Asked whose image of any Filipino does she want to be on a new paper currency if she were given the chance to create one, the newest Miss Universe Philippines named the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Filipino-Indian physical therapist Rabiya Mateo of Iloilo City bested 46 other candidates to win the title.
Her spontaneous response to two timed questions impressed the judges. The cum laude graduate, with deep and sincere conviction responded, “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.”
For her second question, Mateo was asked where she thinks pageants stand during this time of pandemic.
She said, “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 a beauty pageant. It gives us the power to make a difference.”
Queens in troubled times
Against the pandemic backdrop, the first edition of Miss Universe Philippines (MUPh) pushed through under the Inter-Agency Task Force’s Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF-EID) enhanced and modified community quarantine guidelines and protocols.
The Miss Universe Philippines Organization (MUPO) released a new guideline entitled “2020 Pageant Way Forward.” After Carousel Productions, MUPO is the second organization to continue its pageant search despite the odds and challenges.
The coronation night filmed on Friday, 23 October, at Baguio Country Club was aired on Sunday morning, 25 October, on GMA 7.
Miss Universe 1973 Margarita Moran’s niece Ysabella Ysmael representing Parañaque emerged as first runner-up.
Dennis Roldan’s daughter and Marco Gumabao’s sister ended as second runner-up. Miss Globe 2018 top 12 placer Michelle Gumabao is a consistent dean’s lister and opposite volleyball hitter from De La Salle University.
Bohol’s Pauline Amelinckx, the face of the universe who bagged both special and corporate sponsor awards during the preliminary competition is third runner-up, while the bisexual Miss Teen Universe top 12 placer Kimberly Hakenson ended as fourth runner-up.
Creative director Jonas Gaffud and national director Shamcey Supsup-Lee are behind MUPO after they acquired the franchise in December 2019.
From 1964 to 2019, Miss Universe Organization (MUO) haf granted its franchise to Binibining Pilipinas Charities Incorporated (BPCI).
From 2020 onwards, MUPO’s task is to mount a separate standalone pageant search in the selection of the official Philippine representative to Miss Universe. MUPh 2019 Gazini Ganados of Talisay, Cebu was the last titleholder under BPCI who was able to pass on her title and crown her successor with the new “Filipina” crown crafted by the Villarica family, owner of the Villarica pawnshop. The new crown valued at $100,000 has a swirl of leaves embedded with diamonds, stunned with golden south sea pearls and encrusted with sapphire, ruby and topaz representing the elements of the Philippine flag.
Months and days leading to the grand finale in the City of Pines, some candidates decided to withdraw from the competition.
First was Negros Occidental’s Angela Aninang who withdrew to pursue her studies. Capiz’s Mariam Lara Hamid revealed on her social media account that she backed out due to an issue with an accredited partner. Sorsogon’s Maria Isabela Galeria survived from coronavirus infection but decided to leave the competition so she could continue her full recovery.
A day after Galeria’s revelation and decision to leave the competition, MUPh accredited partner announced that Cagayan de Oro’s Vincy Vacalares had contracted the coronavirus. Just four days before filming the grand finale, due to some personal reasons, Aurora’s Princes Marquez discontinued her journey bringing to 47 the final number of entrants of the competition.
Prior to competing in MUPh, some candidates previously competed both in national and international pageants. They were crossovers from Binibining Pilipinas, Miss World Philippines, Miss Philippines Earth, Mutya Pilipinas, Miss World Tourism Philippines, Miss Globe, Miss Tourism Global, Miss Teen Universe and Miss Model of the World.