Two Miss Universe hopefuls arrived Manila early Friday morning to lead the pageant's kickoff party a month before its coronation night and expressed eagerness to tour the country's best destinations.
Miss New Zealand Tania Pauline Dawson arrived Manila at 3:20 a.m. on board Philippine Airlines flight PR 219, while Miss United States Deshauna Barber came in at around 4:45 a.m. via PR 103.
Both candidates were welcomed by Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary Katherine de Castro and former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis Chavit Singson, who is President and Chairman of the pageant's private partner, LCS Holdings.
Barber said that her roommate in New York, reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, has told her much about the Philippines already and was excited to explore the country for the first time.
"Pia has told me a lot about what to expect, so I am hoping you guys can still surprise me. This country has been so wonderful to me since my being crowned," Barber said.
"The support that I received from the Philippines has been wonderful, so I am incredibly excited to be here and I look forward to all the festivities," she added.
She also said that she was looking forward to meeting President Rodrigo Duterte to thank him for welcoming the candidates to the Philippines and express appreciation for him allowing the Miss Universe to be held in the country.
Dawson, who is half-Filipino, said that it was great to see how supportive the President was in permitting the country to host the prestigious pageant.
"I think he really sees the value of what Miss Universe means to the people. The Filipino people would love the Miss Universe, and for him to allow it to be held in the country really shows the support for the people. And that's great to see," Dawson said.
A date is yet to be announced but Pres. Duterte has already agreed to receive the first batch of candidates in MalacaAang early next week.
Miss USA, meanwhile, said that she had a chance to speak to American pageant host Steve Harvey who vowed to avoid repeating a gaffe from last year's pageant.
"Steve Harvey will be hosting again. And I had a chance to speak with him when I went on his show. He's gonna do amazing this time, he promised me," Barber said.
De Castro said the candidates will have a busy schedule starting with a press conference in MalacaAang later in the afternoon and scheduled photo shoots in different parts of the Philippines, including Siargao and Cebu.
Both candidates will also be joined by Wurtzbach who arrived in the country a day ahead.
"The girls will be here for a week and as we have announced, we will soon be traveling to the different islands of the country so these girls can get a glimpse, a 'patikim (taste)' of how awesome our country is," De Castro said.
Candidates from Japan, Australia, China, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand are also expected to arrive within the day and Saturday (Dec 10) morning.
Miss Universe Organization (MUO) President Paula Mary Shugart will also be joining them.
The kickoff party will be held on Saturday at the Conrad Hotel in Pasay City as a preview to one of the world's most-watched beauty pageants.
Source: Philippines News Agency