At the first Miss Universe Philippines, candidates emphasized women empowerment; some hinted at personal trauma.
Iloilo City’s Rabiya Mateo has won Miss Universe Philippines 2020, with first runner-up Bella Ysmael (Parañaque), second runner-up Michele Gumabao (Quezon City), third runner-up Pauline Amelinckx (Bohol) and fourth runner-up Billie Hakenson (Cavite).
Forty-six women vied for the title Miss Universe Philippines at the pageant held in Baguio Country Club without a live audience. It was hosted by KC Montero.
In the final question and answer, the Top 5 were asked one common question, and another from the judges.
When asked whose face she would put on a new Philippine banknote, Rabiya Mateo said, “I want to use the face of Miriam Defensor Santiago. She was an Ilongga. But what I admired about her was that she used her knowledge, her voice, to serve the country. And I want to be somebody like her, somebody who puts her passion into action. And, after all, she was the best president we never had.”
The common question the candidates were asked was: This pandemic has made clear our priorities, essential and non essential. Where do pageants in this time of crisis.
Mateo said, “I know I’m not just the face of the city. I am here carrying hope and as symbol of light in the darkest times, and I want to help my community. I want to use my strength to make an impact. That is the essence of beauty pageant. It gives us the power to make a difference.”
According to organizers, Empire.ph, Mateo graduated cum laude and university valedictorian. She is a national reviewer in Physical Therapy, which gave her a chance to travel across the country. Mateo is also a lover of true crime genre. She works with Feed Me and I Read You program, which aims to help alleviate hunger and improve the learning capacity of children.
The pageant had earlier released nine special awards, of which Miss Bohol Pauline Amelinckx won four (Miss Creamsilk, Miss Downy Sweetheart, Miss Cetaphil Sun and Most Beautiful Face Award). Lou Dominique Piczon, Mandaue, won Best National Costume; Rabiya Mateo, Iloilo City, was Best in Swimsuit; Maria Ysabella Ysmael, Parañaque, Best in Evning Gown; Michele Gumabao, Quezon City, Miss MG Philippines; Tracy Maureen Perez, Cebu City, Miss Photogenic.
This year’s judges were Miss Universe 2012 1st Runner Up Janine Tugonon, Miss Universe 2013 3rd Runner Up Ariella Arida, Jackie C. Aquino, Samuel Salonga Versoza Jr., Rep. Eric Yap, Raymond delos Santos, Venus Navalta, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Baguio First Lady, Arlene Magalong and Arthur Peña.
The Top 16 were asked the same question by host Montero, a new segment in the pageant. “Throughout this journey you have discovered that you are a phenomenal woman who is conditioned to be greater. How can you create a positive and lasting impact to the world around you?”
Early favorite Kimberly “Billie” Hakenson of Cavite said, “I’ve been a victim of gender-based abuse. I’m here not just to be a voice, but to amplify voices. Because we will not be silenced by anymore. We are here to be empowered by truth.”
Raised in Macau by Filipino and French parents, Taguig’s Sandra Lemonon spoke about depression. “My greatest contribution is speaking about mental health. I’ve been through a lot in my life and a lot of struggles. I deal with depression and anxiety and abuse. And I want to say to anyone who’s ever dealt with this is that don’t be ashamed about it. Don’t hide. Please share because we need to hear thee stories. I want to be authentic and truly myself.”
Miss Universe Philippines Rabiya Mateo will represent the country at the Miss Universe this year.
National competitions in other countries have been postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic. No date has been set for Miss Universe 2020.