Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 May 2020

Learning Tagalog and championing Filipino culture: How Catriona Gray is spending her time at home

The former Miss Universe is shining a spotlight on her fellow Filipinos as part of a new online series

Former Miss Universe Catriona Gray has been brushing up on her Tagalog while in lockdown. Catriona Gray / Instagram
Former Miss Universe Catriona Gray has been brushing up on her Tagalog while in lockdown. Catriona Gray / Instagram

Like much of the world's population, Catriona Gray is spending a lot more time at home these days.

And the former Miss Universe is using that time to champion the culture of her home country.

The beauty queen, who won the global pageant in 2018, is using her social media to spread stories of fellow Filipinos, as part of her new role.

Gray, who is now an art ambassador for the Philippine National Commission of Culture and the Arts, debuted a new series on Instagram on Sunday, entitled Raise the Flag, that shines a spotlight on the country's provinces.

In the first episode, the Australian-Filipino star travelled to La Union, on the island of Luzon, where she met women breaking moulds in their chosen fields.

"I feel that there's no better way to learn and appreciate than through the sharing of stories," Gray, 26, captioned the almost-10-minute video. "Join me as I discover and rediscover the local beauty, culture and sights of our diverse and unique country."

The model and philanthropist visited a weaving centre in Bangar, where she met with women who have dedicated their careers to creating hand-crafted cloths.

"I've always had a passion for showcasing what the Philippines has to offer, and just really learn more about our Filipino culture," says Gray, who notes that there's "so much more" than beautiful beaches to the coastal province.

"[I've been] able to experience the weaving centres and see how it gives livelihoods, especially to Filipino mothers who use that income to give their children an education."

The model, who handed over her Miss Universe crown to South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi in December, also visited an event for Smile Train, a non-profit charity that provides free corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates.

"It's very fulfilling, knowing that this is not only a trip about celebration, but we’re doing outreach in a way that is actually helping our country’s children," said Gray, who became an ambassador for Smile Train earlier this year. While in the province, the organisation was able to give 40 children free corrective surgery, she added.

Gray also met female surfers in San Juan, who she noted are "breaking the stereotypical perception that only men are at the forefront of the sport", as well as attended a beauty pageant in La Union.

"So many different perceptions are put on us as women about what we’re capable of," Gray told the hopeful participants. "Uplift another young girl who may be looking up to you, I hope you carry that with you."

She has also recently released a cover of John Lennon's Imagine in a dedication to the country's frontline workers:

While at home, Gray has been furthering her knowledge of Filipino culture by taking language lessons online, she revealed in a social media post on Sunday.

"Can you guys recommend any good reads or online courses? Am currently undertaking an online course, as well as my Tagalog lessons online and reading," she wrote to her 9.4 million Instagram followers.

"I just finished Educated by Tara Westover and loved it and am taking a course on improving memory and comprehension for faster learning."

Gray spent her childhood in Australia, with her Scottish-Australian father and Filipina mother, and moved to the Philippines in her late teens.

Updated: April 27, 2020 10:15 AM



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