'It's for the Philippines,' Laguna beauty says
The 24-year-old Laguna-born beauty took the stage during a send-off press conference held by Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc., the local license holder of Miss Universe, three days before her departure on Monday.
The 62nd edition of the international pageant, which will gather over 80 candidates, will be held on November 9 at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow, Russia.
"This opportunity is a great responsibility that I am facing," an emotional Arida said on Thursday. "I'm not just fighting for myself, but this time, it's for our country."
"So I'm doing everything, I'm doing all my best to meet the expectations of everyone. And I know si God na po ang bahala kung ano ang gusto niyang ibigay sa akin... It's all for the Philippines. I'm sincere, it's for the Philippines," she said.
Since 2010, the Philippines has produced three consecutive runners-up in Miss Universe -- in order, Venus Raj, fourth; Shamcey Supsup, third; and Janine Tugonon, first.
This year, two Filipinas were crowned winners in separate international pageants -- Megan Young as Miss World, and Mutya Datul as Miss Supranational.
Ariella Ara Arida - Miss Philippines 2013 - Stunning New Photos by jo2306
'My biggest strength'
Arida, a chemistry graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños, was also emotional as she thanked her parents, Alresito and Estella, for supporting her in her bid to bring pride to her country.
"They didn't expect where I am today," Arida said. "I came from a simple life. I never expected to be this huge. I'm really thankful that who I am right now is part of what they've taught me."
Arida's father, a retired public school sports coordinator and teacher for 44 years, was also a district coordinator for physical education for 20 years. The beauty queen's mother, meanwhile, began teaching in 1972 and has been a school principal since 2005.
Both are flying to Russia for the first time to support their daughter.
Speaking with ABS-CBN News' Dyan Castillejo, Alresito said he never thought his daughter would land this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of representing the Philippines. Estella, noting their family's background, echoed her husband's sentiment.
"Sobrang happy kami, masaya," Alresito said. "Even sa aming panaginip, hindi namin naisip na si Ara ang mapupunta sa pwestong iyan."
"It's unexpected," Estella added, "dahil napakadaming magagandang contestants, ano, sa Binibini, at ang anak namin ang nakasungkit from the small town of Alaminos."
Estella is particularly proud of her daughter's determination to bring home the crown. She noted that Arida went on an indefinite leave from work and invested fully in preparing for the big event next month.
"She is determined. Determined na siya. Naging gutsy na rin, dahil dati mahiyaan. Nag-devote na siya ng time at kinarir na niya talaga itong Binibining Pilipinas. Kinarir niya talaga," she said.
Referring to her parents as her "biggest strength," Arida said in her speech, "My mom and dad, salamat nang marami, para sa support na binibigay nila sa akin."
"Also to my relatives and friends, who never stop believing in me. From the start, they were there. Since the day I decided to join Binibini, they've been very supportive of me," she said.
Since being crowned Miss Universe Philippines in April, Arida has undergone rigorous training, focusing on her physique, walk and question-and-answer performance. She cited these, at the time, to be the areas she hoped to improve on.
Five months later and with only weeks before the coronation night, Arida said she is now focusing her attention on preparing emotionally.
"Hindi mo maiiwasan kung anong pwede mangyari, pero hindi ko siya iniisip eh," she said, referring to the results of the culminating event. "So positive na lang iniisip ko. Mas makaaktulong sa akin."
Part of this focus, Arida emphasized, is claiming the crown, "silently, in my mind."
Referring to herself as her "greatest competitor," Arida said, "It's just myself who will do everything. It's just myself who I can rely on in the competition. If you think positively and if you think you will get the crown, then you know, there's no way that you won't make it."