Miss Universe beauty pageant kicks off in Manila


MANILA (Reuters) - More than 86 women from all over the world gathered in Manila on Thursday to compete in the Miss Universe beauty contest that will culminate in a coronation in the Philippines capital on Monday.

Crowds packed the Mall of Asia Arena as each candidate showcased her swimsuits, evening gowns and national costumes in front of the judges.

The preliminary competition that started on Thursday will whittle down the crowded field to the top 12 candidates for the pageant night, the Miss Universe website said.

PHOTOS: See pictures from the first day of competition

"The whole world is being united, and even though we don't know each other, we still enjoy the event," said Apple Natividad, one of the many spectators who attended the show.

Some even dressed like Miss Universe candidates to join the fanfare.

"This is a venue for beauty, but also the beauty of the heart, especially for us Filipinos who are fanatics for pageants," said Rania Ziateh, who wore a Miss Philippines sash.

Over half a million people are expected to tune in to watch the coronation night next week, organizers said.

Filipina beauty queen Pia Wurtzbach currently holds the Miss Universe crown from 2015.

(Reporting by Reuters TV in Manila; Editing by Sandra Maler)