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Jonas Gaffud airs MUP’s side on controversy over Rabiya’s national costume

By ALEX Y. VERGARA Published May 14, 2021 4:56 pm

Beauty queen maker Jonas Gaffud, creative director of Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) and one of Rabiya Mateo’s mentors, sent a series of private messages to PhilSTAR L!fe to air MUP’s side on the controversy generated by Rabiya’s Philippine flag-meets-Victoria’s Secret-inspired national costume in Miss Universe.

Jonas is reacting to what he described as countless “haters” on social media who were obviously underwhelmed by the costume, a red-and-blue feathered confection resembling huge angel’s wings, designed by the late Rocky Gathercole and completed by his and Albert Andrada’s teams.

A crying Rabiya also later did a short live segment on Instagram apologizing to her Filipino pageant fans who were disappointed. She explained the backstory behind the missing bejeweled crown with bursts of stars inspired by the Miss Universe logo and designed by Manny Halasan.

“We were supposed to meet with Rocky near the end of the costume’s completion, but he suddenly died,” said Jonas. “Albert and Rocky’s respective teams came to the rescue to put the finishing touches.”

Instead of Rocky’s original headdress inspired by the sun, the MUP team decided to ditch it in favor of a crown, which Halasan was tasked to design and execute. Jonas was afraid of the likely fallout from Filipinos who might accuse them of disrespecting the flag.

Unlike their American and British counterparts, Filipino designers are forbidden from liberally reinterpreting the flag and turning it into articles of clothing because of an existing Philippine law.

Unfortunately, Halasan’s crown was too big on Rabiya that they eventually decided not to use it. The beauty queen also had very little time to dress up and retouch her makeup before the costume competion because she just came from a closed door interview as part of Miss Universe’s preliminary competition.

“She was in a hurry to fix other parts of the costume and, as a result suffered, a cut backstage,” said Jonas. “In fact, she had barely touched her meal in her room when they were all called to go down to do the show. She also to do away with the costume’s skirt because it proved too heavy for her to walk while wearing it on stage. It was either the skirt or the wings.”

Not a few fans are wondering why such kinks weren’t ironed out in Manila before Rabiya and the rest the MUP team flew to the US in mid-April. Again, Jonas had an explanation.

“My paranoid self was primarily concerned with the team’s safey, especially Rabiya’s, that we decided to leave early for the US to continue Rabiya’s training there,” said Jonas. International flights back then were starting to get rescheduled or cancelled because of the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country.

The costume and later the crown Halasan did were both finished after Rabiya and company had already left. Jonas said MUP had to pay P200,000 in shipping fee to transport the costume from Manila to Florida. Shamcy Supsup, MUP national director, later flew to Florida with Halasan’s crown.

Their woes didn’t end there, said Jonas. “The costume finally arrived on May 7, which supposedly gave us enough time for Rabiya to fit and practice her walk while wearing it. But because of existing COVID-19 protocols in the hotel, we were told fitting was not allowed within the venue.”

And since Rabiya was already neck-deep in Miss Universe-related activities by then, there was no way for them to go out and find a venue where she could fit and practice wearing Gathercole’s swan song.

Banner photos: Jonas Gaffud and Shamcey Supsup from Gaffud’s Instagram account; Rabiya Mateo by LLC/Benjamin Askinas, Miss Universe