Rabiya Mateo

Rabiya Mateo tells future queens: Be kind, stay humble, deactivate social media

Bea Cupin
Rabiya Mateo tells future queens: Be kind, stay humble, deactivate social media

STRESS FREE. The 24-year-old beauty queen is back in the Philippines.

Rob Reyes/Rappler

The Miss Universe Philippines 2020 titleholder says she wants to focus on her advocacy work and maybe try her hand at acting

When asked if she wanted to do anything different in her Miss Universe journey, Miss Universe Philippines 2020 Rabiya Mateo didn’t even hesitate.

“I’ll answer this question with all honesty,” started Rabiya, who had just finished her quarantine after flying back from the US. 

“I wish I just deactivated my social media accounts. Mama J, you know that,” the 24-year-old beauty told select media on Wednesday, July 14, at a press conference in the Hilton Manila. 

“Mama J” referred to Jonas Gaffud, Miss Universe Philippines creative director and veteran beauty queen coach.

Rabiya is the Miss Universe Philippines organization’s first queen and its first delegate to the Miss Universe pageant. A fan favorite early on, Rabiya ended her Miss Universe journey in the Top 20

Miss Universe PH Rabiya Mateo Hilton July 14 2021
Rob Reyes/Rappler

“That’s also an advice I’d give to the next Miss Universe Philippines. The pressure from the fans is something that’s going to be a reflection of your performance. So sometimes it’s better to block yourself and maintain your inner peace. Social media isn’t the judge for the competition. The fans aren’t the judges. You need to focus on your physical trainings, Q&A portion, and the holistic approach,” she added. 

Rabiya made a tearful apology to fans who were disappointed over her performance in the national costume competition of the 69th Miss Universe pageant. In the Philippines, beauty queens are considered huge celebrities, wins are cause for national celebration, and fans are among the most devoted. 

Rabiya, who stayed in the US for a few months after the pageant to visit the Philippine community and meet with potential partners, said she doesn’t have any real regrets. “It’s like a rollercoaster ride. But still, if I’m gonna relive it again, I’m still going to choose this path. One thing that I’ve learned is how to build yourself, and how to have a humble heart when things don’t turn your way,” she said, reflecting on her pageant experience. 

“I realized that there’s going to be a lot of external voices… but then once you know your purpose, why you wanna take this journey, then you’re going to be able to find your reason for fighting,” she added. 

No nerves

Contrary to speculation, Rabiya said she didn’t feel nervous during the pageant proper. “Your mind is just empty. To be honest, during that competition, I wasn’t nervous. But everything was so fast,” said Rabiya, when asked what was going through her mind as she walked the Miss Universe stage. 

“I want to take you guys to the time in which I was hoping to be called, up until that last, last spot. And I saw the camera, it was right here. Sana sa akin. Pero katabi ko kasi si Brazil. Para pala sa kanya (I told myself, I hope the last spot is for me. But I was beside Miss Brazil. The camera was for her),” she said. 

“When I was already backstage, [I was thinking] that was it, months of preparing pero hanggang doon nalang talaga (and that’s where it ends). But you really have to pick yourself up. You have to control your emotions and to remind yourself that it wasn’t my night and I need to support whoever is gonna win because she’s my sister and I need to be there, clapping for her, and cheering for her,” she added. 

Miss Universe PH Rabiya Mateo Hilton July 14 2021
Rob Reyes/Rappler

With the 2021 pageant officially kicking off on July 19 and a coronation night set on September 25, Rabiya said she intended to “take a rest” from pageantry and maybe try her hand at acting.

Rabiya said she also wanted to focus on her advocacies and work as Miss Universe Philippines ambassador for education. At the same time, the Ilongga said she was not closing any doors to another try at a crown and title. 

Over and over, Rabiya told media that she’s learned to appreciate things as they come and to enjoy the journey, sans the worry and pressure. “I would remind her to be kind and to be humble. People will forever remember you in the way that you treated them,” she said, when asked what advice she’d give her successor. 

“Despite all the pressure from the fans, from social media, just be yourself and continue building up your character because you’re going to shine. And you’re going to win a lot of hearts. And that’s the most important aspect of being a Miss Universe Philippines,” she added. – Rappler.com

Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.