I Feel U: Rabiya Mateo reunites with Miss Universe Philippines 2020 runners-up to share their inspiring pageant stories

Miss Universe-Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo is bound to open a new decade for the country in the world of pageantry. While there’s pressure to win the fifth title for the Philippines, Rabiya takes inspiration from her kababayans and trusts that their prayers will usher her to success. 

It’s been a month since she’s able to secure the ticket to the Miss Universe pageant yet the gorgeous Rabiya remains over the moon, still in awe of how her life changed in a snap. She still can’t believe people would recognize her anywhere she goes even with face masks on. 

Looking back on the final days of the competition, she said it felt different to own the stage without an audience. But the judges, production team, and the candidates’ mentors were cheering on them.
Rabiya’s life is a Cinderella story, an inspiring tale of living a simple life in the province under the care of her mom raising her solo until she became the queen that she is today. Now, she understands that the trials are leading her to an extraordinary purpose. 

Hindi madali ang buhay namin. Kailangan ko pagdaanan lahat ng hirap kasi ‘yun pala magiging Miss. Universe-Philippines ako, masha-share ko na ‘yung kwento ko sa maraming tao na ganun din ‘yung pinagdadaanan nila. Ngayon, magiging source ako ng inspiration,” she said. 

She now realized that growing up in a broken home, working while studying, and every hardship she went through served as God’s preparations. Nothing is sweeter than victory earned by hard work. 

She had fun and overflowing happiness on her homecoming in Iloilo. Her mom, tearful and proud, waited for her arrival at the airport. Rabiya felt so loved during the motorcade wherein her kababayans welcomed her with cheer and congratulatory messages on placards and tarpaulin. The hero’s welcome filled her heart with joy.  

Rabiya’s win was an answered prayer. She asked God to give her the crown on her first try because it would be difficult to join again and go through the same steps. Being the breadwinner, she can’t afford to sacrifice her job again, had she lost this year. 

The beauty queen knows she still has so much to learn. Apart from gratitude, her prayers are also about asking God to give her more strength. The Miss Universe organization would soon complete the line-up of candidates, and our bet can’t hide her excitement. 

Apart from making the country proud, Rabiya hopes that joining the Miss Universe will help her reconnect with her estranged father, just as how Bb. Pilipinas-Universe 2019 Gazini Ganados reunited with her biological dad after appearing in the international pageant.

Despite being abandoned as a child, Rabiya is eager to fulfil her duties as a daughter to her dad. She has a lot of questions in her heart, although she’s also scared to know the answers.

Wala po akong sama ng loob sa tatay ko. Gusto ko lang talaga malaman kung bakit niya nagawa ‘yun, kung paano niya nagawa ‘yun. Gusto ko lang talaga makita kung okay siya ngayon, kung maayos ba ‘yung kalagayan niya. Kasi kung hindi nga po, willing akong gampanan ‘yung responsibilidad ko bilang anak ko sa kanya,” expressed Rabiya.

Rabiya turned teary-eyed when asked to give her dad a message in case he’s watching. She told the father she hasn’t met, “I love you so much. Even for a fact that you left us, you’ve always been my source of inspiration. I’ve always wanted to be that kind of daughter in which you will be proud of me. And I hope someday, when we meet, you will be proud. I love you so much, dad.”

Bella Ysmael and Michelle Gumabao

For Miss Universe-Philippines 2020 1st runner-up Bella Ysmael and 2nd runner-up Michelle Gumabao, wearing their sash symbolizes their hard work and growth. 

Michelle, also an athlete and a former Pinoy Big Brother housemate, didn’t have plans of joining pageants at first. But that’s where life brought her to, so wearing her sash is a reminder of her journey, and of how God’s grace worked out everything for her. The sash also means she has the opportunity to spread awareness of her chosen advocacies.

Michelle turned heads when she dominated the volleyball arena. With her beauty, height, and wit, she was often persuaded to join pageants. But she didn’t want to until she started to meet more people from the industry including Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach who also convinced her to try pageantry. Seeing how the crown granted Pia the opportunity to become a catalyst of change, Michelle realized how empowering being a beauty queen is.

She may have gone far as a titleholder but Michelle never forgets her beginnings. Sports would always have a special place in her heart, so one of her advocacies is spreading awareness on the importance of being healthy and fit through sports. 

Grabe po talaga ‘yung ginawang pagbabago ng sports sa buhay ko, lahat ng opportunities. I was able to join PBB because I was an athlete, I was able to host for ABS-CBN because I was an athlete. Alam ko na ‘yung mga kabataan, they will also have the same opportunities if they pursue their dreams,” shared Michelle.

She started the advocacy for sports in 2015 as a volleyball coach and she wants to widen her reach across the Philippines. Add to that her aim to promote and a healthy and fit lifestyle.  

As a relative of former Miss Universe 1973 Margie Moran, Bella was expected to take on the same path. Her family planted that vision since she was a kid. The prophecy began to come into fruition when she joined Bb. Paranaque in 2014. Just as how Michelle got inspired by Pia’s win, Bella was also inspired by Catriona Gray’s victory in the 2018 Miss Universe pageant. She saw how amazing a Filipina is and that’s when she started to dream of becoming an empowered Filipina someday.

