Search on for the next Rabiya Mateo in Iloilo

Iloilo City’s quest for ‘the next Rabiya Mateo’ begins

/ 09:58 PM October 08, 2023

Rabiya Mateo. Image from Instagram

Rabiya Mateo. Image from Instagram

MANILA, Philippines — Rabiya Mateo has earned two distinctions that no other beauty queen could ever emulate. Not only was she the first woman to be proclaimed as “Miss Iloilo,” she also became the first “Miss Universe Philippines” in the first standalone national pageant that chooses the country’s representative to the Miss Universe pageant.

With such a storied legacy at an early stage in her life, the Ilonga lass is truly one tough act to follow. But the organization that pulled her out of obscurity is determined to find the woman who is worthy to succeed Mateo, duplicate her feat on the national stage, and hopefully bring home an international crown for the Philippines.

ADVERTISEMENT asked Sarah Peña, one of the pageant directors of the Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI) that organizes the annual Miss Iloilo contest, how they intend to find their “next Rabiya.” The Ilonga “Donya” responded, “we already have a plan,” but kept mum about specific details.


Mateo, now a successful TV actress and host, joined the first-ever staging of the Miss Iloilo pageant, a rebranded competition that traces its roots from the annual Miss Iloilo Dinagyang contest mounted by the IFFI. Aside from Mateo, the foundation also fielded the city’s delegates to the Miss World Philippines and Binibining Pilipinas pageants that year. This year, the organizer crowned only one titleholder, then belatedly announced the respective national pageant assignments of the top finishers.

Peña was in Manila with her fellow IFFI Pageant Director Beverly “Pangging Rosales” to renew the foundation’s collaboration with the Miss Universe Philippines (MUPH) organization under the national pageant’s new “Accredited Partnerships” program, a system wherein local organizers in different cities, towns, and provinces, as well as in overseas Filipino communities, are given the sole authority to choose the participants that will represent their respective areas on the national level. No individual applications will be entertained from aspirants anymore.

The agreement was signed with MUPH National Director Shamcey Supsup-Lee and MUPH National Search Consultant Mags Cue in an intimate gathering last Oct. 2. There, Rosales shared IFFI’s plans for the 2024 Miss Iloilo pageant. For one, they will not rebrand the competition and will retain the original title. 

“We will crown only one winner, and we will have four runners-up,” Rosales said. The pageant will be held at the Iloilo Convention Center on Jan. 13, during the Dinagyang Festival. The 2024 Miss Iloilo pageant will choose the city’s representatives to the Miss Universe Philippines and its sister contest The Miss Philippines Culture and Heritage Celebration, and other national competitions.

Lee clarified that the winner of the 2024 Miss Iloilo pageant will not automatically be sent to the Miss Universe Philippines pageant. IFFI will later determine, after the coronation, which national competitions the top finishers will be deployed to. 

Cue said MUPH chose to renew its partnership with IFFI because of the foundation’s track record in holding annual competitions, and capacity to support the delegates and provide their needs to be able to successfully represent Iloilo City on the national stage.


Lee enumerated why MUPH found it easy to maintain its partnership with IFFI. “They’ve been doing this for a long time already, so they know how to do it, that’s the first reason. Second is, well, we’re looking if they have a complete team to do it. We have a list of our proposed members of the team. And then the third is, well, we also have to check their backgrounds, what are their affiliations, their own business. Are they part of the government? Things like that,” she explained.

The national director is also hopeful that the new “Accredited Partnerships” program will encourage more women like Mateo to pursue their dreams of capturing a national crown despite having very limited resources. When Mateo took part in her city pageant, she was supporting her family and making ends meet by tutoring physical therapy graduates for their licensure examinations. Lee said organizations such as IFFI can help women who are also finding it costly to embark on pageantry to take the first step. 

Rosales said IFFI will bridge this gap. She also assured MUPH that they will continue their tradition of staging grandiose competitions, in the tradition of the spectacular Dinagyang Festival. And if Mateo was only able to conduct her mentorship with the 2023 Miss Iloilo delegates virtually, they are now working on having the beauty queen-turned-actress speak with the 2024 contestants in person.

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Mateo appears nightly on the variety show “TiktoClock” and the primetime mystery drama “Royal Blood,” both on the Kapuso network, GMA. EDV

TAGS: Iloilo, Miss Universe Philippines, Rabiya Mateo

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