Former Miss Universe winners Pia Wurtzbach (2015) and Catriona Gray (2018) sent their love to Philippine bet Rabiya Mateo after the Iloilo native failed to secure a slot in the finals of 69th Miss Universe on Sunday (Monday in Manila) in Hollywood, Florida.
Mateo, 24, took the Philippines all the way to the Top 21 and competed in the swimsuit round before ending her journey in the prestigious beauty contest when she did not advance in the Top 10.
She and 72 other delegates were beaten out by Mexico’s Andrea Meza, who won for her country their third Miss Universe title.
Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.
“It was such a beautiful moment to represent you, Philippines. I am forever honored to be part of the legacy of our history,” Mateo wrote on Instagram, with a photo of her in the swimsuit round of the pageant.
“In my heart, I did everything I can. I trained really hard to be physically fit. I would have sleepless nights trying to read articles to be updated. I made a lot of sacrifices people can’t sometimes see. Early calltime. Late night rest. Trying to be sane and motivated. It was a challenge but it made me so much stronger everyday,” she said.
Following the announcement for the 10 finalists, Wurtzbach and Gray took to social media to still cheer for Mateo and thank the Ilongga beauty for doing a “great job” in representing the country.
“Rabiya, we love you. Thank you for pouring your heart for the Philippines. We see your heart queen,” Wurtzbach said in a tweet.
"I can't wait to see all the amazing things you'll do when you come back home, future as bright as the sun. You are our queen!" Pia added.
“Sending Rabiya all of our love. She made our country proud. Eleven-year consecutive semi-streak, Pilipinas,” Gray said in her social media post.
Apart from Wurtzbach and Gray, several Pinay beauty queens expressed support for Mateo right to the very end of the pageant, also posting sweet messages for her on social media.
Gazini Ganados, who represented the Philippines in the last Miss Universe pageant in 2019, also posted a message to Mateo, saying how proud she was of her.
"You have represented the Philippines with beauty and grace. We love you," Gazing wrote in her Instagram story.
Meanwhile, Miss Universe Philippines national director Shamcey Supsup told Mateo she was still a winner not just in her eyes but also "in the hearts of millions of Filipinos around the world."
“You have shown us what it means to be relentless, unyielding, and unstoppable in the pursuit of your dreams. Despite the setbacks, critics and failures, you continued to wear the Philippine sash with pride and love,” Supsup wrote on Instagram.
Other Pinoy queens who sent their love to Mateo include Reina Hispanoamericana Winwyn Marquez, 2013 Miss World Megan Young, and Miss Universe 1999 first runner-up Miriam Quiambao.
Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition's return to television after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega, and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.
Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.
In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made it to the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.
"Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day," she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests.
"Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar."
She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, "Pray for Myanmar."
Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4,000 people are behind bars.
Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong — who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.
Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape — in the colors of the Singaporean flag — was painted with the words "Stop Asian Hate."
"What is this platform for if I can't use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?" she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.
The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump's rhetoric, especially his repeated description of COVID-19 as the "China virus." With AFP