From Cebuana to Ilongga

Vanessa A. Balbuena (The Freeman) - October 26, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Rabiya Mateo continues a pattern of bi-racial Miss Universe Philippines winners in the past years, highlighting once again how diverse Filipina beauty can be.

The Filipina-Indian from Iloilo City succeeds Gazini Ganados, a Fil-Palestinian hailing from Talisay City, Cebu. Before them were Fil-Australian Catriona Gray, Fil-German Pia Wurtzbach, and Fil-British Rachel Peters.

Mateo, 24, bested 46 other candidates in the inaugural Miss Universe Philippines pageant that was taped as live on Oct. 24 at Baguio Country Club in Baguio City, then streamed and televised on GMA Network yesterday.

This is the first national pageant for Mateo, yet she gave more experienced candidates a run for their money, winning Best in Swimsuit and the Hair and Makeup Challenge.

A physical therapy Cum Laude graduate from Iloilo Doctors’ College, Mateo is an education advocate, believing it can be a way out of poverty, especially for someone like her whose mother struggled to raise her single-handedly.

During the finals, the Top 5 finalists were each given two questions by host KC Montero. Asked which image of a Filipino, dead or alive, she would place in a new paper currency, Mateo chose a feisty, fellow Ilongga.

“If I were given the chance, I want to use the face of Miriam Defensor- Santiago. For those who don’t know, she was an Ilongga. 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.”

To the common question for the Top 5 on how they think pageants are relevant in a time of a pandemic which has “made clear our priorities, essential or non-essentials,” Mateo answered: “As a candidate, I know I’m not just a face of Iloilo City. But I am here carrying hope as a symbol of light in the darkest times. As of the moment, 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.”

Giving Mateo a tough fight was first runner-up Ysabella Roxas Ysmael, a ballerina and psychologist who is the niece of former Miss Universe 1973 Margarita Moran. She was also chosen Best in Evening Gown during Friday’s preliminaries.

Finishing second runner-up was heavy favorite Michele Gumabao of Quezon City, a Top 15 finalist at Miss Globe 2018. Another early contender, Pauline Amelinckx of Bohol, placed third runner-up, while Cebu-based flight attendant Billie Hakenson completed the Top 5 as fourth runner-up.

Cebu Province’s Apriel Smith, Mandaue City’s Lou Dominique Piczon (Best in Runway and Best in National Costume), and Cebu City’s Tracy Maureen Perez (Best Swimsuit Photo Shoot and Most Photogenic) were among the Top 16 finalists. – Photos from MUP Facebook

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