ILOILO City’s Rabiya Occeña Mateo, 23, was crowned as Miss Universe Philippines in glittering ceremonies but under very strict health and safety protocols at the Cordillera Convention Hall of Baguio Country Club in Baguio City.
Mateo, who was voted as Best in Swimsuit during the preliminaries, was crowned by Gazini Ganados, last year’s winner and the last to win from the Binibining Pilipinas organization after Miss Universe Philippines organization acquired the international tilt’s franchise.
The new national director Shamcey Supsup Lee pinned the sash on Mateo.
Mateo is the first Ilongga to win the coveted Miss Universe title in 55 years (after Louise Vail Aurelio who won as Bb Pilipinas Universe in 1965). She will vie for the 69th Miss Universe Pageant, reportedly scheduled for March 2021.
A 5’7”, Filipino-Indian Physical Therapy (cum laude) graduate of Iloilo Doctors’ College, Mateo bested the field of 45 contestants from all over the country in the pageant that was launched in February before the pandemic and resumed when quarantine rules eased up.
When asked the final question, “This pandemic has made clear our priorities, essential and non-essential. Where do pageants stand in this time of crisis?” Mateo replied: “As a candidate, I know I’m not just the face of Iloilo City. But I am here carrying hope and as a symbol of light in the darkest times. And 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.”
Named as runners-up were Parañaque’s Ysabella Ysmael, first; Quezon City’s Michele Gumabao, second; Bohol’s Pauline Amelinckx, third; and Cavite’s Kimberly Hakenson, fourth.
The finals’ panel of judges included, among others, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap.
The pre-recorded finals aired on GMA on Sunday, 9 a.m.