ILOILO CITY – Rabiya Occeña Mateo may not have brought home the Miss Universe crown for the Philippines, but she will always be a winner.
“To see an empowered Ilongga woman coming from a provincial small town reaching the international stage is enough proof that she’s already Miss Universe in her own right,” said Joar Songcuya, a seafarer turned artist.
Songcuya hails from the same district in northern Iloilo province as the 24-year-old Mateo. The young beauty is from Balasan town while Songcuya is from the neighboring Barotac Viejo town.
“We speak the same soft dialect, same provincial jokes, hardships, same experiences—for people who got nothing but just had the hardship and poverty to use as a tool to propel against anything, Rabiya’s life is a testimony to everyone that even a fatherless, farm girl could alter the course of her life using not just her beauty, but because she invested much on her education,” Songcuya added.
The Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc.—which played a pivotal role in Mateo’s road to Miss Universe after the lass won the 2020 title of Miss Iloilo as part the Dinagyang Festival—considered Mateo to have given many hope and inspiration as people were faced by the pandemic’s impact.
“She has truly inspired young people from all walks of life and from different parts of the world to make a difference and to reach for greater heights,” IFFI said.
“She had strived very hard to achieve her dreams. She had fluently represented the City of Love to the entire globe, and we are very proud of her. We cannot wait to welcome her home and make her feel the love of every Ilonggo,” said Mayor Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City.