Filipinos upset over Miss Universe: Distraught over 4th-spot

All eyes were on Miss Universe Philippines Ariella Arida to stake Asia's claim on the world's top beauty pageant - with good reason.

Indeed, she was the favourite of bookmakers to win the crown in Moscow on Saturday. Her victory would have been doubly sweet for a country devastated by Typhoon Haiyan as it would have come just two months after another Filipina, Miss Megan Young, claimed the Miss World 2013 title in September.

But the 24-year-old fashion model dropped the ball - she fared poorly in the question-and-answer segment - and ended up as third-runner up.

The crown went to Miss Venezuela Gabriela Isler instead.

Filipinos, already reeling from one of the country's worst disasters with estimates of 10,000 people dead as a result of Typhoon Haiyan, were crushed, judging by the deluge of comments on social media saying that Miss Arida was robbed of her crown.

Before the finals, everyone thought she would be a shoo-in for the title.

Miss Arida was tipped on betting site Betfair as the top choice to take the coveted title at a low 3.85 euro (S$6) odds of winning, compared to Miss USA who was ranked sixth with a 12.0 euro odds.

Other statistics seemed to be in her favour - Filipinas have made it to the Top 5 in the competition three years in a row since 2010 and Miss Philippines was first runner-up last year.

In addition, the IBTimes reported about Miss Arida's rather successful and eventful stay in Moscow before the finals.

In the weeks leading to the finals, the chemistry graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Banos was said to have "impressed" during designer Tony Ward's fashion show at Moscow Fashion Week and even appeared twice on the runway in his couture ensembles.

Mercedes-Benz ad

She was reportedly one of the five beauties out of the 86 contestants chosen for a TV advertisement for luxury-car company Mercedes-Benz.

Miss Arida was also one of 10 who was picked to attend the Moscow Demo Show of internationally renowned chef Nobu, who was a Miss Universe 2013 judge.

So what happened?

Blame it on the Q & A segment.

When asked by retired American figure skater and Miss Universe 2013 judge Tara Lipinski what she would do about the lack of jobs for young people who are starting their careers, Miss Arida delivered what appeared to be a rehearsed and cliched response.

She said: "For the people who have lack of jobs, I believe that we should invest in education and that is my primary advocacy... If we are educated, we can land jobs. Education is... a ticket for a better future."

Her less-than-intelligent response is ironic considering she had earlier criticised the language abilities of the Latin American contestants.

During a pre-finale interview on the Filipino ABS-CBN News Channel, Miss Arida was asked by show host Karen Davila to respond to comments about her communication skills in English.

She replied rather controversially: "Latinas cannot even say a sentence, right? I mean, a complete sentence in English...

"You know, I think it's the Filipinos who are very critical about this."

Miss Venezuela, who spoke through a translator, gave a better answer to her question about fear, even though she did not go into specifics.

Asked by US rocker and judge Steve Tyler what her biggest fear was and how she would deal with it, Miss Isler replied: "For me, while one may have many fears, it's nothing negative.

"I believe we should overcome our fears and this would make us much stronger...

"Once we overcome our fears and we become sure of ourselves, we can face any challenge."

But even though Miss Philippines missed the mark this year, it was one of the best showings for Asian beauty queens in recent times.

The last time an Asian country made a splash was in 1994, when India scored a double Miss World and Miss Universe title with Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen respectively.

This year, a record four Asian countries - Indonesia, China, India and Philippines - made the Top 16, with India and the Philippines making the Top 10.

Quite a feat

It is quite a feat compared to the past four years, which featured only one or two semi-finalists from Asia.

Last year, India made it to the Top 16, while the Philippines took the first runner- up spot.

It may be some time before Singapore breaks into this elite circle (Miss Singapore Shi Lim's camera time was mostly restricted to her five-second introduction at the start of the show), but Asian countries seems increasingly to have what it takes to make a bigger impact at future pageants.

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