Iloilo beauty crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2020

A 23-year-old beauty from Balasan, Iloilo, was crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2020 during a competition held in Baguio City Sunday.

Rabiya Mateo, an Indian-Filipino, 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. 

Outgoing Miss Universe Philippines Gazini Ganados (right) crowns Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo of Iloilo.

Mateo will represent the Philippines in the Miss Universe 2020 pageant at a venue to be announced later. 

During the final question-andanswer, the top five candidates were given two questions. 

Rabiya Mateo in evening gown.

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.” 

Miss Universe Philippines 2020 top 16.

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 nonessential, where do pageants stand in the time of crisis?” 

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.” 

Rabiya Mateo in swimsuit.

A Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy graduate, 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. 

Iloilo celebrates

Ilonggos are jubilant over the crowning of Mateo as Miss Universe Philippines 2020. 

“The Ilonggo community is truly proud of her achievement. She is an epitome that Iloilo City can truly level-up and rise above challenges during these times. She is indeed a phenomenal woman with heartfelt beauty,” said Mayor Jerry Treñas yesterday. 

“We wish her luck in her next journey. Rest assured Iloilo City and its people will be behind her all the way,” Treñas added. 

“The stars in the universe have aligned and connected. Iloilo City is proud,” said Congresswoman Julienne “Jam Jam” Baronda. 

“To all Ilonggos, prepare your passports. We will fly to the Miss Universe pageant,” said fashion designer Hector “Totong” Gellangarin. 

Many Ilonggos were glued to their TV screens Sunday morning to cheer on the 23-year-old Mateo who was crowned as Miss Iloilo 2020 earlier this year as part of the Dinagyang Festival. 

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. But organizers postponed the competition to June. 

The national pageant was finally held in October. Jonas Gaffud, creative director for MUP, said that the unusual health crisis motivated MUP 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 Supsup-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, MUP is devoting time and resources to understand its role in responding to this public health crisis.” 

Judges in this year’s competition were Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Miss Universe 2012 1st runner up Janine Tugonon, Miss Universe 2013 3rd runner up Ariella Arida, Congressman Eric Yap, Baguio First Lady Arlene Magalong, Venus Navalta, Arthur Peña, Jackie Aquino, Raymond delos Santos, and Samuel Salonga Versoza Jr. Roque enjoined the public to support the country's bet to the Miss Universe pageant.

In a Facebook post, Roque said picking the country's bet for the Miss Universe title was one of the toughest jobs he ever took on. (With a report from Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos)