Miss Philippines Ariella Arida leaves on Monday for Russia to compete in the 2013 Miss Universe beauty pageant.
The 24-year-old Arida says she is looking forward to compete against 86 other candidates in the most prestigious beauty pageant at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow on November 9, 2013 (November 10 in the Philippines).
"I've worked hard to prepare for the pageant. I feel proud to be representing the Philippines, and I am focused on winning the crown for the country,'' says Arida, of Alaminos, Laguna.
Her parents and friends will watch the Miss Universe show in Russia.
The Philippines is on a winning streak from 2010 to last year when Ma. Venus Raj won as Miss Universe 2010 fourth runner-up, followed by Shamcey Supsup who became Miss Universe 2011 third runner-up, and Janine Tugonon who became Miss Universe 2012 first-runner up.
Raj's advice to Arida is simple: "Think and believe that you are the queen! Ikaw ang reyna, sa'yo ang korona [You're the queen, the crown is yours]."
In the 61-year history of the Miss Universe beauty pageant, the Philippines has produced two winners --- Gloria Diaz (1969) and Margie Moran (1973). Arida said the pressure to win has been there the moment she became Miss Philippines, and especially with the back-to-back victories of Muya Johnna Datul and Megan Lynne Young in the Miss Supranational and Miss World contests, respectively. Arida said the beauty queens before her serve as her motivation to exert more effort to win.
The 5'8 stunner has undergone months of rigorous and expert training on personality development, Q&A, speech and language lessons, social graces, gym, pasarela, hair and make-up, and one-on-one coaching with fellow Binibinis.
Asked if she has a boyfriend, Arida said: "I'm single right now.''
Arida says she's excited to experience the cold weather in Russia but has expressed concern over its anti-gay laws. "I really respect the gay community. But then we have to respect the laws of other countries.," she said.