Writer’s note: This article also appeared on Rappler.com. Read here.
The golden road to the crown has finally come to an end, with Ariella Arida of Alaminos, Laguna winning the Miss Universe Philippines 2013 title. The 24-year-old Chemistry graduate from UP Los Baños was never considered a front-runner but her victory was not questionable.
Going over my fearless forecast for Rappler, I got it right that Ariella might be the night’s most pleasant surprise. “Her fierce and feisty look make her stand out. With very expressive eyes and delectable lips, she’s too good for a runner-up finish so it won’t be a surprise if Ariella snatches the top plum.”
The silent killer
She is the perfect example of a “silent killer”. As the crowd went wild for heavy favorites Charmaine Elima, Mutya Datul, Mariel de Leon and Bea Santiago each time they appeared on stage, one might think the crown is just between these ladies. Ariella also had her fair share of applause, but she knows who to impress the most: the board of judges who will collectively seal the candidates’ fate.
Ariella exuded both sexiness and elegance as well as the right amount of confidence throughout the night. She showed off a healthy body in swimsuit, en route to winning the Best in Swimsuit award. Meanwhile, she sashayed grace and class in her asymmetrical venus cut white number.
When asked by judge Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima to name a lesson about life that women can teach men, Arida replied: “One lesson in life that women can teach men is being sensitive because we all know that men are more logical when it comes to decision[-making]. They’re usually more rational, straightforward. Unlike we women, we use our hearts and tend to get emotional in some of our decisions. So, that’s it for me. Sensitivity is something that we, women, can teach to men. Thank you.” Among all the finalists, it was her who made the most sense in the all-important question-and-answer portion. With most of the Binibinis allowing pressure to take over in this round, Ariella’s answer must have sealed the deal for her.
Miss Universe chances
It is still to early to predict Ariella’s chances in the Miss Universe 2013 pageant. One thing’s for sure, though, she’s got big shoes to fill following the Philippines’ three consecutive placements in the top five and Janine Tugonon’s first runner-up finish last December. However, her victory has been warmly received by pageant fans online. Many of them see her making waves in the international pageant.
To be honest, Ariella looked more polished than Shamcey Supsup and Janine Tugonon when the two won the crown in 2011 and 2012. This, however, doesn’t mean Ariella should relax. She needs to work on a lot (improving her form, creating a distinct walk and improving her communication skills and personality among others) in order to package herself as a Miss Universe candidate worthy of the crown. There’s a lot of pressure, involved but I’m confident this girl is transformable. If she was able to get rid of unwanted fats she had prior to joining Bb Pilipinas, there’s no doubt this girl will be more than prepared for the Olympics of beauty. Also, she’s under the tutelage of Aces & Queens’ Jonas Gaffud, the man behind Venus Raj, Shamcey and Janine. Ariella is in good hands.
Joining her in the winning circle were Bea Rose Santiago (BBP-International), Joanna Cindy Miranda (BBP-Tourism, Mutya Johanna Datul (BBP-Supranational) and Pia Wurtzbach (1st runner-up). Most people would agree that this is one of the strongest set of Bb Pilipinas winners in years.
Bea was among the most applauded not only because she had lots of supporters in the venue, but she truly deserves the accolade. She was glowing the whole night, especially in her evening gown. During the Q&A she was asked what the ideal Filipino is. ” The ideal Filipino is both proud and happy people,” she replied. She gave the most practical answer to an easy question. She got the crown from that moment. What a coincidence, though, because it was Miss International Beauty Pageant chairman Hirofumi Hashimoto who asked her the question. I can smell our sixth consecutive placement in the pageant.
Mutya was destined to win the top plum, until she opened her mouth. The momentum was already there after she bagged the Miss Photogenic award. She was the most applauded in the evening gown segment; no wonder she won Best in Evening Gown. The crowd really loved her, but she broke their heart with her answer to the final question.
