After eight months, a 23 year-old Filipina-Indian stunner from Balasan, Iloilo was crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2020 during a competition held in Baguio City on Sunday, October 25.

Rabiya Mateo, whose name means princess or queen, edged out 44 other girls for the prestigious title as she was crowned by outgoing Miss Universe Philippines Gazini Ganados. She will represent the Philippines in the Miss Universe 2020 pageant at a venue to be announced later.   

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Rabiya Mateo in swimsuit.

During the final question-and-answer, the top 5 candidates were given two questions. For the first question, Mateo was asked: “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?”

Mateo answered: “If I were given the chance, I will use the face of Miriam Defensor- Santiago. For those who do not know, she was an Ilongga but what I admire about her is that she used her knowledge and 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 we never had.”

For the final question-and-answer, which is also the common question for the top 5 girls, Mateo was asked: “This pandemic has made clear our priorities, essential or non-essential, where do pageants stand in the time of crisis?”

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Rabiya Mateo in evening gown.

Mateo answered: “As a candidate, I know that I am not just the face of Iloilo City. But I am here carrying hope and as a symbol of light in the darkest times. And I want to help my community. I want to use my strength to make an impact. That is the essence of beauty pageants. It gives us the power to make a difference.”   

A graduate of bachelor of science in physical therapy, Mateo finished cum laude, best intern and university valedictorian where she delivered her speech on behalf of the graduates of Batch 2018 at the Iloilo Doctors’ College. This 5’6 beauty works at SRG Manila Review Center as review coordinator and lecturer.

During the pandemic, Mateo prepared meals for frontliners of the Iloilo Doctors Hospital. She also shared her time with BULIG of the Jazmin Foundation to raise donations for the PPEs of frontliners and  pedicab drivers who lost their source of income during the lockdown. She also volunteered in making personal protective equipment (PPE) at the Iloilo Science and Technology University with the help from the Iloilo Chapter of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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Miss Universe Philippines 2020 top 16.

First runner-up honors went to Ysabella Ysmael, Paranaque. Second runner-up was Michele Gumabao, Quezon City; Pauline Amelinckx, Bohol, 3rd runner-up; and Kimberly Hakenson, Cavite, 4th runner-up.

Winners of major special awards presented during the preliminaries last Saturday were: Best in National Costume, Lou Dominique Piczon, Mandaue; Best in Swimsuit, Mateo, Iloilo City; Best in Evening Gown, Ysabella Ysmael, Parañaque; Face of the Universe, Amelinckx, Bohol; and Miss Photogenic, Tracy Maureen Perez, Cebu City.

Other recipients of special awards were: Best in Swimsuit Photo, Tracy Maureen Perez, Cebu City; Best in Runway, Piczon, Mandaue; Miss Lazada Fan Vote, Skelly Ivy Florida, Biliran; Miss MG Philippines, Gumabao, Quezon City; Miss Creamsilk, Downy Sweetheart Award and Miss Cetaphil Sun, Amelinckx, Bohol; and Best Tourism Video, Jan Alexis Elcano, Batanes.
Candidates who finished in the Top 16 were delegates from Romblon, Quezon City, Pasig, Paranaque, Taguig, Mandaue, Misamis Oriental, Cebu Province, Cavite, Davao City, Cebu City, Iloilo, Aklan, Bohol, Albay, and Biliran.

From more than 50 candidates, only 45 girls competed in the finale. The Miss Universe Philippines 2020 was originally scheduled in May. Then the organizers postponed the competition to June. The national pageant was finally held in October.

“No industry was really spared by this crisis. Specifically in our case, it has been very difficult because movement is limited, so all schedules need to be moved, contestants and employees secured, and our partners assured of our commitment to seeing this project through,” said Jonas Gaffud, creative director for MUP..

Gaffud said that the unusual health crisis motivated MUPh to help one another. “We have studied all efforts for us, to be able to help our country not only for short-term relief but for the coming years as well.”

There were calls to postpone the Miss Universe Philippines 2020 pageant because of the pandemic. But  Shamcey Susup-Lee, MUP national director, said: “I agree that we should not hold pageants in the same way we held them in the past. Rather than just focusing on what we can’t or shouldn’t do amidst this crisis, MUPh is devoting time and resources to understand its role in responding to this public health crisis.”

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