MANILA, Philippines — The Iloilo Festivals Foundation Inc. (IFFI) has revived the long foregone “Rigodon de Honor” celebration in Iloilo City to raise funds for ladies who will represent the city in national competitions next year.
Rabiya Mateo, the first Miss Iloilo winner, lauded the effort that she said displays Ilonggos’ unity.
“It’s so easy to represent something that you love. So when I was competing in Miss Universe Philippines, everything was all set, from my gowns, it was a collective effort from a lot of Ilonggos, that’s why I made it. It was the unity that made me successful,” Mateo told INQUIRER.net in an online interview.
Not only was she crowned the first-ever Miss Iloilo, she also won in the first Miss Universe Philippines pageant in 2020, that brought her to the 69th Miss Universe pageant in the United States, where she finished in the Top 21.
“I am forever grateful to Ms. Sarah Peña, Ms. Pangging [Rosales], Ms. Pané [Rosales], the amazing women behind Miss Iloilo, because they helped me, not just with my needs for the pageant, but also to give me lectures and wisdom about life. I think that was something that I was able to bring, the experience as an Ilongga, and to always go back to my roots,” Mateo continued.
Both Peña and Rosales led IFFI’s mounting of the Miss Iloilo “Rigodon de Honor” charity ball at the Iloilo Convention City on Dec. 6, which gathered the veritable Who’s Who in Iloilo City to participate on a cotillon, once a common practice among the illustrious Ilonggos in a long bygone era. The two ladies both serve as co-chairpersons of the city pageant.
“Ever since our pioneer year, I always believe that Miss Iloilo was established to help Ilonggas to be able to deliver excellent performance in a national competition. But also, I do understand that it needs a lot of financial support, that’s why I believe that the girls are very lucky to have Miss Iloilo behind them,” Mateo shared.
She said IFFI has fully rallied behind the city’s representatives, providing support in all aspects of the competition, including trainings and wardrobe. “I’m always proud to be the first-ever Miss Iloilo,” she declared.
Mateo also fondly recalled the time when she looked up to Ilongga beauty queens Angelia Ong and Rufa Nava who brought pride on the international stage. “So when it was my chance, it felt like a dream. It didn’t feel real actually. So now I guess it humbles me to remember those moments that I was also aspiring to be one. And now I will continue my body of work, to inspire these lovely ladies to stick to their core. And to make our province very proud,” she said.
Mateo also congratulated the 2024 Miss Iloilo candidates, who were presented at the ball. “This organization had helped not just me, but also my successors throughout the years as they represented Iloilo on a national level. And you guys are on the right track,” she said.
“I hope that you will still continue to be yourselves, to serve as an inspiration to other people. And always keep in mind that winning the crown, yes, that’s the goal, but if you don’t win, you still need to continue to become the queen that you are, to accept defeat gracefully. Because in life, sometimes it’s not just your time. But it doesn’t mean that it’s never gonna happen in the future. So be gracious in defeat and be humble in success,” she reminded the ladies.
The 2024 Miss Iloilo competition will choose the city’s representatives to the Miss Universe Philippines, Miss World Philippines, Binibining Pilipinas, and The Miss Philippines pageants. One winner will be crowned in January, and she and her runners-up will receive their respective national pageant assignments later on.
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