A heart for charity

Vanessa A. Balbuena (The Freeman) - October 18, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Newly-crowned queen Valerie Weigmann won’t be the only half-Filipino in the Miss World finals stage come December 14th – vying for the blue crown alongside the Fil-German is half-Cebuana Arielle Diane Garciano, a towering beauty who loves humba and enjoys riding jeepneys.

Currently in the country for a mix of business and pleasure (she’s doing charity work and spending time with Filipino relatives, among others), Arielle also took the time to meet Miss World Philippines franchise owner Cory Quirino and witness the pageant’s coronation of Weigmann recently.

The 22-year-old was more than impressed with the spectacle of Filipina beauty she saw that evening. And no, she’s not treating Weigmann as a fierce rival just yet, as she’s expressed eagerness to bond with her fellow half-Pinay once they all gather in London, England to determine Megan Young’s rightful successor.

“It was amazing. I loved it! The girls were so beautiful, and they did so well. It was mind-blowing, as they were just gorgeous. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to meet the winner [Weigmann] because she was already crowded with people and I had an early morning. But I will meet her when I get to London, so I’m looking forward to that,” remarked Arielle, who works as a branch sales coordinator at Plumbing World Christchurch.

Arielle’s dad Melvin, is a seaman who hails from Poro town of Camotes Island, while her mom Diane is British. The two met 32 years ago in Lyttletown of Christchurch, New Zealand where Diane was working in a supermarket and where Melvin’s assigned ship would dock thrice.

This is Arielle’s fourth visit to her father’s homeland, and just as in previous trips, she’s raring to bond with cousins “because I only get to see them every other four or five years. It’s really special when we’re together. It’s like we grew up together,” she said.

Growing up straddling two cultures and nationalities made Arielle feel “very special.”

“My parents have told me about my Filipino heritage since I was young. I’ve always been really proud to be half-Filipino, and I’ve always dreamed of coming to the Philippines.  It’s really special being half-Filipino, especially in New Zealand where everyone’s asking what my nationality is, because I don’t look really Filipino, and I don’t look really Kiwi as well. So everyone’s always wondering where I come from,” she shared.

People would often remark how she inherited her royal bearing from her mom, while her eyes, smile and sense of humor were unmistakably from her dad, Arielle said.

“Dako kaayong kalipay akong gibati. Wa nato damha maka anak ta ug Miss World New Zealand,”  remarked her dad when asked how he felt of her daughter’s success in the pageant arena.

Melvin made sure Arielle and her three other siblings also knew their Filipino cuisine, so he taught his wife how to cook adobo, humba, tocino, sinigang – just some of the Philippine menu staples that Arielle loves.

Except for an earthquake scare back in 2011, Arielle’s life so far has been bereft of drama and life-altering obstacles. She in fact, glowingly recalls a “really, really good childhood.”

“I was really lucky, because I’m the youngest so I was a bit spoiled by my parents,” she said. It was this upbringing that made Arielle appreciate much more the need to extend help to those less fortunate, adding, “That’s why I’m really passionate about charity work, because doing it makes me realize how very lucky and privileged I was while growing up. It’s hard for me to see children struggling.”

Admitting she didn’t pursue college immediately after graduating from high school because she’s unsure where her passions lay, Arielle now sees that decision as a blessing in disguise.  “I’m very glad I did that, because if I was studying, I wouldn’t be…but I’m not trying to say one shouldn’t study. But if I had made a decision on the spot to study, I probably wouldn’t have joined the pageant.”

While she still hasn’t clearly determined now what career she wants to chase, Arielle said she has a bit of an idea what she hopes to become. “I want to inspire the youth to follow their dreams. I want to be in a position where I can influence and empower the youth to help other people through charity work.”

She added, “Winning Miss World New Zealand made me became a grown up quite a bit. Mostly, I’ve learned that I can do anything that I put my mind into. That’s the same lesson I want to teach kids especially – that they can reach their dreams if they put their mind, soul and heart into it.”

Her victory becomes even more impressive upon learning that Miss World New Zealand was her very first foray into the world of pageants. Inspired by beauty queens she met at a fashion show, Arielle decided to give it a try, and eventually bested 15 other aspirants of the title.

For her Beauty with a Purpose project, Arielle helped raised funds for a five-year-old Filipina who needed life-saving facial surgery to repair a severe birth defect. The operation was reported successful, with the girl recovering with family in Wellington.

Aside from her charity activities, her main advocacy is to spread the negative impact of bullying. She explains, “I think it’s really important because it’s such a big thing in schools, and it shapes who you are as a person. New Zealand has a high suicide rate…you hear a lot of horror stories of people bullied by their peers. My parents have always told me that you’re friends are your treasures. Up until she passed away, my 93-year-old grandma was still very close with her best friend, and that was really beautiful. That’s what I want to encourage – friendship rather than bullying.”

Of why she deserves to be crowned Miss World 2014: “Miss World is all about beauty with a purpose. The crown itself represents charity, so it’s all about being someone out there to help other people, not because it’s your job, but because it comes from your heart. I believe that Miss World is someone who wants to give, someone who is selfless, and I believe I have those qualities,” replied Arielle. (FREEMAN)


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