1937 MISS PHILIPPINES, Maria Carmen "Chita" Zaldarriaga, another southern beauty with clear Spanish-Filipino lineage. Her reign coincided with another important event in Philippine history: the holding of the 13th International Eucharistic Congress in the country.
1937 was a banner year for Christian Philippines as the country proudly hosted the XIII International Eucharistic Congress, attended by leading church dignitaries and pilgrims the world over. This most important religious meeting was held on the same month that the activities of the Manila Carnival—now dubbed as the Philippine National Exposition, were being mounted in Wallace Field in Luneta, the centerpiece event of which was the election of Miss Philippines of 1937.
The eventual winner was a 17 year old Manila beauty named Carmencita “Chita” Zaldarriaga who conquered the Carnival with her pronounced Castilian beauty. Her great grandmother was Atanasia Dominguez, widow of Joaquin Bayot. A son, Francisco Maria is Chita's grandfather.
From her father’s side, Chita is a relative of Consuelo ‘Monina’ Acuña –her mother is a Zaldarriaga--who had also been a Carnival Queen seven years before. In more recent years, Chita’s niece and namesake, Maria Carmen “Maricar” Zaldarriaga, daughter of her brother Francisco, won the 1972 Miss Young Pilipinas title. Thus, the tradition of beauty ran deep in the Zaldarriaga family.
CARMEN'S COURT. L-R, Elisa Manalo (Miss Luzon), Queen Chita, Sonia Gamboa (Miss Visayas) and Adela Coscolluella (Miss Mindanao)
As a young girl, Chita was bright and studious, and was accelerated many times, finishing her elementary in 5, instead of 7 years. At the time of the contest, she was a high school student at the Assumption Convent. She was sponsored by the newspaper La Vanguardia. Joining her on the coronation dais were her equally beautiful princesses—Elisa Manalo (Miss Luzon), Sonia Gamboa (Miss Visayas) and Adela Coscolluela (Miss Mindanao).
FLYING HIGH. Chita's escort at her coronation was the much acclaimed pilot, Col. Antonio Arnaiz, who made the first transatlantic flight from Manila to Madrid. He later married her.
Her King Consort was a young man from Bais, Negros Oriental -- Col. Antonio Arnaiz, already a well-known personality for many Filipinos at that time. Col. Trained at the Dallas Aviation School, Arnaiz and his co-pilot, Juan Calvo were the first Filipinos to make a historic flight from Manila to Madrid on a single-engine plane called “Commonwealth of the Philippines”. The “Arnacal Flight”, as the aerial feat was known, made headlines around the world and, upon their return, the two were hailed as conquering heroes by their countrymen. A special commemorative stamp was even issued to mark this Philippine aviation milestone. Later, Col. Arnaiz would earn a doctorate in aeronautical engineering.
Chita and Antonio, with their good mestizo looks and temperament, turned out to be a perfect match. The handsome colonel regularly paid afternoon visits to the Queen, and the press avidly followed their courtship which ended with their fabulous wedding in February 1938, a full year after their first encounter. The union resulted in 5 children: Josefina, Teresita, Antonio Jr., Leopoldo and Vicente. The Arnaizes lived a full life, but was marred by the death of one child and the eventual demise of the colonel in 1979.
After her husband’s death, Chita busied herself with their assorted family enterprises and also got involved in civic and charity groups like the Catholic Women’s League where she served as Vice President. This she did, for the rest of her days, passing away in September of 2008.