Dubbed as Binibining Pilipinas’ “golden girls” after they were crowned during the pageant’s 50th edition, last year’s batch of beauty queens constitutes one of the most successful groups of winners in the annual contest’s history.
After Mutya Johanna Datul won for the Philippines its first Miss Supranational crown, Ariella “Ara” Arida placed third runner-up in Miss Universe more than a month later.
And just when everyone thought that Cindy Miranda’s Top 10 finish in Miss Tourism International would cap off a good year for Filipino beauty queens, Bea Santiago won for the country its fifth Miss International crown just before 2013 drew to a close.
As they prepare to pass on their crowns to their successors on March 30, Arida and Datul share their thoughts in an exclusive interview with Inquirer Lifestyle.
How do you feel right now that your reigns are almost over? Is it a feeling of relief or sadness?
Arida: I have mixed emotions about it. As of now, I don’t know what my feelings are. I still feel that my reign is still long. And since we’re busy with interviews, photo shoots, ’di ko pa rin naiisip that a few weeks from now, I’m going to pass on my crown.
Datul: Na-enjoy ko lahat ng moments ng reign ko. Sobrang happy ako sa mga blessings na natanggap ko. Sa pag-turnover ko ng Binibining Pilipinas Supranational, mayroon pa akong isang crown (Miss Supranational). ’Di ko nafi-feel iyong lungkot. ’Di pa. Habambuhay kasi nakatatak na sa isip ng mga tao iyong napanalunan mo.
So won’t that be pressure on your part since you always have to look your best to live up to people’s expectations?
Datul: Nandoon naman talaga palagi ang pressure. As a beauty queen, kailangan naman namin talagang maging maayos sa sarili. Kahit papaano konting makeup para kapag makita ka ng mga tao, fresh ka. Nandoon pa rin ang pagka-beauty queen. Sa pananamit naman, ’di naman siguro kailangan na sobrang bongga as long as nandoon ang queenly qualities mo.
Arida: For me, there is no pressure to being always beautiful. I see it in a good way. For me, it’s a positive thing that you remain beautiful. You don’t know the possibilities that await you for the extra effort you put into yourself.
Dati sporty ako. I don’t know how to put on makeup. Lahat nabago, and now I’m enjoying the things that are coming my way because of what I’ve learned as a beauty queen.
What has winning given you so far?
Arida: Everything! Lahat ng nangyari sa akin are totally unexpected. And the opportunities, possibilities na puwede pang mangyari sa akin. Yes, the sponsors have been very helpful. Because of winning, all the possibilities are limitless now.
Datul: Sobrang masaya ako. Like what Ara said, it has also given me so many opportunities. Bigla ka na lang naging popular. Palagi ka na lang poised, naka-smile. Kailangan iyong hair and makeup mo maayos.
As for money, akala ko walang premyo ang Miss Supranational. I was just aiming for the crown. Nagulat ako. Ang akala ko P25,000 ang prize money. Noong tinanong ako ng staff kung gusto kong i-convert iyong prize money into pesos, saka ko lang nalaman na $25,000 pala ang premyo. ’Di ako makapaniwala!
How did your hair play a part in your winning or landing well in the global contests you joined?
Datul: Sa ngayon confident ako kahit ano’ng event. Ngayon, for example, magsuklay ka lang, okay na. Sobrang smooth. My hair is not rebonded. I just use Cream Silk, and I’m thankful sobrang hiyang ang hair ko. Kahit anong event at kahit magdamag pa siya, my hair remains straight because of Cream Silk.
Arida: Sobrang nakatulong siya. Binibini days pa lang, ito na ang peg ko—long, straight hair. I’m always wearing this hairstyle.
I wanted to look different during the Miss Universe preliminary contest. I aimed for a look that worked during Binibini—clean look with a bun that looks regal.
But the hairstylist had her own ideas. When she was almost finished with my hair, I said to her that was not the hairstyle I wanted you to do. There was no more time to change it. I just didn’t think about it anymore and did my best on stage.
But during the finals, I really went for straight hair. I feel confident talaga whenever I wear my hair that way. Madame Stella (Araneta) wanted volume, but I had to disagree. I guess I’m the first Miss Philippines to wear her hair loose and straight. And she allowed it.
So where can your hair take you?
Arida: Limitless possibilities. During the finals, I was the only one wearing long straight hair and I was so proud of it. And because of that, I stood out. Pinanindigan ko talaga. Lahat sila curled or with volume.
