“Even though you’re struggling, you can still become the symbol of hope,” Rabiya Mateo said during the preliminary interview stage of the Miss Universe Philippines 2020 on October 21.
Weeks after she was crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2020, the 24-year-old Ilongga continues to live life with grace and confidence while facing challenges rooting back as far as her childhood.
One of which is living without her Indian father since she was five years old.
"My mom is Filipina, and my dad is Indian by race, but an American citizen. I was only five years old when he abandoned us,” Mateo said in an exclusive interview with Philstar’s Ricky Lo.
"I have a younger brother. My mom didn't remarry, so there were only three of us—si Mama, my brother, and me. After I won, my friends started giving testimonials. One of them said that as a kid, I was sleeping in a banig (mat), and that's true. Natutulog kami sa banig. That was normal for us," said Mateo.
As Mateo and her mother strived to make ends meet, her father, on the other hand, worked as a doctor in Chicago.
Still, the young breadwinner keeps high regard for him. She is also thankful that her past hardships groomed her to be the woman she is today.
She revealed this on the Father’s Day greeting she uploaded on her Instagram account earlier this year. Part of her caption read, “I became a strong independent woman today because of the situation that happened in the past. But I never blamed you for it. I will continue to be a breadwinner to our family, a good daughter to Mama, and a good role model to Mokmok [brother]. I will push myself to a new and greater limit every single day so that when the time comes and we meet again, you will tell everyone how proud you are that I’m your daughter and, who knows, when that day comes, I might be a doctor like you.”
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The beauty queen showed the same amount of optimism during her recent interview with Ricky Lo when he mentioned the possibility of finding her father now that she’s known as Miss Universe Philippines worldwide.
Mateo replied, "Sana, sana, sana! That's my goal. It happened to Gazini. She found her long-lost father. I also want to have that kind of experience.”
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Like Mateo, Gazini Ganados grew up without her Palestinian father. Meeting him was a dream she held on to even after she was crowned Miss Universe Philippines in 2019.
“To my dad or to my Papa [whom] I never met…” she said in tears during her interview with ABS-CBN's Magandang Buhay on June 20 that year. “Hoping to meet you someday. And I never had the grudge of how and why I didn’t have a dad because everything happens for a reason. I hope to meet you someday.”
In January 2020, the beauty queen’s wish came true after she had her first dinner date with her father.
She shared the good news in an Instagram post dated January 24, 2020.
Gazini wrote, “Ever since I was a little girl, I have always heard the stories of how my mom and dad first met. The year was 1990. Venue, Shakey’s Pizza Parlor. Now here I am, 30 years later—the year 2020, Shakey’s, having my first dinner date with my DAD! What a way to start my year!”
Photos from @rabiyamateo on Instagram.