Miss Philippines Beatrice Luigi Gomez competed in the Miss Universe national costume segment dressed as a moon-eating dragon, for the first time putting mythology instead of the Maria Clara on the stage of her country's favorite international pageant.
Miss Philippines as Bakunawa has come a long way from the many permutations of the terno and Maria Clara -- sometimes flamenco dancer, at one time a pineapple, and the most infamous of which, as a birthday cake topper, worn like a pro by Mary Jean Lastimosa in 2014.
Gomez carried her Bakunawa costume by Axel Que and Manny Halasan with quiet confidence on stage in Eilat, Israel. The half-eaten moons in the twin dragon heads glowed as they should and on cue. There was none of the malfunctions that beset her predecessors Rabiya Mateo (headpiece too heavy), Gazini Ganados (wing crumpled) and Catriona Gray (giant parol didn't light up).
The 26-year-old Gomez is the first openly gay Miss Philippines to compete at Miss Universe. She also the first to show off an arm tattoo during the evening gown round. She wore a sparkly red asymetrical number with a thigh-high slit by Francis Libiran.
Lastimosa, whose social media wisecracks landed her TV hosting gigs, has openly discussed how she didn't like the costume, designed by Colombian Alfredo Barazza, a good friend of Binibining Pilipinas head Stella Marquez de Araneta.
In a YouTube interview in 2020, Lastimosa said she was so horrified at the sight of the white dress with yellow and pink flowers that she put it back in its box the first time she saw it. Still, Lastimosa modeled the dress for what it's worth (and an equally polarizing evening gown, also by Barraza) to finish in the Top 10 and keep the Philippines' momentum from 2010 and counting.
Lastimosa's Miss Universe campaign also paved the way for her predecessors to finally have a say in what they will wear. There will be no Pia Blue, No Lava Gown for Catriona had Merijin not worked the cake gowns.
Gray literally carried the entire history of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in a gigantic Pampanga Lantern that failed to light up, but still inspired Christmas party memes.
It was portent to her Ibong Adarna preliminary dress and her winning red Mayon Volcano gown -- both designed by Mak Tumang and holy grail to Miss Universe fans.
The 70th edition of Miss Universe, or Miss Universe 2021, is the second to be held during the pandemic. The finals air 8 a.m. Manila Time on Dec. 13.
Mexico's Andrea Meza, the 69th edition/2020 winner was crowned last May and will have the shortest reign at just seven months. Her predecessor, South Africa's Zozibini Tunzi, reigned the longest at 17 months.