Michele Gumabao laments ‘toxic’ pageant industry, fans in ‘final’ statement on MUP journey

“This is my statement, this is my story.”

In what she said would be her “first and final word” on her Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) 2020 journey, second runner-up Michele Gumabao has spoken at length on issues leveled against her, a week after Rabiya Mateo was crowned pageant winner.

In a 24-minute vlog released on Monday, the volleyball star said it took her some time to speak up out of doubt and fear of consequences. But she decided to “fight for myself” against people “trying to taint my name and drag me down” with issues that she said didn’t happen.

Michele clarified she has no intention to attack or hurt anyone with her video but that this was the only way for her to look back on all these and happily move on.

The Quezon City bet started by detailing physical struggles and pressures she went through and had piled up in the days leading to the pre-taped coronation day on October 25 held in Baguio City.

Before the grand finale telecast and livestream, she claimed she received “cryptic” messages about the results and that around 3 a.m. of October 25, she heard things she wasn’t supposed to hear. What these things were she didn’t elaborate in the vlog, only saying that these hurt her.

“I went back to my room and I cried so hard… and all these questions came back to my head. Everything that I’ve been hearing for the past two days just came rushing in my head and I was heartbroken. I was devastated that night, I called my family and I wanted to go home.”

Apart from the advice of her family, a fellow contestant prevailed upon her decision after she asked her purpose for joining MUP, and that made her realize that she was there to “glorify God and to empower herself so that I can empower other people.”

However, when she went down for the viewing party, she said the feed was so delayed and news of a winner had already “leaked” online.

“So many people came to me and hugging me, and a lot of tears were happening around and so many questions of why, how, what, overwhelming me too much. And after knowing what I knew, the past few days, everything just came crashing down on me,” she recalled.

“I admit I wasn’t strong enough to handle that at that moment. And I knew I was gonna break down. I knew I was gonna cry. And I didn’t want to do that in front of the cameras.

Michele continued, “They tried so hard to get a breakdown of me in the past and it never worked. And I told them I will not give them the satisfaction and I went to the production. And I told them that (it’s) just too hard for me, I can’t stay here and I really want to leave, can you please fast forward the feed? Because they already announced online who the winner was.”

“And they said they can’t because we have to finish the feed and we’re filming and I said I can’t do this. And I said can we please just finish? And they told me they had to take the picture and I said can you just do it now and they said they couldn’t, and I said I’m sorry that I had to leave and I left.”

It wasn’t clear what pic Michele was referring to, but a photo of Rabiya and her court except the second runner-up widely circulated online shortly after the pageant, which led to speculation and backlash against Michele for acting like a “sore loser”. (READ: Here’s the exact moment Rabiya Mateo learned she’s new Miss Universe Philippines.)

Michele, however, said she informed Jonas Gaffud, MUP Organization’s creative director, and Rabiya of her decision to leave.

“I sent a message to the winner, and I congratulated her and I told her the reason why I’m leaving, and she replied, thank you. And after that,
I thought everything was okay.”

It was upon arrival in Manila when she learned from her family “all the stories and all the issues that people were making up, I just couldn’t believe it.”

She then lamented the toxicity in the pageant community. “I couldn’t believe that people are capable of such things, that we’re in this beauty pageant joining because of our dreams, because we want to empower people, but it’s so toxic. The industry, the fans, the bashers, the criticism, everything is just so toxic, and I just couldn’t believe it.”

According to Michele, she was not hurt and angry but saddened by the post-pageant controversy. “I was sad because so many girls just like me dream of this platform, dream of this position, because we know it is meant for something good, but so much people who aren’t even connected to the (MUP) organization are just trying to tear everybody down.

“And it just saddens me that in the midst of this pandemic, in the midst of a celebration such as a beauty pageant, the first ever Miss Universe Philippines, there are people who have it in their hearts to criticize, and spread rumors and so much lies and I just couldn’t take it.”

But Michele said what saddened her the most was that the MUP organization didn’t defend her. “When people were making issues about me leaving and not being part of that photo, the organization knew why, they knew my reasons, they knew I left but they never said anything. They kept quiet.”

The past week she said she blocked off social media and took time for herself to recover from the “very exhausting two weeks”, as well as prepare to go back to volleyball training, work and managing stuff.

She said she is now sharing her story so future pageant hopefuls can learn a thing or two from her experience.

“But I also want to take this time to remind everybody that we should stop bashing, we should stop spreading lies and negativity, ” she said, also pointing out that she “never answered bashers online because I respect people’s opinion and right now, I hope that they respect mine.”

Michele wished as well that the public let her accept the results in her own way. “I just hope that people allowed me to accept my fate and my destiny in my own terms,” she said.

“And I just hope that there were things that I shouldn’t have heard. I hope that I never heard them because accepting failure is one thing, but for it to be mixed up with so much doubt and so much uncertainty towards myself as a human being, as a woman, that was something that I needed time to process and I needed time to accept,” she added, without specifying again the supposed things she shouldn’t have heard or witnessed as a candidate.

In the end, Michele said she had no regrets over every decision she made during the pageant. “I do not regret joining. I don’t regret being part of it. I do not regret leaving.”

As of writing, the Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) Organization has yet to release a statement on Michele’s video message.

In a statement last week, they said they were standing by Iloilo City bet Rabiya Mateo as the first Miss Universe Philippines titleholder under the new franchise.

Watch Michele’s full video below:

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