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LOOK: Miss Universe Philippines Rabiya Mateo visits Albay

For most folks, two days in a work week include 8-hour work shifts, a couple of hours commuting (at least, pre-COVID-19), and the rest of the day for personal time and sleep. For a Miss Universe Philippines, two days can be a whirlwind of activities that whisks her off from city life to distant municipalities.

Reigning Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo embarked on a 2-day outreach visit to Oas, Albay along with members of IPNAP (Infant & Pediatric Nutrition Association of the Philippines) and IWC (Inner Wheel Club) of Makati on January 25 and 26.

IPNAP is a business community-led collaboration that aims to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition among children and help local communities with nutrition and health initiatives. Rabiya has been championing the same cause with some poor communities in Iloilo.

In this two day journey with her, the saying “To whom much is given, much is expected” rings no truer. For most people, looking tired and haggard after a 10-hour drive especially for outreach is excusable. But for a Miss Universe Philippines, she’s expected to have the right energy, a warm smile, and look flawless 24/7. Rabiya lives up to it so effortless but most importantly, does it with a lot of heart.

Day 1: Travel to Albay and courtesy call to Mayor

Rabiya and the team left Manila after midnight with one pit stop and a couple of gas stops. For the rest of the smooth and sometimes bumpy journey, Rabiya quietly slept in the van. Upon arrival in Legazpi, Albay, Rabiya and the team had a couple of hours for lunch and to freshen up. 

Now, dressed in her white asymmetric top and red trousers, Rabiya was all set for her courtesy call with Oas Mayor Domingo Escoto. But it would take another hour from the hotel to the Oas Town Hall.

Rabiya was greeted warmly by Mayor Escoto and the rest of the people at the Oas Town Hall. Mayor Escoto expressed his gratitude to Rabiya for taking the time to visit their town and to be part of a feeding program that helps the malnourished children. True to the warm Filipino hospitality, some of the local specialties were served for merienda.

Rabiya said, “He is a really nice guy and it was really a warm welcome. We talked about the tourism industry and how the pandemic affected Oas. He said that they have solid plans on how to strengthen the tourism industry. I’m excited to go back.”

The power of pageantry in the Philippines was already quite evident. The security personnel, administration, and people of all ages were enthralled by Miss Universe Philippines’ presence. As much as people wanted to see her beauty up close and without distractions, the staff ensured that there was social distancing and precautionary measures were in place. One of the touching moments was when the Mayor’s mother and companion expressed to Rabiya that they would be praying for her in the upcoming Miss Universe pageant.

Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo receives a Certificate of Recognition from Oas Mayor Domingo Escoto during her courtesy call at the Oas Town Hall.

Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

The people of Oas were very happy to see Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo. She is with Mayor Domingo Escoto (Right) and some of the security personnel who would be ensuring her safety throughout her visit.

Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

Immediately after the courtesy call, Rabiya and the team traveled to Maramba, Oas, Albay which was another one-hour journey through zigzag roads.

Locals had probably heard the news of Rabiya’s visit and as soon as she stepped out of the van, there were screaming fans outside the entrance of the resort. She was at least 70 yards away from them and despite being exhausted, Rabiya asked permission if she could approach them. She was careful to observe protocols and not cause any commotion. She met the enthusiastic fans who were mostly young girls, some on the verge of tears.

Despite having been on the road practically 18 hours, Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo took the time greet her young fans who were waiting outside the resort.

Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

I asked Rabiya how she felt each time she would see her young admirers. She said, “I use to be like them. I remember everytime I would see a celebrity. But now, I am that symbol of inspiration and hope to these kids. It motivates me to do better and to express myself better. As Miss Universe Philippines, you hold a high responsibility to your community. I want them to see me, not just as a beauty queen with a pretty face. But a beauty queen with a responsibility, a beauty queen who is accountable for her actions, and a beauty queen who is willing to offer something to our society.”

Day 2: Mass at the Nuestra Sra. Guadulope Chapel and Blessing of the IPNAP-IWC Field Office at Purok 5

It is truly remarkable that the Nuestra Sra. Guadulope Chapel is being rebuilt a couple of months after being devastated by Typhooon Rolly.

Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

As Rabiya was reviewing the schedule for the day, there was an 8:30 am mass on the agenda. It was not the main event but upon arriving at the church, it struck Rabiya in a profound way. Firstly, what you see she saw was a skeleton of a church that was severely damaged during Typhoon Rolly. There were no floors, no walls, and no ceiling. Blue sackcloth hung from the beams, a crucifix and a statue decorated the altar of the Nuestra Sra. de Guadulope Chapel. It became such a symbolic representation that the Church is really composed of the people that gather to worship, rather than a physical structure.

Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo during the offertory at the Thanksgiving mass offered for the Blessing of the IPNAP-IWC Field Office and the Launch of the MINDAP Supplemental Feeding Project in Maramba, Oas, Albay

Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

MUP 2020 Rabiya Mateo addressing parishioners.

Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

Rabiya was asked to say a message due to popular demand. Despite being an impromptu session, Rabiya delivered a heartfelt message, telling parishioners to continue to be strong in their faith. She said she was praying for them as they rebuilt their church. She encouraged parents to love their children and to support their dreams and reminded the children to respect their parents.

To Rabiya’s amazement, Fr. Saculsan started telling the story of how he watched the pageant and upon hearing Rabiya’s answer about Miriam Defensor Santiago, he felt she would win. He even knew the runners-up and said that if he were a judge, she would have been his winner as well. He went on to say that her presence was an inspiration and that maybe someday, one of those little girls there would follow in her footsteps.

Rabiya said of this experience, “I was feeling kilig because it is not usual for a priest to watch pageantry. I was flattered when he said that the moment I gave my final answer that I was his winner.”

Shortly after, Rabiya leads the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the IPNAP-IWC Field Office at Purok 5. The office gives impoverished families access to healthcare for their children.

Miss Universe Philippines Rabiya Mateo during the ribbon cutting ceremony accompanied by Barangay Captain Tomas Vasquez and Kaye Golez, President of the IWC of Makati District 383 and Dr. Ameila Jarin, President of IWC of the Philippines.

Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

Launching of MINDAP Supplemental Feeding Project Cycle 2

The Maramba Integrated Nutrition & Development Acceleration Program (MINDAP) along with IPNAP and IWC, initiated a feeding program in the locality. A powerful example of the difference they have made to a child’s life is Christopher. At the beginning of the 120 day feeding program, Christopher could not even stand or walk because he was severely malnourished. He has significantly improved because of this feeding program.

MUP 2020 Rabiya Mateo interacts with Christopher, one of the recipients of the feeding program, as his mother looks on.

Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

MUP 2020 Rabiya Mateo addressed the children and their parents during the launch of the feeding program.

Photo by Voltaire Tayag/Rappler

During her speech Rabiya said, “Nagagalak po ako na nandito po ako na kaharap ang ating mga kabataan. Maraming salamat po sa mainit na pagmamahal at suporta at sana maramdaman niyo din po ang pagmamahal ko para sa lahat ng mga taga Albay.”

(I am happy to be here in front of so many young people. Thank you for the love and support and I hope you felt my love for the people of Albay.)

She added: “Sana ay magtulungan tayo. Barangay Maramba, ang ating mga lider, and ating mga magulang at ating mga kabataan para masolusyunan ang problema sa malnutrition. Ako din isa din po akong malnourished na bata dati. Totoo po yon. Ngayon po, I have the power to help these kids. Yun nutrition kasi napaka importante niyang bagay. Kasi hindi niya lang pinalalakas physically yun mga kabataan, pinapatalino din po sila, mas nag iimprove yun learning capabilities. Isa po itong sa aking mga advocacy. To empower through education.”

(I hope we help each other. Barangay Maramba, our leaders, our family, and the young people to provide solutions to malnutrition. I once experienced malnourishment when I was a child. That's the truth. Now, I have the power to help these kids. Nutrition is very important. It not only strengthens the youth physically, it makes them smart and improves their learning capabilities. This is one of my advocacies, which is to empower through education.)

Purpose and advocacy have been buzz words in pageantry, especially when you ask candidates what motivated them to join. For some, it's a strategy to win a crown which is later left in the backburner for career advancement. For others, it is their being and core.

Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo is a phenomenal woman who still works on causes that aim to help others, especially children and the youth. For her, it is not just about photoshoots and glamorous events. It is about making a difference in a person’s life, with effects that last for a lifetime. –