Miss Universe Philippines Rabiya Mateo flourishes in her flag-inspired costume, apologizes to fans

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 14) — The country's bet to the Miss Universe 2020 pageant Rabiya Mateo donned a Philippine-flag inspired outfit with a touch of Victoria's Secret for the national costume competition on Friday. Despite her stellar performance, she ended up apologizing to fellow Filipinos and her supporters.

The Ilongga beauty rocked red and blue wings and three stars to represent the colors and symbols of the country's flag. She also wore mismatched heels and kept her hair wavy and flowing to complete her look.

"I feel like I'm a Victoria's Secret angel. I'm gonna fly," she said during a backstage interview.

She was wearing a creation of late Filipino international designer Rocky Gathercole.

However, several fans online were quite unsatisfied with her look, questioning why she didn't wear the headpiece crafted by Bulacan jewelry designer Manny Halasan.

A few hours after she took the stage in Florida, an emotional Mateo went live on Instagram to explain her side and apologize to her supporters.

"I'm sorry kung na-disappoint man kayo sa akin. I know na I did my best, I even cut my finger and 'yung stockings ko punong-puno na din ng dugo, but I kept fighting," she said while wiping off tears.

[Translation: I'm sorry if you were disappointed in me. I did my best. I even cut my finger. My stockings had blood, but I kept fighting.]

"In my self kanina, I felt really great. Feeling ko nung naglalakad ako I was so beautiful. Nakita ko yung cheer ng mga judges, nakita ko ang mga sigaw ng mga Pilipino kaya nagpapasalamat talaga ako sa suporta," she added.

[Translation: I felt great. I felt so beautiful while walking. I saw the cheers of the judges and the Filipinos who were screaming for me. I am thankful for the support.]

Former beauty queen Shamcey Supsup, who sits as the national director of Miss Universe Philippines Organization, told ABS-CBN's MJ Felipe that they decided not to make Mateo wear the headpiece since it kept falling off.

To add to that, the feathered wings were already too heavy.

"There were more accessories to the costume but the wings was 21 kilos already," Jonas Gaffud, the creative director of Miss Universe Philippines, said.

Halasan also took to Instagram to share glimpses of the headpiece he created for Mateo. However, he did not explain what happened.

"Looking at the National costume for Miss Universe 2020, I hope to share the vision with everyone. It’s patriotic, historic, triumphant. Victorious... I always believe in perfect timing. If it is not yet for you, let time and experience make you better and excellent. There is a time for everything," he wrote.

Pageant expert Norman Tinio said a number of candidates in the pageant stood out with their costumes, adding that Mateo could have made a better impression had she worn the complete outfit.

"I love what Rabiya wore," he told CNN Philippines' News.PH. "Ang sentiment ko lang naman is sana nakumpleto 'yung look [My only sentiment is I would have wanted to see the complete look] because that would have made a greater impact."

Other Asian candidates, like Singapore and Myanmar, opted to use the stage to speak up on current issues such as anti-Asian hate crimes and the anti-junta movement in Myanmar.

Mateo's predecessor, Gazini Ganados, brought home the national costume award in 2019 for her Philippine-eagle inspired outfit created by designer Cary Santiago.

This year's pageant will be held at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida on May 16 (May 17 in Manila).