Monday, June 1, 2009



One of the most famous beauties ever to come from the Carnival royalties is the alluring Amparo Karagdag. “Amparing” was born on 11 March 1915, the eldest of 7 children from a Reyes family in Malolos, Bulacan. She was adopted by a certain Nena Karagdag and she assumed her last name.

At the 1936 Miss Philippines finals, she placed a strong second to Mercedes Montilla. Acting as Miss Luzon’s escort was Ricardo Manotok. After the contest, she became even more popular when she joined showbiz, appearing in movies as: Dating Pugad, Angel na Tukso, Pasalubong, Kundiman and Ikaw at Ako. In the course of her short career in which her beauty title was always touted, she had as leading men Carlos Padilla, Leopoldo Salcedo, Jose Padilla Jr.

Amparing was also a favorite dancing partner of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon who caught her eye during the Carnival pageant. Quezon had always taken a strong interest in the Miss Philippines search, where his advice often influenced the outcome of the contest. Amparing and the president were always seen during government socials that she was rumored to be his “girlfriend”.



Miss Visayas 1936 Helen Bennett was born in Nueva Vizcaya, making her a genuine Gaddang beauty. She was the daughter of American Roy Bennett with Josefa Cutaran. Family tradition had it that the Bennetts descended from Rufus Bennett (b.1754) a body guard of Gen. George Washington during the American Revolution. Roy had been a Thomasite teacher who was assigned to Nueva Vizcaya to teach and to help build the local high school there. The union resulted in 5 children, of which Helen was the eldest daughter.

Coming to the contest, the elegant Fil-Am mestiza had impeccable credentials. She had been named earlier as Miss Pearl of the Orient Seas by the Philippine Free Press which conducted its own Miss Philippines search. It was not surprising at all that she would land in the winners’ circle, placing third after Mercedes Montilla and Amparo Karagdag. At the Coronation Night, she was escorted by Francisco Chanco.

The War years brought untold sufferings to the Bennetts. Because of their American blood, the whole family was detained at the University of Santo Tomas. A younger brother, Roy Jr. --an editor of Manila Bulletin--was incarcerated and tortured at Fort Santiago after refusing to operate the popular daily under Japanese censorship. The family survived the War and soon after, Helen joined the government service as Foreign Secretary under Pres. Elpidio Quirino.

She married late in life, to Joseph Schon, an engineering graduate from Johns Hopkins University. The officiating person was Justice Manuel Moran, (grandfather of Miss Universe 1973, Margarita Moran). Helen, still very active at age 98, resides in Kanlaon City. The Schons have a son, Ricky Bennett Schon who is active in the cultural affairs of the city. Another well-known niece is Lalaine Bennett, the first ever Miss Philippines to place in the Miss Universe finals, coming in fourth in the 1963 tilt.

(Many thanks to Michael Ocampo for providing some of the background information on Helen Bennett)



Cleofe or “Soping” was the daughter of a former Macabebe Scout Felix Balingit and Juliana Jaime. Long before the 1936 Miss Philippines Contest, this winsome colegiala, was already involved in civic work, lending credence to her “beauty with substance” reputation. She often acted as a welcome official of the town. On 10 September 1933, she was part of the entourage (led by Gov. Pablo Angeles) that welcomed Gov. General Frank Murphy ( 1890-1949) to the fiesta of Macabebe. As the reigning Miss Macabebe, she again was a frontliner at the 1935 town visit of U.S. Senator and Col. Rice William Means (1877-1949) of Denver, Colorado.

In 1936, Soping was chosen to carry Pampanga’s colors in the national beauty finals of 1936. Bolstered by her credentials and strongly supported by the local newspaper “Ing Catimauan”, Cleofe won the Miss Mindanao title in an all-mestiza finals. She was escorted to her coronation by fellow Kapampangan, Ricardo Paras.

Returning to Pampanga after her reign, she married Dr. Mariano Bayani of Apalit. She became even more active in socio-civic causes, most especially the Pampanga Chapter of the Girl Scouts and the local Red Cross, raising funds and pursuing related advocacies. She died in 1981 of natural causes.


No comments: