Miss Universe, Balangiga bells

"Miss Gray has many shades."



Catriona Elisa Magnayon Gray will be the best ever Miss Universe in the pageant’s 66-year history.

Classy, elegant, truly talented, and with fast-clipped English, Gray rebrands and revitalizes the Miss Universe brand (after Donald Trump) and brings to the world stage the Philippines’ Albay province as a brand for being the home of climate change resilience, world-class beauty queens, infra modernization, volcano tourism, and first class human capital where every home has a college graduate, thanks to its longtime governor, Congressman Joey Salceda.

On Dec. 17, 2018, Catriona Gray, 24, easily outclassed a record 93 other national beauty queens to walk away with the Miss Universe title and give her native Philippines arguably its best Christmas in 30 years.

She was chosen by an all-woman panel. Previously, Gray won the Miss Philippines 2018 title in March 2018 and the Miss World Philippines 2016 crown in October 2016. She was in the Top Five Miss World finalists 2016.

Gray is the fourth Filipina Miss Universe after Gloria Diaz (1969), Margie Moran (1973), and Pia Wurtzbach (2015).

Miss Gray has many shades. She draws and paints, she models and acts, she sings and composes, she is a martial arts black belter, and she teaches 3Rs to the poor kids of Tondo slums.

She is half-Filipino (born in Cairns, Queensland to a Bicolana mother, Normita Raagas Magnayon from Oas, Albay) and half Irish-Australian (her father is Ian Gray).

She received a degree in Music Theory from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts and has a certificate in Outdoor Recreation and a black belt in Choi Kwang-Do martial arts.

After finishing high school in Australia, Gray then moved to Manila where she worked as a commercial model.

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On another front, the Philippines has finally gotten back the three bells of Balangiga, after a lapse of 117 years. Previous presidents, Gloria Arroyo and Fidel V. Ramos, tried to recover the bells seized as war booty by the US army in 1901 to buttress their claim that they, not the Filipinos, won the Battle of Balangiga.

Credit goes to four people—President Duterte, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Babe Romualdez, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and US Defense Secretary James Mattis.

“Give us back those Balangiga bells,” President Duterte said in his second State of the Nation Address  on July 24, 2017.

“They are ours. They belong to the Philippines. They are part of our national heritage,” he declared. “Please return them. Their loss is painful to us,” the President pleaded in Filipino.

Duterte made the demand in the presence of US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, among the dignitaries who attended the SONA.

The Balangiga bells were used as signal for the Filipino freedom fighters to kill 48 of 74 American soldiers who had occupied the town in 1901. It was the worst defeat by the US military in any battle overseas. The battle was marked by deceit and ruthlessness by both sides.

In retaliation, the Americans created a “howling wilderness” resulting in the massacre of thousands of Filipinos, age 10 and above. Wikipedia places the toll at between 2,500 and 50,000 civilians. The massacre was worse than the My Lai Massacre perpetrated by US troops in Vietnam in March 1968. The mastermind of Howling Wilderness, then Col. Jacob Smith, was court-martialed but got away with a little more than a slap on the wrist. He simply was retired. Samar is a province of 600 sq miles.

Here is how Wikipedia describes the epic massacre:

“A sustained and widespread massacre of Filipino civilians followed. Food and trade to Samar were cut off, intended to starve the revolutionaries into submission. Smith’s strategy on Samar involved widespread destruction to force the inhabitants to stop supporting the guerrillas and turn to the Americans from fear and starvation. He used his troops in sweeps of the interior in search for guerrilla bands and in attempts to capture Philippine General Vicente Lukbán, but he did nothing to prevent contact between the guerrillas and the townspeople. American columns marched across the island, destroying homes and shooting people and draft animals.”

“The exact number of Filipino civilians killed by US troops will never be known. Littleton Waller, in a report, stated that over an 11-day period, his men burned 255 dwellings, shot 13 carabaos and killed 39 people  An exhaustive research made by a British writer in the 1990s put the figure at about 2,500 dead; Filipino historians believe it to be around 50,000.”

On Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2018, Babe Romualdez joined US Ambassador Sung Kim and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, together with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, in welcoming the bells when they arrived at Villamor Air Base. The bells were flown home in a US Air Force C-130 plane named “Spirit of MacArthur” that came from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Southeast Asia Joseph Felter and INDO-PACOM Commander Admiral Philip Davidson and Colonel Leo Leibrich of the Pentagon were also in attendance.

On Nov. 14, 2018, Secretary Mattis told the men in uniform in Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, it was time to move on from that dark chapter in 1901. “History teaches us that nations with allies thrive. History also teaches us that all wars end. In returning the bells of Balangiga to our ally and our friend, the Philippines, we’ve picked up our generation’s responsibility to keep the respect between our peoples,” he said.

In his PhilStar column, Ambassador Babe related: “It was certainly opportune that at this significant chapter in the shared history of the United States and the Philippines, the two men at the helm of the Defense portfolios in their respective governments happened to be James Mattis and Delfin Lorenzana. Undoubtedly, the return of the Balangiga bells marks a new era in the relationship between the two nations. As our friend Ambassador Kim said during the handover ceremony in Villamor Air Base, the return of the bells “underscores the enduring friendship between our countries, our shared values, and shared sacrifices.”

Secretary Lorenzana also said, it was a time for “new beginnings, renewed friendships, and a stronger brotherhood.”

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Topics: Catriona Elisa Magnayon Gray , Miss Universe , Gloria Arroyo , Fidel V Ramos , Delfin Lorenzana , Balangiga bells
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