MANILA -- Celeste Cortesi admitted that she thought she had what it takes to win the 71st Miss Universe pageant.
The Filipina-Italian beauty queen failed to make it to the Top 16 of the competition, which came as a shock to many of her fans.
In an interview with Boy Abunda, Cortesi said she believed she can bring home the Philippines' fifth crown if she worked extra hard for it.
"I really put so much hard work, effort, and time into this. I really wanted to win not just for myself, but also for my country," she said.
"Sobrang proud, sobrang hirap para sa akin kasi of course, mataas ang expectations from others [and] also from me. I really thought I got this, all I had to do is work very hard and I will get it," she added.
But in the end, Cortesi accepted the reality that the judges "were looking for something else," and gave herself a pat on the back for her efforts.
She stressed that she is happy for eventual winner R'Bonney Gabriel of the United States, who also happens to be a half-Filipina like her.
"I think R'Bonney deserves to win and we all have to accept that... I always said in my past interviews that Miss Universe is a destiny. And it is her (Gabriel's) destiny, so I'm happy for her," she said.
Cortesi has nothing but gratitude for her family and friends for supporting her as she handled the Miss Universe loss, which she described as "a very difficult time."
"I had friends and family very close to me, especially after the coronation night. Sobrang hirap para sa akin, but I had my family there so I was okay," she said.
The Miss Universe Philippines 2022 titleholder takes comfort in the fact that she won the love and support of her fellow Filipinos, saying that she finds that more valuable than the crown.
"I really, really know that ginawa ko ang lahat para sa bansa. So I'm happy," she said.
When asked what is next for her after Miss Universe, Cortesi said she is open to the idea of entering show business.
"Last time I had a cameo role in 'Darna' and I had so much fun because it was my first time acting and, of course, having a script in full Tagalog. So I hope that I would have more opportunities [in acting]," she said.
"I really want to improve, explore new things," she added. "I just hope that my hard work will mean something one day and that everything happens for a reason."