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Philippine pride in Miss Universe, times three

From left: Rabiya Mateo, Olivia Quido-Co and Jojo Bragais

Come May 17 when a new Miss Universe will be proclaimed in the state of Florida, US, the Philippine flag will be raised much higher than ever before in the world’s most prestigious beauty pageant.

In the past, all eyes were only focused on the Philippine representative—how she carried her gown, sauntered in her swimwear, or answered in the Q&A. The Miss Universe pageant is something that many fans follow and viewers would make time to watch the live satellite feed usually aired in the morning in this part of Asia.

During the past 10 years, the Philippines has fared very well, producing two grand winners, three runners-up, and the rest were semi-finalists.

This year, it is the hope of many Filipinos that Rabiya Mateo of Iloilo will bring home the sixth crown for the country. Mateo has been in the United States for more than a week now, and activities of the international pageant are starting to shift to full gear with a lot of interviews, fashion photoshoots, sponsor visits, lunches, cocktails and dinners happening daily.

Mateo, together with the candidates from El Salvador and Colombia, have already visited the spa of Filipina beauty expert Olivia Quido-Co, whose line of beauty care products was designated as the official skin-care partner of the Miss Universe pageant. “We have tried her products, and we have been pampered by the many services her spa offers. I am just happy and proud that a Filipina will share her expertise and her much sought-after products with girls from around the globe this year,” Mateo enthused.

Quido-Co admits the days leading to coronation day are all fully-booked because of the activities lined-up for the pageant. “The candidates are all arriving one after the other and we are in charge of their skin-care needs and requirements. I’m just happy that Filipinos will be taking care of the skin essentials of the candidates. It is truly an honor to be selected as the official skin-care partner of this prestigious pageant,” she quipped.

Also sharing the spotlight this year with Mateo and Quido-Co is young Filipino shoemaker and designer Jojo Bragais, who has been announced as the official footwear provider for all the 76 candidates during pageant night.

Despite the fact that the all-important confirmatory phone call from the pageant organizers came in just sometime in early March, Bragais was all pumped-up and deliver he did. He said that each candidate will be given two pairs of shoes, and he is just grateful that for the first time in the history of the pageant, a Filipino has been chosen to provide the official shoes of the candidates.

The very first Binibining Pilipinas candidate to wear his shoes was Yvethe Santiago (who bagged the Supranational title) during the 2014 edition. When the organizers saw Santiago’s shoes, they were impressed and invited Bragais to provide the official shoes of the pageant the following year.

Bragais, who is originally from Albay in Bicol, became more popular when he formed part of the core team of Catriona Gray who was crowned Miss Universe in 2018.  A generous guy, not many know that Bragais gave more than just his shoes and moral support to Gray when she competed in Bangkok.

A man of few words, Bragais said that this is a dream come true for him. “I have had my share of disappointments and rejections, but I believe that when one works hard and focuses on his strengths, counts his blessings, and remains kind, humble and grateful for every new opportunity that comes, then big doors will eventually open.”

Naturally, both Bragais and Quido-Co are quietly rooting for the country’s representative but they agree that in the end, destiny plays a big part as to which girl will be crowned Miss Universe.

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