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Here's What Pageant Experts And Her Fellow Beauty Queens Think About Miss U PH 2020 Rabiya Mateo

Can Rabiya Mateo become Miss Universe 2020? What are the odds for this "gwapa" from Iloilo City?

Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo didn't wear crowns and sashes or carry torches in school pageants. That's because she didn't place in them, or at least, not in the ones that mattered.


"The first time I joined I was second runner-up. The second time I joined, I thought I was going to win, but I ended up as fourth runner-up," she tells Metro.Style


She talks about these memories while wearing the sparkliest, most precious, most coveted crown of all in the country—that of Miss Universe Philippines, the crown that symbolizes the opportunity to bag a title that Filipinos respect. Rabiya has gone leaps and bounds from being an uncrowned, unnoticed, and unknown beauty.


"I told myself back then that if I can’t even win a school pageant, what more a local and national pageant?" she asks herself. 






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Iloilo, this crown is for you! I still can’t believe it happened. I’m still in shock right now and I’m still trying to absorb everything. I just wanna thank all the people who had helped me in this journey. To the Mateo Family, everyone from Balasan, my classmates from BCS, St. Candida School and Iloilo Doctors’ College, co-interns from SPUI especially to Anny Yu, my bestfriends, Acel, Andrea, Mimi and Karen Alerta, my #TeamBactung, Mama Dette, Raping, Toto and Inday Meggy, to Lula family especially to Bling, Remjo and Mara, to my make up artists Benjie, Gio Forbes, Maki Gu and Migz, to my stylists Dom, Josh and Nung Ryan, designers like Sir Bo, Paul Conte, Ram Silva(ily), Mamang Jet Salcedo, John Lee, Tata Blas Pinuela, Sir JunG Candelario (The best!), Sir Andrew Bugna and Sir Sidney Eculla, thank you so so so much. For most of the projects we have, I couldn't even pay you guys a single cent and you still helped me because you are the kindest people on Earth. I share this crown with each and every one of you! P.S. There’s still a Part 2 and 3 of my appreciation post. I wanted to make sure I would be able to mention everybody who helped me :)

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But as the story goes, the 23-year-old "underdog" from Iloilo City was destined to hold the universe in her palm—even though no one had considered her the popular choice, a candidate with the strongest potential, or even a crowd favorite. 


"At the end of the day, it’s not about who’s the most popular candidate or who has the most amazing potential to be the representative. At the end of the day, as they say, the person who will win is somebody who worked hard for it and somebody who is destined for that night, and during that night, the stars were aligned for me," Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya smiles.  


The sweetest part about this chapter of her victory is that names from the industry seem to agree with Rabiya; now that she's proven her mettle and shone her brightest on the national stage, there are many who believe that Rabiya has exactly what it takes to become the Philippines' fifth Miss Universe titleholder.  


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Miss Universe 2012 First Runner-up Janine Tugonon is one of Rabiya's biggest fans. So big, in fact, that Rabiya was included in her Top 3 choices of candidates who she thought deserved to win the crown. Her favorite part about the country's Miss U bet is her determination, and the fact that she's a "Filipina beauty." 


Makeup artist Gery Penaso, a celeb and beauty queen favorite, was direct to the point: "I believe she will win the Miss Universe pageant. The way she talks and shares her story is so impressive yet the confidence is so raw and she'll get you hooked with her story telling, and her without being aware that she has that kind of power, she's just being her authentic self the whole time," he writes in a Facebook post. 






