ICYDK, Miss Universe Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong has close ties to the Philippines. She was born in the Philippines, lived here for 10 years, and speaks Filipino fluently.
Given that the PH has a place in her heart and identity, Bernadette got Filipinos to design and work on her national costume for the 2020 Miss Universe pageant. You can say that her costume truly embodies who she is. Even as she represents Singapore (and is Singaporean) by wearing Singapore's colors, there's still that Filipino touch and influence in her.
On Instagram, Bernadette identified the people behind her (literal) statement piece. "I reached out to Filipino designer @arwin_meriales04 to create a design of my own and he executed! When he offered to get @kuyapawlo to hand-paint something at the back, I knew straight away that it had to be about the movement revolving around racial spite and prejudice!"
She continued, "Given the slim timeframe, we had to get it sent from the Philippines to Singapore before I flew out to the US, I'd say this is a HUGE win for everyone! We got our message across loud and clear! Thanks for roaring back at us with love and praise!!!"
She ended her post with, "Kudos to Arwin for making this along with two other dresses in preparation for my time in @missuniverse! He was actually juggling his examinations at that time so I really appreciate his undeniably impressive work ethic!"
Yesterday, Arwin Meriales, who is still a student on top of being a fashion designer, celebrated Bernadette for wearing his design. "My piece got into the Miss Universe stage!" He shared, "When Bernadette asked me to make her national costume, I have to be honest, I thought it's not going to work. I only had two days to make it....so I was hesitant to accept it."
He went on, "What made me say yes? It's not just a national costume. It's a STATEMENT and PROTEST to stop Asian hate. Who wouldn't want to be part of such cause."
The hand behind the words "Stop Asian Hate" on Bernadette's cape also belongs to a Filipino student. Paulo Pilapil Espinosa is, according to his IG bio, a "future architect."
Paulo said of Bernadette on Instagram, "Ms. Bernadette is not just a candidate. She's a woman with a mission. It was her idea to make the natcos competition a way to raise awareness for a very relevant cause. I think we can all agree that Bernadette was able to raise the message to the Universe, loud and clear."