May 24, 2024

Miss Universe Philippines 2023 Benguet candidate Joemay Leo took home the first runner-up plum in the national costume competition at the Leyte Normal University in Tacloban City on May 4.

Leo of Tuba, Benguet proudly showed off her Adivay Festival-inspired costume, a nod to her provincial roots featuring its primary agricultural products. 

Upon entering the stage, Leo came out enclosed within a kayabang but when she opened her arms, it revealed a headdress of flowers, vegetables, and strawberries and flowing sleeves showing hand painted Igorot ensemble of gong dancers.

When she folded her arms, the other side of the sleeves showed a colorful hand paint of the vegetable terraces and strawberries, which are the premiere products of Benguet.

Her ensemble was crafted by local designer Lhee Wel Tokia with the help of local artists Joel Rullan and Julian Sison with the creative team of Leo headed by his younger brother, Joseph.

Eastern Samar’s Airissh Ramos took the top spot while Southern Leyte’s Kimberly Escartin placed third among the 38 delegates.

“These delegates and their designers captured the essence of honoring Philippine agriculture in such a creative and beautiful way,” the organizers said.

The national costume competition is with the theme, ani or harvest where the different candidates took inspiration in the country’s rich agriculture.

MUPH bet Krishnah Marie Gravidez bagged the Tingog ng Filipina for Luzon plum while Eastern Samar’s Airissh Ramos was hailed for Visayas, and Agusan del Norte’s Jannarie Zarzoso was hailed for Mindanao in the same special awards.  

The awards, handpicked by representatives of the Eastern Visayas region and Tingog party-list, exemplify the beauty, values, and smarts that a modern and empowered Filipino women must possess to inspire others.

The coronation night of Miss Universe Philippines will be on May 13 at the Mall of Asia Arena, with Celeste Cortesi crowning her successor. 

It is the first edition of the Miss Universe pageant that  allows mothers and wives to be part of the competition. Leo, who has a two-year old child, is the only mother that made it as an official candidate in the beauty pageant that promises to be more inclusive of women regardless of marital status. – Ofelia C. Empian