As a Psychology graduate, Bella’s main advocacy is to promote awareness on mental health care and education. She said mental health has always played a big role in her journey as a beauty queen and a ballerina. “I wanted to show people that it’s something you should prioritize. It’s something you should work on. No matter what the situation is, your mental health should come first,” explained Bella.

Pauline Amelinckx and Billie Hakenson

For Miss Universe-Philippines 2020 4th runner up Billie Hakenson, wearing her sash is a symbol of nine months of hard work while for 3rd runner up Pauline Amelickx, it’s a reminder of a big achievement and of being a role model to her ‘kababayans.’

“Iyak nang kaunti,” Pauline confessed when asked how she felt after not winning the highly-coveted crown. But it didn’t take long for her to realize how still blessed and victorious she is for her 3rd runner-up finish. 

“I put my heart and soul into joining and my effort for Bohol and for myself as well. So, of course you feel a little heartbroken that you weren’t able to make it,” she said of what made her cry. But thanks to the supporters who look at her as their own winner, she was able to see the beauty of her journey. 

Billie cried as well, not for herself but for Pauline. They’ve grown close during their trainings and Billie was even rooting for Pauline. While she’s sad for Pauline, she couldn’t help but rejoice with Rabiya Mateo, who is also their sister from the same training camp. 

The gorgeous Billie didn’t expect to land a spot in the Top 5. She has short hair, ‘morena’ skin color, and she’s bisexual, so Billie thinks she is not the typical beauty queen who’d dominate local pageantry. But she decided to join to prove that beauty is versatile.

“Beauty is not something that we should box and we should limit. Ang daming types of beauty and this is one of them. Hindi lang tayo long hair, hindi lang tayo bob. You are not limited by the standards of beauty that we see on the internet. And that’s what I want to show people,” she explained of why she joined the pageant.

It took two weeks before the win sinks in. And now that she’s finally grasped how the coronation changed her life, Billie came to realize that they have big responsibilities.

Pauline agreed with Billie’s opinion about beauty. “You, yourself is your own definition of beauty. You can just live your own truth and show that to the world and people will be inspired by your own stories as well and they will feel beautiful from within, too,” she said. 

Q and A Challenge 

Miss Universe Philippines 2020 queens reunite after a month. In this episode of I Feel U,t hey share intimate stories about their pageant journey and take on a fun Q and A game.
The first question was about the importance of celebrating Christmas. For Billie Hakenson, Christmas celebration is deeply rooted in Filipinos. “It’s not just part of our religion but it’s already part of our family and part of our DNA. Nothing says it’s more fun in the Philippines than a Filipino Christmas. And our year wouldn’t be complete without celebrating or even just hanging a ‘parol’ in our households,” she answered.

Pauline Amelickx believes it’s important to relive the spirit of Christmas especially at a time like this where it can also serve as a reminder to pray for a better year ahead. “I think, especially this year, it’s important for us to celebrate Christmas and be thankful for everything that we have and everything we’ve been through,” she explained. 

Michelle Gumabao mentioned that there’s always something to celebrate and be grateful for however rough the year may seemed. “Kahit anong dumaan, kahit anong nangyari, come December 25, we will all find time to come together as a family, as one country and celebrate something meaningful and not to forget what happened in the past but to accept it and be ready to move on to a new year.” 

Bella Ysmael pointed out Filipinos’ love for fiestas and gatherings, and how this year’s Christmas time can be a lot more meaningful because of what we all went through. “It’s a sign of hope. It’s another one of those events like, for example, the Miss Universe Philippines this year that gave us, Filipinos, hope, happiness, and excitement, so it’s also a symbol of brighter days ahead.”

Rabiya Mateo explained how Christmas time is a reminder to share our blessings. “Regardless of the hardships we experienced throughout the year, we still have this moment of giving, a moment to share what we have regardless of the challenges that we have encountered. Generosity is contagious and in this moment, we need something to offer to other people because that is the essence of humanity.”

The queens were also asked to think of the best gift they could give each other this Christmas.

Billie mentioned that she has already prepared a gift for Pauline and it’s something valuable printed on a piece of paper. Pauline said she’d like to give Billie a nice face shield because Billie lost hers. 

Bella knows how much Michelle loves high-heeled shoes, so she’d probably get her a pair for Christmas. Michelle joked about giving Bella a facemask because, “Sobrang ganda niya, nakakainis na, kailangang takpan.” Kidding aside, she’d love to give her something symbolic like a microphone, so Bella could be able to share her inspiring stories. 

On their gift for the ultimate queen, Billie thought of giving Rabiya a keychain stuffed toy with a crown to remind her that she’d always be there for her amid the hectic schedule. Bella would give her free driving lessons, so she can use her brand new car already. Pauline will gift her with a pillow, so she can feel comfortable while driving her car. Lastly, Michelle said in jest, “Bakit puro car, eh di natira sa akin, gas, ang mahal!” On a serious note, she thinks prayer is the best gift they can give the newly crowned Miss Universe-Philippines 2020.

In return, Rabiya would bring her ‘sisters’ to Tahitian classes as a Christmas gift, so they all can dance and bond together.