Riza, Ariella 'roomies' in Moscow
Canada's Riza Santos and the Philippines' Ariella Arida. Photos from the official website of Miss Universe
MANILA -- Ariella Arida, the Philippines' representative to Miss Universe, is competing with another full-blooded Pinay in her bid to bring home the country's third crown from the international pageant.
Riza Santos, who is representing Canada in the 62nd Miss Universe, may be familiar to some Filipino TV viewers, as she finished second place in the top-rating reality TV show "Pinoy Big Brother" in 2007.
Following her stint on the ABS-CBN program, the 27-year-old model went full-time in showbiz, with appearances on several Kapamilya programs, including the concert variety show "ASAP," and TV series like "Palos" and "I Love Betty La Fea."
Her time as an actress in the Philippines is even mentioned in her profile on the official Miss Universe website: "Riza has acted in four major Filipino films, including the box office hit 'Dobol Trobol,' where she played the leading lady and was trained in knife throwing."
Although born and raised in Canada, Santos is pure Filipino. Her father, Ruel Santos, is from Bulacan; while her mother, Dina Buenaventura, hails from Bataan.
Connecting with Pinoys
Before the Miss Universe kick-off late last month, Santos, along with her mom, even organized a charity event for an ailing Filipino girl's operation.
Held in Calgary, Santos' hometown in Canada, the event aimed to raise funds for 15-year-old Maria Fe, who is suffering from a life-threatening scoliosis.
Santos learned of the girl's condition through her aunt, Delia Tumak, who is based in Vancounver.
Among the attendees of the event was Philippine Ambassador to Canada, Leslie Gatan, who referred to the gathering as a "bayanihan among all Filipinos."
"Believe in yourself and to become the best that you can be," Santos said at the time, referring to the theme of the fund-raising activity.
"Once you do that, you really have the ability to become the best that you are and it gives you more opportunity, affords you more resources that you can help other people, people like Maria Fe who really does need our support," she said.
Along with the 85 other candidates of Miss Universe, Santos is currently in Moscow, Russia, where the coronation night will be held on November 10 (Manila time).
Riza Santos and Ariella Arida in a photo captioned 'Roomies!' on the Canadian's Instagram page
On her page on image-sharing service Instagram, Santos posted a photo of her with Arida, who she said is her roommate.
In an earlier post by Arida also on Instagram, the Alaminos-born beauty shared a photo of her with Santos and Guam's Alixes Scott, captioned: "Mabuhay ang Pinay!"
It is unclear whether Scott also has Filipino roots.
Another candidate, Gabon's Jennifer Mouchita, was earlier reported to be half-Filipina. While Mouchita has said she has "origins" in the Philippines, she clarified in a Twitter post that her parents are both Gabonese.
Arida is hoping to surpass the successes of her last three predecessors in Miss Universe – Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup and Janine Tugonon – who all finished in the international pageant's Top 5.
Should Arida be named Miss Universe 2013, she will be the third Filipino to win the crown after Gloria Diaz in 1969 and Margie Moran in 1973.