3 Filipinas in Miss Universe 2013
MANILA, Philippines -- Not one, but three candidates with Filipino blood will compete in this year's Miss Universe pageant.
Aside from Laguna-born Ariella Arida, the Philippines' official delegate to the international competition, at least two other Miss Universe 2013 contenders have Filipino ancestry.
Riza Santos, who rose to fame in the Philippines as a "Pinoy Big Brother" housemate, was crowned early last week as Miss Universe Canada.
Santos was initially named first runner-up at the coronation night, but was declared winner 24 hours later after the pageant organizer discovered errors in the results.
Although raised in Canada, the 25-year-old Santos is a pure Filipina. Her father, Ruel Santos, is from Bulacan. Her mother, Dina Buenaventura, hails from Bataan.
Riza Santos. Photo from the official website of Beauties of Canada, courtesy of Allumski Photography
Prior to winning the national Miss Universe competition, Santos already made waves in the pageant scene in Canada. She was crowned the country's Miss Earth in 2006, and Miss World in 2011.
A relative newcomer to the Miss Universe pageant, the African country of Gabon, on the other hand, will send Ruth Jennifer Ondo Mouchita as its delegate to this year's competition.
Mouchita is only the second candidate from Gabon to join Miss Universe since the country's 2012 debut in the 62-year-old pageant.
Crowned in December last year as Miss Gabon, Mouchita is reportedly half-Filipina, and can speak Tagalog fluently.
Jennifer Mouchita. Photo courtesy of the official Facebook page of Miss Gabon
In an interview on the late-night newscast "Bandila" on Wednesday, Arida said she looks forward to forming friendships with her fellow Filipinas at Miss Universe.
"Nakakatuwa na, unang naisip ko, 'Uy, meron na akong makakausap sa Miss Universe.' Mga friends ko, sabi nila, 'O, may friend ka na diyan.' Sabi nila, 'Mas maganda, mas madali kang makaka-mingle sa ibang girls kasi may makakausap ka na,'" Arida said.
This isn't the first time more than one Filipina competed in the same international pageant.
In 2011, Philippines' Gwendoline Ruais finished first runner-up in the Miss World pageant. Among her fellow competitors were Santos, who finished in the Top 30; and Denmark's Maya Olesen, also a half-Filipina.