As she secures her family’s future, Rabiya Mateo says marriage can wait
Rabiya Mateo is in no rush to take her relationship with Jeric Gonzales to the next level. Yes, she dreams of being proposed to in a way that’s “magical” and “special.” But the right time will come.
“I feel like I have to enjoy what I have right now, because I could end up losing them if I rush myself,” the former beauty queen told a group of select reporters at her launch as the new celebrity endorser of the fine diamond jewelry brand Lvna by Drake Dustin.
After competing at the Miss Universe 2020 pageant, Rabiya went on to enter show biz and sign a contract with Sparkle, GMA 7’s talent management arm. Her career as a Kapuso artist is on the upswing: She’s one of the main hosts of the afternoon variety game show, “TiktoClock,” and is set to star in an upcoming drama series.
While the future looks bright, the 26-year-old celebrity still can’t fully shake off fears that she could lose everything she has worked hard for in the blink of an eye. She knows what it’s like to have “nothing” and doesn’t want her family to ever experience it again.
“I always have this fear that we may end up reverting to the days when we had a lot of debts and had trouble putting food on the table. There were times when our electricity got cut. And so, I made a promise to my mother that I won’t let something like that happen to us ever again,” she said.
That’s why her top priority at the moment is to make the most out of the current influx of projects. “In show biz, people may like you now, but not tomorrow. Sigurista ako. I’m the eldest child and we come from nothing. So in every job I take, I make sure to secure our future,” she said.
“Now, I’m blessed with hosting jobs. I’m about to do a soap,” added Rabiya, who has also done various hosting stints and one-off minor roles in episodic television shows. “I would like to save as much money as I can. That’s why I still rent a small condo unit. I still live a modest lifestyle where everything’s budgeted.”
Rabiya, who’s a licensed physical therapist, used to take on various part-time jobs to help her family make ends meet. “Our mother worked hard to give me and my younger brother an education, despite not having much. So I promised her I’d work hard… I remember taking exams in curlers because I had to do ramp modeling later on.
“I distributed flyers at car shows and real estate events. I used to get excited about ‘LaBoracay’ (a summer party weekend on Boracay held on Labor Day), because there were a lot of modeling gigs for different brands. I would use the money I earned for the incoming school year,” recalled Rabiya, who celebrated her 18th birthday in a fast-food chain that specialized in chicken inasal.
“Para unli rice kami ng classmates ko!” she said, laughing.
She also considered working abroad as a physical therapist. But then COVID-19 struck. “I had already applied through an agency, but our contracts got terminated because of the pandemic. My mom didn’t have a job. My brother was still in school. My savings were dwindling because no money was coming in,” she said.
And then Miss Universe happened. “I realize why all that happened,” said Rabiya who recently fulfilled her dream of giving her mother a new house. “I fought for the dream.”
Now, she has more leeway for simple luxuries. “Of course, our needs come first. I have never been really interested in jewelry until I joined pageants. I used to wear only fancy jewelry. Or I would just borrow. I almost lost a pair of earrings lent to me by Lvna, which was one of my sponsors when I competed in Miss Universe.”
“I used it in a pool for a photo shoot. I panicked because there was no way I could have afforded it,” she related.
Long way to go
But after becoming a brand endorser, one of the first things she did was buy that pair of earrings. “I was able to purchase them. I was able to give my mother a pair, too,” she said. “I also invested a little in the company because I want my money to work for me.”
While she still has a long way to go as a host and as an actress, Rabiya is enjoying her show biz journey so far. “I’m always learning something new every day. I have a lot to improve, but the good thing is that GMA 7 allows me to be a beginner. I’m new. I needed training and workshops. And I improved,” she said.
Now, she’s more confident about bantering with her “TiktoClock” cohosts Kuya Kim Atienza and Pokwang.
“I used to be afraid to crack jokes or show my personality because I was afraid people would bash me for not being queenly and graceful. But I killed that voice in my head. I’m no longer a beauty queen. I have a quirky side that I hope to show. Some people may not like it, but I’m sure there are others who do,” she said.
As for Rabiya’s love life, things seem to be going well between her and Jeric, who have gotten back together after a misunderstanding that had them parting ways for a week. “Let’s not put pressure on it. We’re trying and striving. We will always choose each other,” she said. “He’s such a nice guy and super kind, too. I wouldn’t stay with him if he weren’t.” INQ
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