It was expected that she would falter in this round. Prior to the finale, she has been vilified online for her English-speaking skills. Had she preferred to answer in the native tongue, she could have placed higher. But it was the right decision to send her to Miss Supranational since there’s no Q&A segment there. Her inimitable charm and beauty will surely take Belarus, this year’s host country, by storm.
Meanwhile, Cindy’s beauty was “unstoppable” all throughout despite ending her answer weakly. It is still known if Miss Tourism Queen International will be staged this year, but I’m confident that Miranda can easily make it to the semifinals.
Pia could have easily snatched a crown had she given a meatier answer to the question “What do you think is the greatest achievement of Binibining Pilipinas in its 50 years of existence?” She may be the only crownless girl in the top 5, but she’ll be receiving the same amount of training as the other ladies. This could give her an advantage if ever she decides to join again. I’m pretty sure she can do a Tugonon (first runner-up in 2011, Miss Universe Philippines in 2012). Should have listened to my first instinct when I said Miranda will bag a crown and Wurtzbach is a sure top 5 placer.
Aside from the eventual top 5, Parul Shah, Grace Yann Apuad, Merry Joyce Respicio, Charmaine Elima and Mariel de Leon all made it to the top 15 as predicted. The inclusion of underdogs Rhea Nakpil, Amanda Noelle Navasero, Camille Nazar, Ellore Punzalan and Imelda Schweighart came as a surprise. Nakpil was just okay in both the swimsuit and evening gown segments, while Navasero’s pasarela was just awkward. Winning special awards from major sponsors must’ve given Punzalan (Manila Bulletin’s Readers’ Choice) and Schweighart (Miss Pagcor) free passes to the semis. Of the five candidates, Nazar gave the most acceptable performance. Meanwhile, what could be the reason behind the exclusion of favorites Ria Rabajante, Cassandra Naidas and Hannah Sison? Their performance was solid enough to make the cut, in my opinion.
Mariel, the most talked about candidate, failed to get a crown. It was surprising, given that she was among the most cheered and she was rumored to be another favorite of the organization. However, the judges might have not appreciated her timid beauty. Also, as I have said in my fearless forecast, Mariel is too raw for pageants at 19 years old.
But the coronation night’s biggest letdown was the exclusion of heavy favorite Charmaine in the top 5. She was breezing through both rounds. But her answer to the final question costed her the crown. She probably has answer in mind but the pressure must have taken over. She should not lose hope; she is just 20 years old and could still come back in a year or two.
The opening was magical, needless to say, nostalgic. Seeing some 70 past title-holders in one stage is a dream come true especially for die-hard pageant fans like me, what more seeing them walk on the red carpet one by one all glammed up and their top form. The musical attractions were good, especially during the first part of the evening gown segment. The production team, however, should’ve dropped the idea of having four matinee idols serenading the second batch of ladies in their evening gowns. Yes, there was “kilig” factor, but it just didn’t suit the pageant’s overall feel. Also, the song number was already finished but Binibini 48 was still on stage; the team had to put the background song on loop until Binibini 50 was done.
Martin Nievera and Dawn Zulueta did a good job. They had chemistry, but the former should have refrained from giving some nasty side comments especially during the Q&A portion. Meanwhile, Shamcey and Venus could have done a better job giving color commentaries than just promote the hair conditioner sponsor. The program can stand on its own even without them. The stage was better this year, it was small but completely utilized. The lighting effects helped in setting the mood for each of the program’s segments. The swimsuit portion seemed rushed; seeing all 50 girls strutting in bikinis was tiresome. Overall, the production was a marked improvement compared to last year.
We’ve only just began
Soon, the winners will be engaging into rigorous training sessions to shape both their minds and bodies for their respective international pageants. The pressure is on for them to keep the momentum going for the Philippines in the international pageant scene. But more than just the preparations, the determination to improve and the hunger to succeed must be there.
Will one of these girls bring home a crown to finally say the Philippines is legitimately back as a pageant powerhouse? The journey has just began.