Miss Universe winner Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu poses after being declared winner of the Miss Universe pageant in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, Israel, Dec. 13. — REUTERS/RONEN ZVULUN

HARNAAZ Sandhu, Miss India, won this year’s edition of Miss Universe, becoming the pageant’s 70th winner and the third Indian woman to win the competition.

The 2021 Miss Universe pageant was held in Eilat, Israel on Dec. 12 (Dec. 13 in the Philippines).

Sushmita Sen was the first woman to do so in 1994, winning the tilt in the Philippines. She would return in 2017 to Manila as a judge for the 2016 edition, which was won by Iris Mittenaere from France. Ms. Mittenaere was a judge on this year’s competition along with Filipino actress Marian Rivera and supermodel Adriana Lima, beauty queen Urvashi Rautela, model Lori Harvey, and actresses Adamari Lopez and Rena Sofer.

The Philippines’ bet, Beatrice Luigi Gomez, filled up the final Top 5 slot of the competition, but did not make it to the next stage, when the Top 3 candidates were chosen — namely, Miss India (who won the pageant), Miss Paraguay Nadia Ferreira who became First Runner-Up, and Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane. Ms. Gomez competed among a pool of 80 candidates, surviving eliminations for the Top 16 and Top 10 placements.

Ms. Gomez represented Cebu when she competed for the right to represent the country through the Miss Universe Philippines pageant held in September. She made history as the first openly out member of the LGBTQIA+ community to win the Miss Universe Philippines crown.

During Miss Universe Top 5’s Q&A portion, Ms. Gomez was asked her opinion on mandating universal vaccine passports.

“I believe that public health is everyone’s responsibility and to mandate vaccine and inoculation is necessary. And if mandating vaccine passport would help us in regulating and the roll outs of vaccine and mitigate the situation of the pandemic today, I would agree on mandating the necessary passport of vaccination,” she said.

On Monday, the Malacañang released a statement on commending Ms. Gomez for her participation.

“The Palace commends Miss Philippines Beatrice Luigi Gomez for bringing joy to our people and honor to our country at the 70th Miss Universe competition in Israel,” the statement said.

“A member of our armed forces, an athlete, and a youth advocate, Ms. Gomez is an inspiring figure whose participation in Miss Universe allowed the world to see what we in the country witness every day: the strength, grace, and beauty of the Filipino woman. We wish Beatrice all the best in her future plans and undertakings. We are all proud of you.”

Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona Robredo wrote on Twitter: “Truly proud of our dear Beatrice Luigi Gomez, who showed the Universe the fierce heart and grace of the Filipina! Maraming salamat (thank you), Bea, for representing us well. You are an inspiration to us as you break barriers with your strength, courage, and compassion. Mabuhay ka!” — MAPS and JLG