Leah C. Salterio – The Philippine Star

September 30, 2021 | 12:00am

Beauty queen Ariella Arida feels for the candidates joining the Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) this year. The ladies had no choice but to wait for the actual date of when the pageant will be held because of varying quarantine measures being implemented.

“It’s understandable that these things happen because of the pandemic,” Ariella maintains. “With our situation na hindi talaga natin alam ang schedule, minsan lockdown, tapos ECQ, MECQ. Naaawa ako sa mga girls who are joining the pageants at this time. Even Miss World, ang tagal ng na-postpone at nag-iiba ang schedule.

“Now, Miss Universe naman. If I were one of the girls, sana huwag sila mag-give up and ituloy lang nila ang momentum, although alam ko talagang mahirap. Iba kasi ‘yung dire-diretso ka sa journey mo.”

Ariella has this message to Kisses Delavin and Maureen Wroblewitz, two celebrity contestants at Miss Universe Philippines this year. “I know how they are well-equipped to handle the pressure, now that they are two of the heavy favorites,” Ariella says. “But sana, huwag sila masyadong magpadala doon.

“Take it constructively. Gawin nilang more motivation and inspiration. To all the girls, I hope they will not easily give up. Sana dire-diretso pa rin ang motivation at exercise nila, work out nila, training nila. For sure, matutuloy naman ang pageant.”

Ariella particularly mentions three candidates who caught her eye in this year’s Miss Universe Philippines pageant. They are Maria Corazon Abalos of Mandaluyong City, Katrina Dimaranan of Taguig City and Steffi Aberasturi of Cebu.

“I love this girl from Mandaluyong,” Ariella says of the daughter of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benhur Abalos and Mandaluyong Mayor Menchie Abalos, herself an erstwhile Binibining Pilipinas candidate.

Meanwhile, Katrina Dimaranan is a pageant veteran, having joined Binibining Pilipinas 2012, with Ariella’s predecessor, Janine Tugonon, who won Miss Universe first runner-up that year.

“My take if tuloy ang Miss Universe this December, hopefully they will send someone ready to compete, because less than three months preparation na lang,” Ariella offers.

She also admires Steffi Aberasturi and praises the latter for her charisma. “She’s always smiling and you can feel the confidence,” Ariella says of Steffi.

In October 2020, Ariella was one of the judges in the inaugural Miss Universe Philippines pageant. Rabiya Mateo of Iloilo won the pageant and was the country’s representative to the 69th Miss Universe last May.

Since Ariella bagged third runner-up honors in the 2013 Miss Universe, the 32-year-old beauty queen expectedly ventured into entertainment after her reign. To date, she is no longer new to showbiz as she was seen on TV and has appeared in a number of teleseryes.

In 2017, Ariella played a minor role in director Joyce Bernal’s Gandarrapido: The Revenger Squad, with comedian Vice Ganda on the lead. Last December, Ariella also had a supporting part in the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry, Adolf Alix’s Coming Home, where she essayed the reluctant mistress of a married OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker), played by Jinggoy Estrada.

In director Darryl Yap’s forthcoming, sexy psychomedy, Sarap Mong Patayin, which starts streaming Oct. 15 on Vivamax, Ariella gets her first major role, this time opposite hunk actor Kit Thompson and comedian Lassy Marquez, as she delves into the complicated world of catfishing, the slang term for creating a false identity in order to lure someone to get into a relationship online.

However, even before she came to know about the theme of the movie, Ariella was initially asked if she was willing to engage in a lip-locking scene with Lassy. That somewhat gave her an idea what the story was all about.

“Lahat naman ng roles or projects being offered to me, kahit hindi major, I would first think about it before I say yes,” Ariella grants. “This time, what gave me the confidence was the movie was directed by direk Darryl.”

Admittedly, the complicated theme of catfishing was what made Ariella give her nod to the project, even if she had initial apprehension and reservation. “The story itself is very relevant,” she says. “Kaka-iba ang atake for me. I got in-zone with the role itself. That helped me later to do everything without hesitation.

“I’m in character. I was no longer Ariella. That was where I focused more. With the help of direk Darryl, I was able to detach myself from my role and my character of Krista. Nag-shift na agad. Nawala na ang reservation ko in the role I would play.”

In her future film projects, Ariella expresses her desire to do action, perhaps like Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. “Something like that, bad-ass girl,” Ariella excitedly points out. “I love the outdoors and I’m also active in different sports. Maybe, action is something that the people wouldn’t see me into.

“Akala nila, beauty queen, only glitz and glamor ang ini-ikutan ng mundo ko. In reality, I’m more of the outdoor type. Kahit pagulungin mo ako sa putik, gagawin ko. I’m looking for that kind of role.”

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