Miss Philippines Rabiya Mateo took to Instagram to express her gratitude to those who have continuously supported her journey ahead of the final's night of the 69th edition of the annual Miss Universe in Hollywood, Florida today (Monday).
“Thank you for celebrating and empowering us candidates,” said the self-confessed “dark horse” who, in a previous interview, said she was a virtual unknown during the start of the competition.
“There may be some who are critical to us but still, there [are] millions of nice people who cheer for us,” she added in her IG post.
The 24-year-old Ilongga, a physical therapist by profession, has been the subject of critical comments on social media after her Philippine flag-inspired national costume performance.
During the preliminary judging, Mateo owned the stage in her yellow two-piece swimsuit that showed off her killer curves before changing into a Furne One-designed yellow gown encrusted with citrine Swarovski crystals.
In the final survey of pageantologists Missosology.org and Pageantology101, Mateo joined delegates from Puerto Rico, India, Thailand and Peru as the top prospective winners.
“There was no unanimous decision on number 1 in the Final Hot Picks, an indication of how intense the competition is," Missosology's Ameer Gamama told ABS-CBN News.
Mateo is competing against 73 other delegates in the pandemic-delayed edition of the pageant.
She is gunning for the country’s fifth Miss Universe crown following in the footsteps of recent winners Pia Wurtzbach (2015) and Catriona Gray (2018).
The Miss Universe pageant airs live on A2Z channel at 8:00 a.m. today and simulcasts commercial-free on iQiyi.