1915 QUEEN OF THE MANILA CARNIVAL. Concepcion Medina y Zurbito of Masbate, candidate of the Spanih language newspaper, El Ideal.
By 1915, the Manila Carnival had well established itself as the country’s premier event of the year. Even the selection of the candidates had undergone some welcome changes. Before, candidates were nominated by readers, but now the newspapers took absolute responsibility in fielding their own candidates. El Ideal , a leading Spanish language newspaper in the country threw its all-out support on its 15 year-old bet from Masbate, Concepcion Medina y Zurbito.
Concepcion was the unica hija of Don Sotero Medina and Restituta Zurbito, one of the richest families of Masbate, whose fortunes were built from their cattle ranch, coconut plantation and commercial real estate business. Sotero went on to become a town mayor while the equally accomplished Restituta was known to have founded the first puericulture center of her town.
Although Concepcion was born in Binondo on 9 January 1900, she considered herself a genuine Masbateño. It was in Manila that she spent her growing-up years, under the supervision of an aunt, Choleng Buencamino Zurbito. When she came of school age, she was enrolled at the Centro Escolar de Señoritas, then moved to St. Scholastica, where she pursued her piano studies.
CONCEPCION CROWNED. Her coronation ceremonies were one of the most lavish and complex in the history of the Carnivals, requiring four procession groupings in Roman finery.
Concepcion performed exceptionally well in the final secret voting and led all the way, amassing 46,500 votes, nine thousand more than her nearest rival, Josefino Ros of Cablenews American. In third place was the bet of Manila Times, Pilar Paredes. She handily won the queenship, the youngest ever to win the crown.
Her moment of triumph was attended with much pomp and pageantry, the likes of which have never been seen before. The motif was Roman, and the auditorium was designed like an arena fit for a Queen. Her grand entrance was preceded by a parade of “Roman” characters and officials, led by the first group headed by a praetorian bearing a standard of the Emperor, trumpeters and Numibian soldiers. A second group consisting of victorious gladiators with tridents, swords and shields followed, while senators, consuls and tribunes and a coterie of slaves composed the third group. The final group had a dozen dancing children, vestal virgins and priestesses, lamp bearers, flower girls and 8 more Numibians bearing the lovely Queen Concepcion on a litter, escorted by Emperor Nero and trailed by fan-bearing slaves and 4 prateorians.
DOING AS THE ROMANS DO. Concepcion, resplendent in her Roman-inspired gown.
A newspaper account reports: “Concepcion I presented a most charming appearance in her royal robes and wonderful crown…her arrival was greeted with prolonged applause from the largest throng that had ever been seen within the auditorium since the carnival began”.
On hand at her coronation was her dashing escort, Joseph Manning, the American Auditor General. Her royal court included Misses Natividad Lontoc (who would later marry Antonio de las Alas), Esperanza Limjap (future first lady and wife of Pres. Sergio Osmeña), Consuelo Felix and Messrs. A. Vasquez, Z. Buencamino and Jose Limjap. Among those who paid their respects to her royal highness were Gov. and Mrs. Francis Burton Harrison.
At the lavish coronation, the Queen was acclaimed with a poem extolling her beauty and virtue by poet laureate Bernardo Garcia. A special dance led by American society belles Carmencita MacLeod, Grace James, Phyllis Whitney, Margaret Ferrier, Hyberta Humes, Jean Dyre, Mahuma Clinton, Carmen Moreno. Bonnie Woodall, Leonora Dorney and Lois Thomas—was presented in her honor. The evening proceedings were presided over by Jerry Manning, her escort’s brother. It was a night Concepcion would long remember.
Five years after her reign, Concepcion met Dr. Andres F. Navarro, the son of the first mayor of Albay, Don Lucio Navarro, who had been assigned to the Constabulary staff in Masbate. They would eventually fall in love and marry on 4 March 1920 at the Lourdes Church in Manila. The newlyweds led a peripatetic life because of Andres’s assignments—first in Baguio, then in Iloilo, Cebu, Catbalogan, Zamboanga, Cabanatuan, Palawan, Sorsogon and other Bicol towns.
WEDDING DAY PORTRAIT. Concepcion Medina and Dr. Andres Navarro on their wedding day. Lourdes Church, Manila, 1920.
The union bore four children: Luisa, Naida, Andres Jr. and Lydia, all college graduates before they raised their own families. When Dr. Navarro retored in 1948 due to illness, the couple moved back to Masbate. Post-retirement, Concepcion went on a world tour in 1951, covering the U.S., Canada and various European and Asian countries. In 1958, Dr. Navarro passed away at the Philippine Veterans Hospital. Concepcion survived him for many years, and in her mid 70s, planned to visit Australia and South America.
It could be said that Concepcion lived an almost a perfect life—marked with the joys of her childhood and of her wonderful reign as a Carnival queen, the happiness of her married life and the fulfillment of her long, golden years.