Personally, you can really feel iyong pagka-Filipino mo when you wear your hair that way. I’ve always had straight hair.
What’s in store for you now that your respective reigns are almost over?
Arida: I always say that there are a lot of opportunities that would come your way. I’m open to anything and everything. I don’t know if it’s good or bad when I tell you I would just go with the flow. Everything that has been happening to me lately is so unexpected. I didn’t plan anything. I just grabbed the opportunities that came my way.
Datul: Kalmado lang ako about it. Kung ano ang opportunity na dadating, I would grab it. Hindi ako nag-aapura. As for show biz, why not? That’s also my dream.
Is there any big event lined up for you before you pass on your crowns?
Arida: Since Cream Silk has been a partner of Binibining Pilipinas, this year mas bongga because it’s Cream Silk’s 30th anniversary. I’m looking forward to that. I’m so thankful that we’re part of its 30th anniversary. And it so happened that we’re also the “golden girls” of Binibining Pilipinas.
To mark this milestone, a big event is scheduled on March 26. The biggest celebrities who endorse Cream Silk will be there. I’m thankful that we would still be part of it before we pass on our crowns on the 30th. Nakahabol pa kami.
If you could change anything since you won, what would you change?
Datul: Well, siguro iyong mga times na may na miss out ako kasi ’di ako naka-adjust sa mga pangyayari. Gusto ko sigurong baguhin iyon. Hindi ako naka-attend to this event or na-late ako sa sobrang dami ng commitments.
Arida: Hindi talaga ako competitive na tao. It was only during Binibini when I started to really become competitive. Na-feel ko na kailangan mag-effort ako. I’m the type kasi before that whenever I joined something, medyo natatakot pa ako na ibigay ang best ko for fear that I might end up disappointed. But when I joined Binibini, I said to myself, I would do everything, win or lose, for me to have no regrets in the end.
As for my bad hairstyle during the Miss Universe preliminary competition, I don’t think it had any bearing because I made it to the Top 16. Siguro kung hindi ako nakapasok sa semis, I would really blame my “ninang” hairstyle. Buong buhay ko siguro, iisipin ko iyon.
What I would want is more time to spend with my family. Sobrang naging hectic ang schedule ko. I was used to going home weekly to Laguna, but because of all the training, naging once or twice a month na lang.
What would you choose if someone were to ask your hand in marriage—financial security or true love?
Datul: Sa akin more on heart ang pinapairal ko. So I would still prefer true love. Kahit ’di siya mayaman. At the end of your life, the heart will always prevail. Kung ano man mga materyal na bagay, ’di mo iyan madadala, but your heart will always be with you.
Arida: It’s so hard. Para sa akin mahirap ako turuan mahalin ang isang taong na wala akong maramdaman. So dito na lang ako sa true love. Siguro makakatulong naman na graduate ako. Siguro kahit ako ang na lang ang magtrabaho. (Laughs)
I always think, kapag kasama ko ba ito kikiligin ba ako? Okay lang ba na katabi ko siya? Mas masarap kapag nandiyan iyong spark kahit simple lang ang buhay mo, ’di ba?
’Di ba sabi nila lumilipad daw ang love ’pag wala na kayong magastos?
Datul: ’Di po iyon totoo.
Has it happened to you?
Datul: Para sa ’kin, dapat i-enjoy lang lahat. Para in the end, wala kang regrets.
Arida: Thankful din ako na nasanay ako na simpleng buhay. Mabilis ako makuntento sa kung ano ang mayroon ako.
Don’t you feel spoiled right now that you’re being interviewed, being pampered, given nice clothes to wear?
Arida: Para sa akin, nasa tao rin po iyan. Siguro you’d miss these things. But I always go back to what I was. Simple lang. Yes, I’m embracing all the good things that have been coming my way. I’m open to the possibility that, one day, all these could be taken away from me.
I’m always thankful. Nasanay kasi ako na simpleng-simple lang. Mababaw lang ang kaligayahan ko.
Datul: Lalo naman po ako. Galing ako ng probinsiya. Yung buhay ko dati ibang-iba. We started from zero. Anim kaming magkakapatid. Ako lang ang sumali sa beauty contest. Ako lang sa magkakapatid ang pinaka-ambisyosa.
