Miss Makati wins Miss Universe Philippines

MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES 2022 Celeste Cortesi (L) and reigning Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel crown Michelle Marquez Dee as the new Miss Universe Philippines 2023 during the grand coronation night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on May 13, 2023. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

BEAUTY QUEEN blood pumps through the veins of the new Miss Universe Philippines, Michelle Marquez Dee, daughter of former Miss International Melanie Marquez and Derek Dee, of the Dee banking family.

Ms. Dee will compete at the Miss Universe 2023 pageant, to be held in El Salvador.

She was crowned at the SM Mall of Asia Arena last Saturday, besting 37 other contestants from all over the Philippines. Ms. Dee was representing the city of Makati.

Christine Opiaza representing Zambales and Mary Angelique Manto of Pampanga were named First Runner-Up and Second Runner-Up respectively.

The beauty pageant — hosted by actors Alden Richards and Xian Lim ” had a bit of a problem with tallying votes. After the swimsuit round, the Top 10 candidates had been announced, but due to “technical issues” announced by Mr. Lim, the Top 18 candidates were all given the opportunity to compete in the Evening Gown round.

“Due to technical issues, we resulted to manual tallying, which means our Top 18 candidates will go through evening gown and compete for the Top 5,” said Mr. Lim.

NO NEWBIEMiss Dee is no pageant newbie, having been a candidate for Miss World in 2019, placing in the Top 12, as well as Miss Universe Philippines Tourism last year.

Ms. Dee also won Best in Evening Gown at this year’s pageant. Ms. Dee wore a black dress with a silver strap by designer Mark Bumgarner. In an Instagram post from Mr. Bumgarner, he noted, “It was so simple that Michelle was able to shine, and not the dress outshining her.”

At the preliminary competition held on Wednesday at Okada Manila, she was named Miss Aqua Boracay, Miss Pond’s, and Miss Zion Philippines.

A special guest at the gala that immediately followed the preliminary competition was reigning Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel, who is of part-Filipino descent. During a speech she said, “I feel quite lucky to be Filipina because I would say we are one of the best countries that actively put our all into pageants. The Filipino people have given me so much support as I trained.

“Pageantry has changed my life like no other. It has really pushed me to the highest, truest form of myself. I know that these girls all have their own unique journey and are doing just that,” she said.

Q&ADuring the primary question-and-answer round, Ms. Dee was asked, “Income inequality is still high in the Philippines. The gap between the rich and the poor remains. How do we close that gap?”

She answered: “I think first, we have to recognize what we have and the privileges that we have, such as food, education, and homes. I think the best way to address this is really through education because education holds no status quo, and every Filipino child has the right to an education. But not just any education, but quality education. Because I believe if the government can provide this to every Filipino child, then we can not only elevate their quality of life, but we can empower them as well.”

After the Top 5 candidates were announced, they had to answer the same question in the final question-and-answer round: “Recently, the Department of Tourism has adopted a new branding campaign: ‘We give the world our best.’ For you, what is the best that we could offer to the rest of the world? Why do you consider it so?”

Ms. Dee said, “The Philippines is home to very beautiful natural resources. From the beaches, to the mountains. But I firmly believe that the best natural resource that the Philippines has is us Filipinos. We are the true heart and soul of the Philippines, with the way we are hospitable, with the warm smiles, and we are the reason why the world keeps coming back for more. No matter where the universe takes me, I will always be proud to call the Philippines my home. No matter what happens, I will always be proud to call myself Pinoy.” — J.L. Garcia