Photo courtesy of rappler.com
As we close another chapter of Philippine participation in Miss Universe, allow me to look back at the not-so-long journey of Ariella Arida that brought her and all of us through all the highs and lows of a rollercoaster ride to the pageant’s Top 5 and a fourth-place finish.
Hers was a Moscow sojourn that is neither for the weak-willed nor the overly-sensitive. In fact, she was tested from the time she boarded her plane to the host city when a controversial interview with Karen Davila spread like wildfire deep into the hearts of Latin Americans who vehemently reacted to her taken-out-of-context statement about the lack of English-speaking skills among Hispanic delegates who still end up claiming victory.
Ariella Arida before leaving for Moscow. (Photo credit: OPMB Worldwide)
As if that wasn’t enough, another online controversy followed whereby a supposedly and allegedly mad Miss Brazil Jakelyne Oliveira lashed Ariella in her social networking account with a threat of “choking her to death” with the words she said during the same interview. The incident was denied by the South American, though, and was forgotten as the days went along.
Ariella Arida pre-finals
But what really gave our bet the most difficult time were the non-stop bashings online. Some reports said that she is the most bashed Miss Universe rep. It would have been more understandable to a certain extent had the mudslings come exclusively from foreign individuals or camps of competitor-delegates. What made matters more disheartening was that a good chunk of the attacks came from fellow Filipinos who couldn’t keep negative tirades to themselves that they had to continuously throw potshots from all angles in just about every pageant message boards and the like. The actions were so repetitive that even international news sites (like ibtimes.com) picked up the ‘story’ and played it up without even knowing the root cause of it all.
Miss Philippines Ariella Arida (with Russian singer Emin to her left) is surrounded by Filipino OFWs in Moscow.
I myself am not aware of the real reason/s behind such virtual demolition job on our Ariella. I was trying to squeeze all possible explanations from my head, but couldn’t come up with the logic. It reached a point when some foreign observers in Moscow noticed why Filipinos are endlessly aiming at a target mark on the back of their representative.
Ariella befriended as many delegates as she can.
Throughout all the controversies, Miss Philippines remained calm and collected. She went through with her mission of representing her flag and country the best way that she can. She befriended a large number of delegates and got even close to some of the Latinas (including Top 2 placers Gabriela Isler of Venezuela and Patricia Rodriguez of Spain) who never made issues out of the earlier infamous interview statement. She cherished the love and support of all Moscow-based Filipinos who showered her with attention in just about every major pre-pageant activity.
Ariella during the Nobu Moscow Kitchen Demo Show with (l-r) Dominican Rep, Peru and Czech Republic)
And on their part as organizers, Miss Universe Organization developed a lingering fondness for Ariella that translated to numerous gigs with sponsors – the Tony Ward Couture Fashion Show, the Mercedes Benz Ad, the Nobu Moscow Kitchen Demo Show and the music video with Russian singer Emin. There was even a point when supporters of other unnoticed delegates were questioning why almost the same ladies were being picked for the same. President Paula Shugart simply commented that the participants were being chosen on the merits of their beauties and the requests of the sponsors.
Ariella during the finals' swimsuit and evening gown competitions.
During preliminaries, Ariella gave it her 100%, such that her eventual inclusion in the Top 16 was considered a given. While your blogger may have been surprised that she was called 16th and last (and winner of the Fan Votes), he never entertained thoughts that it was any form of consolation for her. When the cut to the Top 10 came and she was 2nd to be summoned to center stage, it simply became clear that she was in true fighting form. By the time the Top 5 finalists were announced, she was 4th in line.
Top five (L-R) Venezuela, Philippines, Spain, Brazil and Ecuador
It was only a matter of time before knowing if she won or not. The Q&A proved that she has grace under pressure. She handled this part with focus, albeit too seriously-looking and sounding in delivery. The crown was just a breath away, and Ariella still had a good chance of claiming it. But when the court was being called, Philippines was named 3rd Runner-Up and her shot to the crown finally landed a mark – not the bullseye but still fairly close.
Ariella acknowledging her 3rd Runner-Up win.
And the rest is history.
Ariella’s mission ended on a bright note however which way you look at it. There is vindication alright. It may not be what her supporters fancied from the start, but it was more than enough to hopefully put a rest to the negativity once and for all. Whatever is said or commented from hereon will no longer carry as much deep a thrust or pain. If at any, it will only serve to highlight the fact that our Miss Philippines cannot be pinned down like a kewpie doll. She will keep on rising from the setbacks and continue serving her reign as Miss Universe Philippines up until her successor is named in 2014.
Post-pageant, Ariella gives out a big smile amidst the strong Filipino presence in Moscow.
The Fourth Most Beautiful Woman in the Universe, Ariella Arida