From tong-its to pandesal: R’Bonney Gabriel goes nostalgic during visit to father’s street

May 18, 2023 - 6:48 PM
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R'Bonney Gabriel with her family in Manila
Miss Universe 2022 R'Bonney Gabriel meets with her father's family in Malate, Manila in this photo posted on her Instagram account on May 16, 2023 (rbonneynola/Instagram)

Reigning Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel went on a nostalgia trip as she reminisced about her early childhood days during her visit to her Filipino father’s home street this week.

The Filipino-American beauty went to her father’s homeland for the grand coronation of Miss Universe Philippines 2023, which Michelle Dee of Makati won.

It was R’Bonney’s first visit to the Philippines since she won Miss Universe 2022 in New Orleans, Louisana earlier this year.

READ: R’Bonney Gabriel arrives in Manila ahead of Miss Universe Philippines 2023 coronation

The Fil-Am fashion designer also attended a welcome parade and the Miss Universe Philippines Fashion Gala, where she rocked a blue-and-silver terno gown designed by Filipino top designer Mark Bumgarner.

R’Bonney likewise visited her father’s home in Barangay 743 in Malate, Manila, where she bonded with her Filipino relatives.

According to reports, this is where the Gabriel family usually stays whenever they visit the Philippines. The Miss Universe titleholder said it had been five years since she last visited her father’s homeland.

“When I won in January, the Philippines was one of the first places that I wanted to go. To be able to have my family here as well means a lot,” R’Bonney said in an Instagram post on May 16.

Her father, Remigio Bonzon Gabriel, said that they first brought the beauty queen to the Philippines when she was around eight years old.

“I remember breakfast, we would get pandesal from down the street and eat it with eggs in the morning. I always loved breakfasts here,” R’Bonney told ABS-CBN’s “TV Patrol.”

“And actually, I remember — I think it was New Year’s Eve. I was here one time and there [were] fireworks everywhere. And I come to the fiesta quite a few times as well. That’s always fun,” she added.

The beauty queen also took to Instagram to share more of her childhood memories in the Pearl of the Orient Seas.

“I spent many summer days playing on this street as a child. From walking to buy pandesal in the morning, playing in the rain when it flooded, watching the fiesta parade, and sweating in the heat playing tong-its on the plastic tables,” R’Bonney said in an Instagram post.

Tong-its is a three-player rummy card game in the country with rules similar to the American card game Tonk and Chinese title game Mahjong.

“I remember the warmth and kindest of the neighbours. This street showed me how different my life was in America and taught me how to be grateful for everything I have,” the beauty queen added in her IG post, referring to her father’s home street.

“To have the opportunity to come back to my [father’s] home street and celebrate with the community makes my heart so happy,” R’Bonney continued with a heart hands emoji.

“I have so many good childhood memories of growing up here, visiting here in the summer,” R’Bonney said in another Instagram post.

“I remember when it would rain — it would pour and we would all go outside and play in the rain and it wouldn’t even matter. I remember breakfast time — we would walk on the street to get pandesals, Spanish rolls, and the food was always so good!” she added.

“And one thing that I can’t forget is that we would just sit outside, whether it was morning time or nighttime, and just play cards and hang out with each other. I love it here!” the Fil-Am further said.

“Manila is home to where my parents got married and many childhood and family memories. This was one of the best days of my life. Community and family [are] everything,” R’Bonney continued with emojis of heart hands and face-with-revolving-hearts.

Reports said R’Bonney spent her summer vacations in the Philippines despite growing up in Texas, where her family is based.

Her Philippine-born father immigrated to the United States at 19 years old to study, according to her interview with ABC News before.

R’Bonney said he was on a college scholarship and only had “about $20 in his pocket.”

“He wanted to pave a new life for himself. He met my mom in Texas, who is a country woman from Beaumont,” she added, referring to Dana Walker.

Remigio attended the University of Houston and later opened a car repair shop after graduating.