IN PHOTOS: Catriona Gray spends time with Young Focus kids in Tondo

Shiela Reyes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2019 01:09 PM

MANILA – Wednesday was unlike any other day at the Young Focus Foundation Child Care Center in Balut, Tondo as Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray finally got to spend time with the children supported by the organization.

These kids have been instrumental to Gray's win in Miss Universe last December because the beauty queen was referring to them when she was asked about the most important lesson she has learned in life during the pageant's question and answer round.

While being cheered on by the staff and children of Young Focus, Gray repeatedly expressed how elated she feels to finally be back.

"I'm so happy to be here. I love, love, love visiting. I'm so happy lang that in this trip, I can come back as Miss Universe to see you all. Sana I made you guys proud nung December," she said.

"It's always been in my heart to always be involved with the Young Focus family. This is not the only visit, but hopefully many of this year. You'll be seeing me a lot, okay lang ba? I just want to thank you again for always having me back here. Mahal ko kayo, sobra," she added.

Imparting to the children who want to follow her footsteps some words of wisdom, Gray reminded them to never lose sight of the prize and to finish their studies first.

"Sa mga bata who want to pursue being a beauty queen, dapat 'yung schooling muna kasi you need to enrich 'yung utak mo so that you can speak well and have confidence in yourself before going on stage. So study hard, listen to your teachers, and you keep dreaming. Tapos every time we visit, kung meron kayong tanong, you come to me, come to Ate Cat," she said.

Inspired by its vision and the difference in the community it is making, Gray vowed to continuously support the foundation during her reign and beyond.

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, a non-profit organization for impoverished children and youth, in Manila on Wednesday. Gray has highlighted education for the poor as one of her advocacies. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, a non-profit organization for impoverished children and youth, in Manila on Wednesday. Gray has highlighted education for the poor as one of her advocacies. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, a non-profit organization for impoverished children and youth, in Manila on Wednesday. Gray has highlighted education for the poor as one of her advocacies. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, a non-profit organization for impoverished children and youth, in Manila on Wednesday. Gray has highlighted education for the poor as one of her advocacies. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, a non-profit organization for impoverished children and youth, in Manila on Wednesday. Gray has highlighted education for the poor as one of her advocacies. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, a non-profit organization for impoverished children and youth, in Manila on Wednesday. Gray has highlighted education for the poor as one of her advocacies. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, a non-profit organization for impoverished children and youth, in Manila on Wednesday. Gray has highlighted education for the poor as one of her advocacies. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, a non-profit organization for impoverished children and youth, in Manila on Wednesday. Gray has highlighted education for the poor as one of her advocacies. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, a non-profit organization for impoverished children and youth, in Manila on Wednesday. Gray has highlighted education for the poor as one of her advocacies. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visits Young Focus, a non-profit organization for impoverished children and youth, in Manila on Wednesday. Gray has highlighted education for the poor as one of her advocacies. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Meanwhile, Young Focus founders Paul and Ann Van Wijgerden also thanked Gray for the work she has done as the organization's spokesperson.

"This young lady has started a revolution. She had an experiment of sorts to work with us and also enter the beauty pageant world to use that as a platform to be our spokesperson. It has worked in epic proportions," said Ann.

"We have so much to be thankful for, but the one thing I just want to mention is that we can be thankful to Catriona, on what she has done on behalf of Tondo. She has brought Tondo on the map. She has brought respect and love to this area. No one's going to change that," she added.

Paul, on the other hand, shared that since Gray won the crown, financial help has poured in.

"For the next school year, all our budget is covered. We have nothing to worry about and that's because of you. We truly appreciate you," he said.

The Young Focus Foundation is a non-government organization that has been operating since 2008, starting with the children in Smokey Mountain. 

Believing that education is the most powerful tool to overcome poverty, the foundation had set up several pre-schools in Tondo.