Text by Drew Francisco; Photos from Miss Universe Philippines

Iloilo City’s Rabiya Mateo was crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2020 in pre-taped finals held at the Baguio Country Club’s Cordillera Convention Hall and aired on October 25.

The 23-year-old educator and physical theraphy graduate bested 45 other candidates for the crown and the right to represent the Philippines in the next edition of the Miss Universe competition.

Ysabella Ysmael of Parañaque placed first runner-up while Quezon City’s Michele Gumabao finished second runner-up. Bohol’s Pauline Amelinckx and Cavite’s Kimberly Hakenson were third and fourth runners-up, respectively.

Mateo, who bagged the Best In Swimsuit Award during the preliminary competition, ranked first in Missosology’s “Third Hot Picks” and “Final Hot Picks” lists. She is the first Miss Universe Philippines to be crowned in a separate pageant. Bb Pilipinas previously held the Miss Universe franchise for 55 years.

Asked where pageants stand in the midst of the pandemic, Mateo answered: “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 a beauty pageant. It gives us the power to make a difference.”

Mateo will vie for the country’s fifth Miss Universe crown. The country currently ranks 4th in Missosology Big5 Ranking. Missosology.Org; Photos from Miss Universe Philippines page; Inquirer.net