ENTRANCE TO THE MAGALLANES CARNIVAL OF 1921. Luneta Park, Manila.
Carmencita was the daughter of Mauro Prieto and Consuelo Legarda, both well-known in Philippine elite society. Mauro was a successful executive of La Germinal, the leading cigar factory in the Philippines, and was the president of Congreso Agricola de Filipinas. He had been, in fact, one of the escorts of the first-ever queen, Pura Villanueva. It came as a surprise then that he initially objected to the candidacy of her daughter, finding the 16 year old too young to join an adult event.
Again, it was Pres. Manuel L. Quezon who came to the rescue. Word was out that a pure Hispaniola candidate was being groomed to win the crown in keeping with the Spanish theme of the Carnival. But the ardent nationalist wanted a Filipina or a mestiza at least, to rule over the festivities. Carmen’s father gave in when the president himself pleaded with him to let his daughter run.
With the presidential support in place, Carmencita’s victory was sealed. She topped the preliminary contests of 8 periodicals: La Vanguardia. Taliba, Philippine Herald, El Ideal, El Debate, Philippine Herald, Ang Mithi, La Nacion and Confetti. Her nearest rivals were Snrta. Dolores Casanovas, the Spanish community candidate and Nellie Ping, who had the backing of the influential Chinese dailies, Man Ho Po and Kong Li Po as well the moneyed Chinese community of Manila.
In the days leading to the final balloting, more drama unfolded. Candidate Clotilde Blancaflor, who was running sixth, withdrew to marry her beau. Cornelia Lichauco also threw in the towel, saying she had never wanted to run in the first place. When all the votes were tallied on 20 January, Carmen, with the the Bachelor’s Club, Sociedad de Tiro al Blanco, Club Filipino, Philippine Columbian and Bohemian Club behind her—won the 1921 Carnival Queen title with 9,838,300 votes.
HER NIGHT HAS COME. Official coronation picture of Carmen Prieto, 1921 Manila Carnival Queen, with her court of honor.
The Grand Coronation rites were full of pomp and pageantry unlike any other. The theme of the evening was the “occidentalization of the Islands”. But Carmen and her court opted to wear native Philippine costumes—traje de mestizas. Her mother made her wear family heirloom jewelry, necessitating the hiring of guards to secure and protect her. She wore a choker, studded with pearls and diamonds. Her royal crown was made especially by Carnival Director Jorge Vargas and it featured a brilliant diamond solitaire in the middle.
The evening was pure excitement for the young Carmencita. After the national anthems of Spain, America and the Philippines were played, a hymn to peace was rendered by the Philippine Constabulary Band. And, as she was seated on her throne, Eduardo Ros, playing the role of a Cardinal, crowned Carmen amidst fireworks, music and accolades from the leading poets of her time.
Carmen’s King Consort was the accomplished Dr. Basilio Valdes, already well-known for his medical and military experience here and in Europe. Later, Valdes, who was also a relative, became a Secretary of Defense and a Chief of Staff. A court was assembled to attend to the new queen, and it included Florentina Goyena, Vicenta Osmeña, Benita Bayot, Rosario Legarda (the future wife of Dr. Valdes), Dr. Augusto Cortez, Dr. Francisco Tecson, Dr. Ramon Ongsiako, Jose Araneta, Jose Revilla. One of the prizes Carmen received for her victory was a portrait painting done by Fabian de la Rosa, a close friend of her father. Carmen was toasted with lavish parties by her proud parents and gala affairs were held in her honor by dozens of socio-civic groups and various associations.
CARMEN'S PRINCESS. Part of the 1921 royal entourage.
When the Carnival year was over, Carmen, together with her cousins, traveled to Europe and took French lessons in Paris. Carmen came home a fulfilled young woman, but chose to live in semi-reclusion. As a result, she married rather late at the age of 33 years old to Ramon Caro. Ramon was the founder of a well-known automotive and electrical firm, Ramcar, which he established in 1919. The couple ran a successful business until her husband died in 1979. The union bore daughter Rosario Agustines, and 2 stepdaughters, Isabel Wilson and Cristina Ozamis.
She suffered a hip injury in the late 1970s, but this did not prevent her from pursuing her various personal interests.