nagpadala ang NHCP ng letter, nawala lahat 'yun. Sabi nga niya, silver lining, ang exact words niya, 'Now I know why it happened,'" Buendia shared.

(At first she was sad that the parol didn't light up, and she was bashed, actually some were saying that she made a mess on stage. She was sad. But when the NHCP sent the letter, that all went away. She said, silver lining, her exact words were, "Now I know why it happened.")

Indeed the costume is generating a lot of interest, not only among pageant fans or historians, but also among students who are curious about what it means – which may have been Catriona's mission in the first place.

Buendia said they've been getting messages from elementary and high school students, asking questions about the patterns and designs on the costume, and they've been taking the opportunity to explain what it all means.

"Nagcreate siya ng (It created) national consciousness," Buendia added. "Cat said, 'I don't want this to become a trend only, I want this to be a national movement.'" – Rappler.com

Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.

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