Rabiya Mateo credits “hard work, destiny” in winning Miss Universe Philippines crown

Just hours after being hailed as Miss Universe Philippines 2020 during the pre-taped coronation ceremonies held last weekend at the Baguio Country Club, Iloilo City’s Rabiya Mateo enthusiastically talked to ABS-CBN News correspondent Dyan Castillejo via video call to talk about her journey in the competition.

“I’ve been doing a lot of things on my first day as Miss Universe Philippines so there’s a lot of things to prepare for the competition. And actually, right now, it hasn’t sunk in yet. I’ve been trying to feel that momentum, that rush, because up until now, I can’t believe that I’ve won,” the new beauty queen conveyed when asked regarding how she was feeling at that moment.

While being an underdog and a newbie were perceived to be disadvantages in any competition, it wasn’t the same story for Rabiya, who divulged that Miss Universe Philippines 2020 is the first-ever national pageant she has ever competed in. Thus, she feels nothing but pride and happiness towards her triumph.

“Actually, there’s not much of a pressure when it comes to my journey because the expectations of the people around me weren’t that high. And now that I was able to snatch the crown, I feel like it’s a combination of hard work and, at the same time, destiny. During that night, the stars were aligned for me,” she said.

Then she continued, “When I realized na nanalo na talaga ako, I was really crying because I offer this success to my single mother and lahat siguro ng mga doubts ko in the past, lahat ng pagsusumikap, parang ngayon nakuha ko na talaga ‘yong resulta and I’m very happy and I’m very honored to bring pride and joy sa Iloilo City.”

Being the second Ilongga to represent the country to the Miss Universe pageant, following Louise Aurelio Vail who was crowned Binibining Pilipinas in 1965 and eventually emerged as one of the 15 semi-finalists, Rabiya swears to take good care of the title and to further work hard in order for her to succeed as well in the next level.

Moreover, the 23-year-old licensed physical therapist-turned-beauty queen disclosed that even though she’s always wanted to win, she was actually just eyeing to land a spot on the Top 5. However, God apparently has other plans for her and bestowed the most coveted Miss Universe Philippines crown.

“I think, it’s my desire e. You can see it in my eyes. And I feel like during that moment, I was like, I’m enjoying it. Sinabi ko talaga sa sarili ko, paglabas ko dapat iisipin ko lang na wala akong kalaban. It’s just me easing the runway. And feeling ko, ‘yon ang naramdaman na energy ng judges. And at the end of the way, it’s somebody’s luck e and during that night, it was my night talaga,” she replied when asked what she thought the judges saw in her that made them decide to pick her as the winner.

When it comes to the person who encouraged her to join the contest, she told Dyan that it was her Filipina mother who singlehandedly raised her and her younger brother ever since their Indian father abandoned them when she was only five years old. Being it her ultimate dream, her mom advised her to not let her fears overpower her and pursue it since she’s not getting any younger and she can already sustain herself.

She further imparted how her parents’ fallout made their life not too happy and smooth, compelling her to become the breadwinner of their family at a young age by doing modelling and some side gigs to earn money, apart from being a full scholar at the Iloilo Doctor’s Hospital where she graduated cum laude and earned her degree in Physical Therapy. This enkindled her passion in education because she firmly believes that it’s the gate pass towards success, thus yearning to pass it on to other people in order to empower them.

As Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray congratulated her on Twitter, Rabiya couldn’t be more proud and happier for it was indeed a dream come true for her.

“This was just a dream. And with just one snap, it happened. And sabi ko, wala talagang imposible once you take the risk and you put your heart and soul into something that you really want. That’s why sabi ko talaga, I’m very much honored to carry the banner of the Philippines and to represent every Filipina in the international stage,” she enthused.

She also recounted how the pandemic had made her preparations for the competition extra challenging, considering the restrictions and safety precautions that compelled her to undergo trainings virtually, not to mention having limited finances after she had to quit her job as a lecturer in a review center to focus in this endeavor and the pressure she carried as the representative of Iloilo City. Thus, she’s very grateful that she was able to surpass those difficulties with the help of the people around her.

“I just wanna thank everybody who believed in me even I was nobody yet, even when there’s no name recall, there were some people who stood by my side and those people saw the potential in me. And I’m very thankful to every Ilongga who had put some effort to let me be the person that I am today, those people who have helped me financially and have been sending a lot of messages, [and] those people
who have been training me for free. I feel like this success is also their success and I will be forever thankful for everybody who truly helped me along the way,” she stated.