Rabiya Mateo of Iloilo City is the Philippines’ new representative to the Miss Universe pageant.
The 23-year-old Ilongga beauty was crowned as the first winner of the new Miss Universe-Philippines franchise, besting over 40 other candidates during the coronation event held at the Baguio Country Club on Sunday.
Paranaque’s Ysabella Ysmael was named first runner-up, while Quezon City’s Michele Gumabao clinched second runner-up honors.
Pauline Amelinckx of Bohol and Kimberly Hakenson of Cavite meanwhile rounded up the top five of the much-awaited pageant.
As the first titlist of the new pageant, Mateo donned the newest “Filipina” crown, which she received from Miss Universe-Philippines 2019 winner Gazini Ganados.
Mateo, who won the Best in Swimsuit Award during the preliminary rounds, likewise turned heads during the finale’s question-and-answer portion with her honest take.
If given the chance to create a new paper currency with the image of any Filipino she could choose, Mateo said she would pick the late Miriam Defensor-Santiago, whom she labeled as the “best president that we never had.”
“For those who don’t know, she was an Ilongga,” Mateo said during the Q and A round. “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.”
Asked about the importance of pageants during difficult times, Mateo said that such events give an individual the power to make a difference.
“I am here carrying hope and as a symbol of light in the darkest times… I want to help my community, I want to use my strength to make an impact, and that is the essence of beauty pageants, it gives us the power to make a difference,” she said.
During the initial interviews, Mateo, who is a lecturer, also highlighted the importance of education in communities.
‘Welcome to the sisterhood’
Past Miss Universe-Philippines winners, including Catriona Gray and Ganados, congratulated Mateo for the feat, welcoming her to the “sisterhood.”
“Excited to witness your journey! Welcome to the sisterhood,” Gray, who won the 2018 edition of the prestigious Miss Universe contest, wrote on her Instagram story.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas also lauded the newly-crowned beauty queen for the achievement, and wished her luck in the next big journey.
“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,” the local executive wrote on his social media page.