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at this point, I confess that I am a medyo hypocrite, an in-denial pageant fanatic LOL, here's what I have observed yesterday during my time with Rabiya Mateo: I believe she will win the Miss Universe pageant. The way she talks and shares her story is so impressive yet the confidence is so raw and she'll get you hooked with her story telling, and her without being aware that she has that kind of power, she's just being her authentic self the whole time. If I am going to compare her to Catriona when it comes to speaking lang ah(just so you can understand what I'm trying to say, wag nyo ko i-bash). They have the same pull and same effect to people when they talk. Catriona is very smart and its natural, while Rabiya's communication skills need polishing and you'll see that the effort is there, its not perfect pero may puso!!! And until this morning dala-dala ko sya, I'm grateful to have worked with her. @rabiyamateo has the qualities of a Miss Universe that no pageant coach can ever train. This girl will win. Yun lang haha, I just want to take this opportunity to thank @jonasempire.ph @samverzosa @rsfrancisco888 @darricckk @airxmnz @frontrowphoff @themissuniverseph for giving me the chance to work with the next Miss Universe. Maraming salamat. 📸 @airxmnz

A post shared by Gery Penaso • Makeup Artist 🇵🇭 (@gerypenaso) on


Meanwhile, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray, the Philippines' most recent Miss Universe queen, has faith in Rabiya, too. Rabiya's potential reign hasn't enjoyed the smoothest first steps, so Catriona believes that Rabiya has actually been given an opportunity to show the world what it means to be a queen, rather than a burden of criticism and controversy.


Pageant aficionados also feel good about Rabiya representing the country this year. Her physical resemblance to Shamcey Supsup-Lee, Miss Universe 2012 Third Runner-up and the national director of the Miss Universe Philippines pageant, is one of the factors that convince them that Rabiya has the makings of a strong candidate.


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"They had those comments even during Miss Iloilo because Ms. Shamcey was also our chief judge. Of course I’m very honored and overwhelmed... If we’re going to think about it, she’s really a phenomenal woman, so being compared to her is such an honor. But at the same time, I also want to have a new branding, that people would look at me and they will tell me, 'No, that’s Rabiya, that’s not Madam Shamcey 2.0,'" Rabiya explains. 


Miss Universe Philippines creative director Jonas Gaffud says that "a pageant, like Miss Universe Philippines, gives opportunities to young women like Rabiya." His Instagram post featured a snippet of an interview with Rabiya who turned emotional when she narrated that they don't have a TV at home now, so her mother had to go to her classmate's house to watch the coronation.    



Asked about what she learned from Jonas (or Mama J), Rabiya tells Metro.Style, "Mama J would always tell the girls to be authentic...  It’s important that you know yourself, you know your core, because regardless of how people would see you, the only comments that matter are those of people who truly know you. "


As we get to know Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya more and more through her interviews and advocacies, we're definitely sure that she'll give us more reasons to rally behind her.



On the other hand, a fourth beauty queen, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach, was ready to welcome Rabiya into the fold of the Miss Universe Philippines queens. Rabiya expressed her gratefulness for Pia's warmth and said that she was excited to learn more about life from her ate. 


The Filipina-Indian beauty has much to look forward to, and prepare for, now that she officially starts her international journey to the crown. She may have gotten one step closer to the Miss Universe title, but the most challenging preparations are just beginning for Rabiya. 


Those who know her best aren't worried at all, though.


After all, she survived—then emerged victorious from—the first leg of her journey as her family's breadwinner that needed to quit her job to dedicate herself to the pageant. Rabiya was a licensed physical therapist before joining the competition. She also proudly mirrors the strength of her mom and her grandma, both single mothers who raised lovely families on their own.



"The fear was who was going to provide for our family, and then pandemic happened. During the course of the pandemic, I [didn't] have any money going in. Looking back, everything was a miracle. It was a miracle that I was able to sustain myself in this pageant and at the same time, sustain the needs of my family," Rabiya shares. 


It's the same fire that Rabiya will keep burning as she works slowly but steadily towards the Miss Universe crown. 


"If there would be one word to describe my journey, that would be exhilarating. Because the journey was full of surprises, and I didn’t imagine the challenges all of the candidates will go through before we reached the coronation night," she says.


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Expect to see Rabiya continue doing what she does best every step of the way: that is, be her most authentic self, be open to learning how to be and do better, and embrace simplicity. 


"All you have to do is to shake it up, to loosen up, and to relax and just be yourself," Rabiya ends. 


Photos from @rabiyamateo