Why we love Rabiya Mateo
Rabiya Occeña Sundall Mateo, Miss Universe Philippines 2020, will have a very memorable reign. Her win is historic—not only is she the first Miss Universe Philippines held by MU as a standalone organization, she also won the title during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The half-Indian, half-Pinay’s win is also plagued by controversies, thanks to cryptic messages posted by Miss Taguig Sandra Lemonon. Charges of rule breaking—like the Ilongga supposedly bringing her own glam team during finals night when it is a no-no—have surfaced. Some tea has been spilled, and it’s still so early in the game.
On the other hand, heartwarming stories about the new queen have emerged to counter the negative publicity, which gives us a peek into the personal life of the Iloilo native.
All in all, it would be safe to say that Rabiya Mateo would not be forgotten by Filipinos for years to come.
Here are a few stories about the 24-year-old beauty queen, according to stories shared about her by people close to her.
“She’s a real life Cinderella!”
College roommate Ash Dumlao tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle that Rabiya’s always had bashers and haters. “We used to live in the same house back in college! We call each other sisters since we’re both halfies and both our dads left us,” she says. “She’s funny, humble, and full of dreams! I remember the first time she auditioned for a local modeling gig in Iloiolo—she was sooo happy she got in! We all believed in her although even in the past, people from those modeling groups were already belittling her (she’s not tall enough, there’s a gap between her teeth, etc) Maybe they were already jealous of what she would be capable of if trained and styled. All of us in the house love this girl so much! And I can personally attest to the goodness of her heart. She’s our bunso. Like, seriously, she would sleep around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. just to study. I honestly don’t believe any of the bad stuff they say about her since I know her personally. Even our closest friends would laugh! She’s a real life Cinderella. Palaging inaapi, but in the end, the crown is still hers!”
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We made it, Mama and Lola! These two are the strongest women that I know. Both were single mothers but were able raise their children full of dreams and aspiration in life. To my Lola Sol in heaven, your favorite apo is now Miss Universe Philippines. I love you so so so much. I wish you were still here witnessing our victory.? (Will be posting a thank you message later) #MissUniversePhilippines2020 #aribarabiya #halabirabiya
She’s really smart. Like cum laude smart.
Rabiya graduated Cum Laude, Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy, at the Iloilo Doctor’s College. Nikki Nicolas, a “beau con watcher” whose posts on Rabiya have gone viral, says, “While she was growing up, she was struggling financially and couldn’t afford gifts to her mom. So she would instead gift her with medals, certificates, and free tuition due to scholarships, diplomas, and crowns!”
Rabiya has always been financially challenged. But her situation even became more glaring during the competition—when she couldn’t post her own photos and manage her own social media accounts because she had no decent phone. Rabie Pogoy, the owner of Shutter Models & Talent Management, posted on his personal account that Rabiya would call him, stressed, about how she couldn’t follow his directions to have “online and social media visibility” because she had no decent phone to use to take her OOTDs. Rabiya would post her photos and credit Miss Gen San MJ Pascua, who became her photographer. “Napaiyak din talaga kami dun, ‘nak! (We cried over that)” Rabie says. “Alam mo nak it made you stronger and determined to achieve your goal. Kahit na mahirap, you did not surrender because a real queen does not give up. A queen stands up. A queen acknowledges the challenge but is unbreakable.” But just now, before this story is posted, Rabie says that a fan has just given Rabiya an iPhone 12.
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This is the first time that I'm going to post some photos of my Dad. We were not together for a very long time and I almost forgot how you look like. Good thing my Aunt had saved some of our photos together and I will be honest that I got teary eyes the moment I saw them. Mokmok is like a xerox copy of yours. You guys have the same color, the features, and the hairline???. I became a strong independent woman today because of the situation that happened in the past but I never blamed you for it. I will continue to be a breadwinner to our family, a good daughter to Mama, and a good role model to Mokmok. I will push myself to a new and greater limit every single day so that when the time comes and we meet again, you will tell everyone how proud you are that I'm your daughter and who knows, when that day comes I might be a doctor like you. I pray that wherever you are, you're surrounded by people who love you and take good care of you. I hope you still think about me because I always think about you. Happy Father's Daddy and I miss you so much. ❤️ PS, I grew up to be a happy person even I have that RBF(resting baby face) back then.???
She has grit—or what the Ilonggas call “paningkaras.”
As a struggling student who couldn’t afford the extras that came with education, Rabiya did not have money for rent. Her old landlord’s son, Ramon Munes, recounts her experience in a post. He says, “Years ago, she stayed at our boarding house for less than a semester while she was studying at Iloilo Doctor’s College. She did not have money to pay for rent. She slept on the floor. Her roommates gave her ‘banig’ so she would have something to sleep on. My mom asked her if she would be okay, and she said she would be fine. Through hard work, perseverance, and sheer grit, she graduated cum laude and now, [she’s] the Miss Universe Philippines.”
Another friend, Carmella Leal, shares in her post, “Isa pa na sa remember ko sang last year namon sa HS, nakisakay lang kami sa car sang amon classmate para mag apply sa mga universities sa city. Kinadlaw pa kami na kay indi siya kabalo paano mag seatbelt haha (I remember in high school we would just ride with a friend to apply to universities. Rabiya didn’t even know how to use the seat belt!)”
‘She’s a real life Cinderella!’
Rabiya replied to this with a good-natured quip, “Naka tsinelas lang ko daun galibot apply sa universities kay wala ko sandals or doll shoes (I just wore slippers to go around universities because I didn’t have sandals or doll shoes).”
She has initiative.
Screenshots of Rabiya asking certain friends for work—“rakets”—have been published on social media. There’s one where Rabiya asks Nelly Cabales, a friend, for raket during Laboracay in 2018, so she could save up for her board exam. Her friend, Kresyl Joy Abrasado, says Rabiya would just go to the nearest computer shop to do her school work, because she didn’t have her own laptop. Rabiya also became a review lecturer and review coordinator immediately before she joined the Miss Universe contest. From August 2018 to February 2020, she worked for Sultan Review Group (SRG) as a full time lecturer. Edmond Sultan, the owner of the review center, posted, “It wasn’t an easy process, and SRG’s training will truly test your character but will surely make you stronger. Rabs never buckled once.”
We stan this Queen.