Miss World Philippines 2016 First Princess Arienne Louise Calingo.
PHOTO BY EXPAT MEDIA
DUBAI – The Filipina beauty who gave Catriona Gray a serious fight for the crown at Miss World Philippines 2016 now calls Dubai her second home.
Expatmedia.net met with Miss World Philippines 2016 First Princess Arienne Louise Calingo at the Dubai Canal Water Bridge, recently named one of the most stunning bridges in the world. Watch the exclusive interview below:
In an exclusive interview with Expatmedia.net, Arienne said she has felt quite at home in the emirate after moving here a couple of years ago.
“I moved from the Philippines to here to experience a new culture and see what Dubai has to offer,” the 29-year-old told Expatmedia.net. She has been trying to live under the entertainment radar to focus on her career.
Do people recognize her in public? “Once, I was at Mall of the Emirates and a waiter noticed me. It’s cool but it also puts a little bit of pressure on me to always look like this, like, glammed up,” she said. “Sometimes they message me on Instagram like, ‘Oh I saw you at Dubai Mall’ and I always respond. It’s good for me because I get to connect with Filipinos.”
Arienne works as a senior educational consultant for a US education firm in Dubai, helping students who want to study in US and Canada universities.
“I just wanted to see what it would be like to live independently again… doing things on my own and exploring on my own,” she said.
Arienne loves exploring JBR, Dubai Marina and art places like Alserkal Avenue. Karama is also one her favourite hangouts. “It’s like a mini-Philippines to me. And some of my friends live there,” she said.
Arienne said the warmth of the Filipino community has made her move to Dubai easier. “I really appreciate that Filipinos here they treat each other like family even if they don’t know each other personally,” she said.
As we climbed up the Dubai Canal footbridge, she happily took photos with her mobile phone, telling us that she loves photography.
“I’m sort of a newbie in photography, but I’d like to have my own exhibit. I know that sounds ambitious but maybe in three years,” she said, adding that her phone is filled with photos of UAE landmarks, including the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain.
“I know in [Filipino] ambisyosa (ambitious) has a negative connotation but I think I am an ambitious person in the sense that I have goals in life that I really want to achieve,” Arienne said.
It was ambition that drove the Filipina to graduate with honors at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and get her master’s degree in International Education Policy from Harvard University at the age of 25. She was the only Filipino in her graduating class.
While studying in the US, she joined pageants to fund her education. The First Princess, who was also a semi-finalist in Binibining Pilipinas 2017, credited pageantry for helping her build self-confidence.
“I’ve changed in a lot of ways. I used to be very, very shy; very, very reserved. Now, I am more sociable. I love going out and meeting people. Before I wouldn’t have believed I could move to Dubai by myself. I came here not knowing anyone. I think pageantry really imbued in me a sense of confidence,” she told Expatmedia.net.
Arienne is now channeling that confidence to talk about cultural diplomacy, diversity and inclusion, and international higher education at venues like Harvard University, Georgetown University, Office of the Higher Education Commission of Thailand, Fulbright Thailand, and the British Council. She has also been a keynote speaker at youth events in the US and Philippines.
During her free time, Arienne enjoys volunteer work. She collaborated with a school in Bangkok to create a scholarship program for Thai students interested in learning English. She is also passionate about advocating for education reform in the Philippines and loves connecting with the street children and indigenous Aeta children in her home province, Pampanga.
She is an official endorser for Library Spa & Nail Salon, and modelled for Teen Vogue and Icon magazines. She is also a graphic designer, award-winning poet, inspirational speaker, ballerina, violinist, and self-taught pianist. Most recently, she has enjoyed engaging in mentorship opportunities for Filipino students and aspiring beauty queens in the Philippines, US and Malaysia.
Before moving to Dubai, Calingo served as education ambassador for the US embassy in Manila, and taught Arabic and Middle Eastern culture at Holy Angel University in the Philippines. She also worked for the Thailand Ministry of Education and was a consultant for UNESCO.
Arienne said her move to Dubai “was such a surprise. Even to me. I only started packing the day before. It didn’t really hit me that I was going to Dubai until I was on the plane.”
Her work in the emirate has helped her maintain her advocacy of helping disadvantaged youths achieve their education goals.
Arienne said that while weekdays in Dubai see her immersed in work, “weekends are my days to really explore Dubai”.
“I really love exploring different places that I haven’t seen yet,” she said, adding that she also loves trying out restaurants.
Her favourite? “Bait Al Mandi near Mall of the Emirates. I also like the Salt Bae restaurant (Nusr-Et Steakhouse). You know, the guy that goes like this?” she said, folding her arm and wrist to mimic the restaurateur’s signature salt-sprinkling move.
She hopes to try flyboarding and skydiving when she can muster the courage for the extreme sports.
“I’m scared of heights but I notice with a lot of things I fear at first… I take time until I convince myself to do it. You know, you only live one life. I’m going to do it at some point,” she said.
Arienne said the most important lesson she has learned from her stay in the UAE is to “make the effort to adapt”.
“Not assimilate but rather integrate; so making friends with the locals or people who have lived here for a long time. Not just learning from their culture but also teaching them about your own culture. I think that sort of creates an environment of respect and understanding. Also, you learn from each other. That’s how you build lifelong friendships,” she said.
What’s next for Arienne here in the UAE? The Filipina said she has her eyes fixed on her goals and dreams.
“I have a lot of goals and dreams that I want to do. I do want to go back to the Philippines at some point. Maybe open a business. I do want to take the foreign service test. So I might study for that,” she said.
Is she considering moving here permanently? “I’ll be honest. I’m not going to be here long term but I’m very appreciative and grateful of the time that I am here so far. And I have no regrets living here,” she said. PIA/Expat Media
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