The Philippines welcomes home their beauty queen
Filipinos throng the streets of Manila to welcome home their new Miss Universe
Confetti rained down as tens of thousands of shrieking people paralysed traffic in the Philippine capital on Monday to welcome home the newly crowned Miss Universe, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach.
The 26-year-old model looked regal in a flowing blue-green gown. She waved the Philippine flag while perched on a float designed in the shape of the competition winner's diamond and sapphire crown that she was wearing.
The crowd of adoring admirers, many of whom had stepped out of their offices and schools, jammed Manila's streets and snapped photos of Miss Wurtzbach, who is the third Filipina to win the Miss Universe title.
Many others screamed and waved at Miss Wurtzbach from the windows of their high-rise offices as busloads of policemen were deployed to secure the homecoming parade.
"Pia's victory in Miss Universe made us proud to be Filipino," said 37-year-old housewife Celia Nobleza, who watched the parade as she carried her year-old daughter.
"My dream is for her to become Miss Universe some day. It will surely open many doors for her."
Beauty pageants are very popular in the nation of 100 million people, who seek heroes partly to lift their spirits from crushing poverty, frequent natural disasters and crippling corruption.
Such frenzied homecoming parades have in recent years been seen only for eight-time world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.
The New York-based Miss Universe pageant is particularly popular in the Philippines.
Miss Wurtzbach said before the parade: "I hope I can be an inspiration to all of you, not to give up and to always keep studying and respect your parents and treat each other fairly."
One of her fans, Mr Miguelito Herrera, 47, travelled four hours by bus from Cabanatuan City, to join Monday's parade.
He said his love of beauty pageants helped him overcome depression after he was laid off from his job as a soda salesman in 2003, and after his mother died from heatstroke in 2013.
"When I see beauty queens, the feeling is so uplifting. It's like we can endure so much, so many problems. They inspire a lot of people," Mr Herrera, who was wearing a shirt with Miss Wurtzbach's picture, told AFP.