Rabiya Occeña Mateo (born November 14, 1996) is a Filipino model and beauty pageant titleholder who was crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2020. She will represent the Philippines at the Miss Universe 2020 pageant.
Mateo was born by domestic partnership to an Indian-American father and a Filipino mother who later separated. According to Mateo, she grew up in poverty. She attended Iloilo Doctors’ College as Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy and graduated cum laude. As of 2020, Mateo was working in SRG Manila Review Center as a lecturer and review coordinator.
Ilongga beauty queen Rabiya Mateo won the hearts of many for her answer at the first-ever Miss Universe Philippines 2020. Right now, little is known about the representative of the country to the prestigious pageant. And so, we did some digging. Here’s what we know so far about the half-Filipina, half-Indian beauty:
She also wowed with her Q&A answer at the Miss Iloilo Universe 2020 pageant
Crowned at the West Visayas State University, Rabiya slayed the question and answer portion during the Miss Iloilo Universe 2020 when she honored the “hablon” weaving industry of her province and promised to bring it to the international arena.
“If I were to be crowned tonight, it will be such an honor to bring to the global community our very own hablon which represents dedication, hard work and creative side of every Ilonggo. Aside from that, I want to show to the world that I am a queen today because of my province and with that being said, I want to prove to everyone that I am a true Ilongga with a heartfelt beauty.”
She’s a licensed physical therapist
Having finished Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy at the Iloilo Doctors College, the Iloilo native graduated Cum Laude. She’s also working as a coordinator and lecturer for a Manila-based review center.
She’s been helping out a lot of people during the pandemic
She has been helping out those in need during these trying times — reaching out to fire victims amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, among others.
“It’s really devastating to hear that during this COVID-19 crisis some Ilonggos had lost their homes earlier this morning around 2 am due to fire incident that occurred in Brgy. Ortiz, City Proper. We are praying for everyone’s safety and mental peace in this most difficult moment,” she wrote.
Rabiya also joined forces with Miss Universe Philippines-Antique — a close friend of hers — to distribute relief goods in her town during the pandemic.
“As the reigning Miss Iloilo, I aspire not just to become the face of my city but also the symbol of courage, hope and unity. Together with MUPH-Antique who is also a very close friend of mine, @joecelrobenta , we were able to spend the day repacking donations for the residents of Brgy. Nabitasan, Lapaz, Iloilo City,” she wrote in an Instagram post.
She takes pride in being Ilongga
During the question and answer portion at the Miss Universe Philippines competition, Rabiya paid homage to former Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago who happens to be born and raised in Iloilo as well.
“If I were given the chance, I want to use the face of Miriam Defensor Santiago. For those who don’t know, she was an Ilongga. But what I admired about her is that she used her knowledge, her voice to serve the country. I want to be somebody like her, somebody who puts her heart, her passion into action. After all, she is the best President that we never had,” she said.
Asked about where pageants stand during this time of crisis during the pandemic for her second question, she answered: “As a candidate, I know I am not just a face of Iloilo City but I am here carrying hope and as a symbol of light in the darkest of times. 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 pageant. It gives us the power to make a difference.”
In Rabiya Mateo’s preliminary interviews and final performance at the Miss Universe Philippines 2020 pageant, the Ilongga beauty queen emphasized at least one thing twice: she didn’t only want to win the crown, she was ready for it.
The 23-year-old was crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2020 in Baguio City. The finals aired both on TV and online on Sunday, October 25. Rabiya is the first titleholder to win under the Miss Universe Philippines organization.
She also won the bombastic Filipina crown at an interesting time: in the middle of a pandemic, when movements are still limited and gatherings, still a thing of the past.
During the preliminary interviews, Rabiya said the youth should “invest in [themselves],” particularly because of the noise that’s all too common both online and in real life.
“When you practice self-love, you get to know the right weapon in order for you to win life. I feel like right now I am ripe enough to win the competition because I’ve done everything that I could to become the phenomenal woman that I am,” she said, without even skipping a beat.
In a post-interview video on the series Ring Light, a beaming Rabiya said while she was nervous about the 30-second time limit for each question, she eventually found her pace and was still buzzing with energy. “I can do another round,” she added.
In her introduction video for Ring Light, Rabiya said she grew up poor.
Her father had left them, leaving her mother alone in trying to support their family.
“My graduation day was the greatest payback as I formally received my latin honors. I want every poor child to experience such a thing. With proper knowledge of the things around you, of your purpose in life, and of what you are fighting for, you are going beyond being educated. You become empowered and able to empower others,” she said in her intro video.
Education and opportunity is at the center of Rabiya’s life. She works as a physical therapy lecturer and is part of a charity that helps educate children who live near a dumpsite in Iloilo City.
Rabiya told judges during the preliminary interviews that she hopes winning Miss Universe Philippines would bring attention to the “Feed Me And I Read You” program. “We need a lot of learning materials. Being the Miss Universe, I can pull donors into the project,” she explained.
Rabiya said she also realized that “even though you’re struggling, you can still become a symbol of hope.” During the pandemic, she spent and cooked food for the Iloilo’s frontliners. “I had fears, uncertainty, but I realized that I can still give back to Iloilo City,” she said.
Rabiya picked the Jaro Cathedral as a must-visit spot in her hometown and hablon, a textile from Iloilo, as the local product she’d want the world to know about.
When asked her favorite word in Ilonggo, she picked gwapa. Gwapa in Ilonggo means “beautiful.”
But it’s the beauty she’s cultivated within that stands out. Rabiya said forgiveness was the most important lesson she learned from her mother.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect person. When my dad left us, she never speak ill about him. That’s why in every situation, ever thought other people would people hurt me, I still choose to see the goodness in them,” she explained.
For the newly-crowned Miss Universe Philippines, being Miss Iloilo didn’t just mean being the “face” of her hometown.
“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,” she said.
In an Instagram post and in her preliminary interviews, Rabiya said red is a color she’d pick to symbolize a “phenomenal woman.”
“Red is power and I am red,” she said.
Perhaps Rabiya’s name should have been a sign of things to come. “Rabiya,” the beauty queen herself once said, means “princess.”