Iloilo City’s pride Rabiya Mateo is the first ever Miss Universe Philippines 2020 pageant.
In the pre-taped coronation ceremonies—which was held at the Baguio Country Club’s Cordillera Convention Hall in Baguio City and was telecasted in the morning of October 25 via GMA-7–the 23-year-old Filipino-Indian beauty bested 45 other candidates from all over the Philippines.
This thus made her the first winner of the first-ever stand-alone pageant after the Miss Universe Organization ended its partnership with Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc.
Mateo wowed the judges during the panel interview, preliminary and final swimsuit rounds. But she undeniable won the majority of nods with her communication skills during the Question and Answer portions.
In the Top 16 round, all contestants were asked one same question, which was: “Throughout this journey, you have discovered that you’re a phenomenal woman which is conditioned for greater [sic]. How can you create a positive and lasting impact to the world around you?”
Rabiya, in her response, emphasized the importance of education.
She said: “First of all, I need to stick to my core, which is being passionate about educating people. I am a lecturer and I’ve been pursuing this because this education had helped me to have that comfortable life that I and my family deserves.
“And I wanna push people. I want them to achieve greater things in life through me. And I know with Miss Universe, anything is possible because I am a phenomenal woman with a heart of beauty.”
In the Top 5 segment, the finalists were asked two pre-drawn questions each and were read by pageant host KC Montero.
The first question was: “If you could create a new paper currency with the image of any Filipino on it, dead or alive, who would it be and why?”
Rabiya quickly dropped the name of the late senator Miriam Santiago, who died of cancer in 2016. She was among Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s competitors during the 2016 national election.
“If I were given the chance, I want to use the face of Miriam Defensor-Santiago,” Rabiya replied. “For those who don’t know, she was an Ilongga but what I admired about her is that she used her knowledge, her voice to serve the country.
“And I want to be somebody like her, somebody who puts her heart, her passion into action. And after all, she is the best president that we never had.”
The second question went: “This pandemic has made clear our priorities, essential or non-essential. Where do pageants stand in this time of crisis?”
Rabiya’s reply was on point: “As a candidate I know I’m not just the face of Iloilo City. But I am here, carrying hope and as a symbol of light in the darkest times.
“And as of the moment, I want to help my community, I want to use my strength to make an impact. And that is the essence of beauty pageant, it gives us the power to make a difference.”
Rabiya admittedly grew up in poverty in Balasan, Iloilo and was raised singlehandedly by her mother.
But such setback did not stop her from graduating cum laude from the Iloilo Doctor’s College. She is now a licensed physical therapist. However, she said in an interview with YouTube vlogger Tita Lavinia of Titas of Pageantry, that she opted to teach in review centers.
During her closed-door interview for the pageant [which was uploaded on social media later on], she shared that she is actively helping the COVID-19 frontliners as her way of giving back to the country’s modern heroes.
She is also active in “Feed Me and I Read You” program that help children living near the dumpsite with their education.
Before winning Miss Universe Philippines, Rabiya won Miss Iloilo 2020 where, coincidentally, she was crowned by Miss Universe 2011 3rd Runner-up Shamcey Supsup-Lee, the national director of the Miss Universe Philippines organization.
The Pinay beauty queen trained under Aces & Queens, the same boot camp who trained former Miss Universe Philippines titleholders such as Venus Raj, Shamcey Supsup-Lee, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, and more.
Rabiya Mateo is set to represent the Philippines in the yet to be scheduled Miss Universe pageant in 2021 and will try to duplicate the feat of Catriona Gray in 2018 to win the country’s fifth Miss Universe crown.