Pageant season moves into high gear as two of the country’s most recognized beauty queens are set to leave for their international competitions.

Miss Universe Philippines Catriona Gray and Binibining Pilipinas Supranational Jehza Huelar, both pageant veterans, are tipped to do well in the Miss Universe pageant in Bangkok, Thailand and the Miss Supranational tilt in Krynica-Zdrój, Poland, respectively. The two were presented to the members of the media and valued sponsors during an exclusive send-off party organized by the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. at the posh Novotel Manila Araneta Center on Monday, November 12.

The two queens will try to build up on the momentum generated by Ma. Ahtisa Manalo’s first runner-up finish at the Miss International pageant in Tokyo last Friday, November 9.

Gray, 24, from Albay province, is a professional model and singer whose foray into pageantry has been one of the most celebrated in recent years. Heralded as one of the early favorites by numerous pundits, the Filipina-Australian stunner will try to win the Philippines’ fourth Miss Universe crown on December 17 (Philippine time).

Known for working with the most established names in fashion and beauty and having strutted even in the revered catwalks of New York Fashion Week, Gray is also active in social causes such as HIV awareness and education through her volunteer work for Love Yourself and Young Focus, respectively.

“The saddest thing is people aren’t getting tested, and there’s treatment out there, and there is a community that’s supportive out there, but a lot of people choose not to because of fear. So if I can shed any light to show either how easy it is to get tested, or to show that there is nothing wrong with living your life with HIV—it’s possible—it should not be looked down upon as a judge of character, then I’ll do it,” Gray said of her involvement with raising HIV awareness.

The last time the Philippines bagged the Miss Universe crown was in 2015 when Pia Wurtzbach ended the country’s four-decade title drought in the pageant.

Just like Wurtzbach, it took the 24-year-old Huelar three tries to bag a national title. Despite failing to win a crown in her first two tries, the Davao City lass was determined more than ever during her third attempt.

Huelar says her inner strength comes from the challenges she had to face even at a young age. Both her parents passed away when she was just 20 years old, a loss which she turned into one of her biggest advantages whether in the pageant or in real life.

“It was the moment I needed to be strong no matter what life throws at me, and I became an independent woman,” Huelar said.

On December 7, Miss Supranational’s 10th anniversary coronation, Huelar will attempt to duplicate the feat achieved by Mutya Datul in 2013.

In attendance at the send-off were Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. Chairperson Mrs. Stella Marquez Araneta, Binibining Pilipinas Grand International Eva Patalinjug, Binibining Pilipinas Intercontinental Karen Gallman, and Miss Globe top 15 finalist Michele Gumabao, who all wished Gray and Huelar good luck for their upcoming pageants.

For more updates, visit www.binibiningpilipinas.com and follow Binibining Pilipinas social media pages: @realbbpilipinas on Facebook and Twitter and @bbpilipinasofficial on Instagram.