Kaya ’di po ako natatakot na mawala lahat ito. Walang nag-aayos sa akin kasi dati naman, sariling sikap ko lang. I joined a lot of smaller pageants. I didn’t expect to go this far. Pag-nagka-title ako sa local pageant, sobrang saya ko na. Halimbawa ang prize ay P10,000, sobrang laki na sa akin noon. Ang dami ko nang mabibili.
What do you think are the best qualities of today’s current crop of Binibining Pilipinas hopefuls that would enable the Philippines to win?
Datul: Gusto ko lang iyong ginawa ko. ‘Di ako perfect na tao. Lahat ng hirap ko sa buhay, binuo ko para iyon ang maging inspirasyon ko. Kahit ano’ng hirap ang pinagdaanan ko sa Miss Suprational, alam ko malalagpasan ko.
’Di naman siguro sobrang ganda ang dapat ipadala sa Supranational. Ang kailangan lang ay alam mo dalhin ang sarili mo. You have to have a good heart. Kailangan din magaling ka makisama sa lahat ng contestants.
They’re looking for a simple but elegant woman. Iyon ang sabi sa akin ng isang Miss Supranational organizer when I went to Gabon. Nakita daw nila sa ’kin iyong queenly qualities na iyon during the contest.
Ara, we almost made it. What do you think needs to be done so that the Philippines would finally win its third Miss Universe crown?
Arida: I don’t think Miss Universe is looking for a specific woman based on looks alone. Shamcey (Supsup) had light skin tone. Janine (Tugonon) and I had to tan ourselves. Physically
kasi, ang Filipino, standout na.
When I went there I already felt it. During our first dinner when we started introducing ourselves, they seemed to know me already.
Instead of feeling threatened, I felt the friendship. It didn’t feel like a competition. It was like one long vacation with plenty of beautiful girls.
What would you advise this year’s winners?
Arida: Just think that what you’re doing is for the country. Mahirap kasi. At first, ’di ako makapaniwala that part of my duties was to represent the country. Nag-sink in na lang when I started training.
My successor, whoever she is, should do this not just for herself, but for the country. This is beyond herself.
Datul: Once she gets the crown, kailangan huwag na niya pakawalan. Lahat siya ang gagawa. Kailangan niya mag-sacrifice. She really needs to work hard. Hindi ito madali. Kahit medyo magulo pa isip niya from all the attention, kailangan siya mag-
focus on a bigger crown for the Philippines.
Who are your bets this year?
Datul: (Laughs) Marami. After the fashion show, may nakita ako na na-remind ako ng sarili ko. Si Binibini 20 (Kenneth Santiago). Kahit sobrang simple ng national costume niya, naging regal sa pagdadala niya.
Arida: Mayroon akong gustong group. Pero noong fashion show, sobrang nagustuhan ko si Binibini 11 (Laura Lehmann), kasi naka-straight hair din siya (laughs). Even during the screening, I was reminded of myself when I saw the girls with long, straight hair.
The way she (Lehmann) walked yesterday, I saw her personality. Basta gusto ko siya, ’di ko ma-explain kung bakit. Lalo na pag gumagalaw siya, ang cute niya!
I also like Yveth Santiago. I see Venus (Raj) in her. The way she walks, the way she talks, lahat. Parang si Venus siya. Sabi ko tuloy sa sarili ko, ganyan ba talaga ang mga taga-Bicol?
What do you think are Pia Wurtzbach’s chances? She was your runner-up, and now she has joined again.
Arida: Siguro, if she continues with her look yesterday (when she was wearing a terno). Sabi ko nga sa kanya, parang inconsistent. Sometimes, nafi-feel ko siya, sometimes, nawawala. But yesterday, she proved that she has what it takes.
Datul: Kasi si Pia, kapag nakita mo siya before nandoon iyong pagka-half (half Filipino, half German) niya. Tayong mga Filipino kasi gusto natin iyong mukhang pure Filipino. But lately, nagulat ako. Sabi ko iyong aura or transformation mo, Filipinong-Filipino ang dating, down to the makeup. Pati lakad, perfect. Humataw siya talaga.
Has winning together as “golden girls” brought you closer?
Datul: ’Di po maiwasan. Like during the fashion show, when we were helping each other sa hair namin, sabi ko, I’m going to miss you, beh.
Arida: After our crowning, nawala na lahat ang rivalry. ’Di ba dati per camp kami. It was awkward to be close with girls from other (beauty) camps. But after that, nawala na lahat. We even share stories and experiences of what we did during our private time.
PHOTOS BY ALEXIS CORPUZ