Sunday, May 31, 2009

78. 1936, MANILA CARNIVAL


The Manila Carnival of 1936, held from 15 February to 1 March, came on the heels of the inauguration of the 1935 Philippine Commonwealth, a high-profile affair that was held only in November of the year before. It was a month long affair, attended by American dignitaries led by the Vice President of the United States, Hon. John Garner.

It was predictable that the Carnival slogan flagged the aims of the new Philippines: “ For a greater Philippine Commonwealth! For a Strong Agricultural and Cultural Philippines!”. The Carnival spirit was downplayed and the rich agricultural, commercial and industrial potential of an emerging nation was emphasized, to the extent that the 1936 event was dubbed the Philippine Exposition—and it made clear that the organizers were the “successors of the Philippine Carnival Association”. Arsenio Luz continued to be the exposition’s Director-General.

The agricultural exhibits opened on 29 January and continued till 14 February 1936, serving as lead-in teasers to the main Carnival festivities. Impressive showcase booths were built, and among these were the Sugar Palace, Rice Center, Forestry Pavilion, Tobacco Emporium, Hall of Mines, Copra Castle, Hemp Tower and the Temple of Commerce and Industry.

When the gates of the exposition were thrown open, crowds once more were dazzled to a host of shows, rides, costume balls, gala nights and contests. For example, a Radio Night was launched in which female announcers competed for the honor of being the Radio Queen.
The excitement over the Commonwealth festivities and the Christmas season that followed spilled over to the February Carnival, a rare and prolonged celebration that people of the peacetime era still fondly remember.

77. 1935, MISSING MISS MINDANAO: The Case of Carmen Del Rosario

THE ORIGINAL MISS MINDANAO OF 1935. Carmen "Carmeling" del Rosario joined the contest as a favor to her father's friend, an editor of a newspaper. She was so sure that would not win but she did. She immediately resigned here title in compliance with her father's wish to prioritize her studies.

As soon as Carmen del Rosario was proclaimed as Miss Mindanao 1935, her face was splashed all over the national papers alongside her co-winners. But her reign was a short-lived one, for soon after, Carmeling resigned her title under the most unusual circumstances that sent the Carnival Association frantically looking for a new regional queen.

Carmeling, as she was to be known all her life, was born in Manila on 2 July 1916 to Jose del Rosario and the former Carmelita de Leon, one of 9 children. Her paternal grandfather, Anacleto Sales del Rosario (b. 13 July 1860/d.1895) was the country’s leading chemist during the Spanish times and was known even to Jose P. Rizal. His pioneering work on nipa palm and its products won First Prize at the 1881 World’s Fair in Paris. Today, he is known as the Father of Philippine Laboratory Science.

LA VANGUARDIA'S CANDIDATE. Carmeling del Rosario in a publicity photo drumming up her candidacy to the 1935 search for Miss Philippines.

Carmeling was a standout campus beauty of Centro Escolar de Señoritas where she spent her college years. An editor of La Vanguardia newspaper—and a close friend of her father—had been beseeching him to allow the paper to sponsor her candidacy in the search for the queen of the 1935 Manila Carnival. Carmeling’s parents did not really approve of such beauty shows, but after much persuasion, and perhaps thinking that her chances of winning were slim, her father relented. One stipulation of the agreement however was that should Carmeling win, she would have to quickly relinquish her title.


As luck would have it, 19 year old Carmeling was one of the top vote-getters of the 1935 Carnival, eventually garnering the Miss Mindanao crown, just 3 steps away from the eventual winner, socialite Conchita Sunico. But for her family, there was no real cause for rejoicing.


THE ROYAL ENTOURAGE ANNOUNCED. The 1935 roster of winners have already been announced and printed on national dailies when Carmeling relinquished her title. She was succeeded by Celia Araullo.

Her victory had already been reported in national papers together with Catalina Zabala (Miss Luzon) and Julieta Abad (Miss Visayas, who had a Kapampangan escort from Tarlac, Jose Feliciano, later to be a Secretary of Agriculture under Pres. Diosdado Macapagal’s term), when she announced that she was giving up her title. Her conviction to stand by her decision in fulfillment of her father’s wish ruffled quite a few feathers among the carnival officials and participants who now believed her to be a nuisance candidate. Thus, 4th placer Celia Araullo was elevated to the court as Miss Mindanao.

WEDDING OF CARMELING DEL ROSARIO AND VIRGILIO RODRIGUEZ. A much publicized 'wedding of the year" between a short-lived beauty titlist and a well-heeled Kapampangan from an affluent San Fernando family.

But her all-too-brief carnival days were not without wonderful moments. That same year, she met Virgilio Rodriguez, son of sugar baron Don Godofredo Rodriguez and Doña Victoria Hizon of San Fernando. On 26 June 1935, Carmeling and Virgilio were married in spectacular rites at the Sto. Domingo Church, on 26 June 1935, a talk-of-the-town wedding that merited coverage in the Pampanga Social Register 1936, which chronicled Pampanga’s alta sociedad events. They settled in San Fernando where she quickly learned to speak in Kapampangan. They had 5 children: Victoria, Godofredo, Gorgonia, Ana Marie and Jo Anne. Although in delicate health, 93 year old Carmeling is settled in San Lorenzo Village, Makati today with an unmarried daughter.

76. 1935 MISS LUZON, MISS VISAYAS, MISS MINDANAO


CATALINA ZABALA, Miss Luzon 1935


*****

JULIETA ABAD y LUGOD, Miss Visayas 1935

Married to Rafael R. Rufino Sr., whose family earned its fortune through film distribution, construction of movie houses (Gaiety, Ever, Rizal, State and Avenue and later in Makati, Quad, Magallanes and Rizal Theaters) and also commercial banks (Bank of Commerce, Security Bank). Children includes Manny, Rafael Jr., Antonio, Maria Victoria Rufino (artist and author), Assunta and Joey (+).

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CELIA ARAULLO, Miss Mindanao 1935

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75. 1935, Miss Philippines of the Manila Carnival, CONCHITA CHUIDIAN SUNICO

1935 MISS PHILIPPINES. Conchita "Conching" Chuidian Sunico was a popular society girl who took to heart the "beauty with a purpose" philosophy, becoming even more well known for her advocacies in arts, socio-civic and war causes.

Even before her candidacy to the 1935 search for Miss Philippines was announced, Conchita Sunico’s sterling reputation as a social leader had already been established, thus putting her at the forefront for the title. Conchita was born to Tomas Sunico and Paz Chuidian of Binondo, and their youngest daughter grew up amidst the trappings of Manila’s high society when they moved to Malate.

THE YOUNG CONCHING, toast of Manila's elite society, was known for her fashion sense and style.

As a teen-ager, Conching headed several socio-civic associations whose members consisted mostly of Manila’s young elite. When she came of age as a debutante, she modeled on the side, becoming a popular fashion icon to her contemporaries. At the time of her nomination for the national queenship, she was the president of the Smiles Club and the muse of the Bachelors’ Club, rival associations united for once, in their support for Conching.

THE QUEEN ENTHRONED. Official photo of the 1935 queen, beautiful of face and regal in bearing.

At the onset, Conching steadfastly refused to be nominated to the point that she even gave her vote to another candidate. But so insistent were her newspaper sponsors, and so intense was the support—she was the personal choice of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon—so Conching went ahead and joined the contest. On 17 February, Conching was presented, along with the other candidates, in the Princess of the Art Night, dubbed as a “Pageant of National Beauties”, at the Carnival Auditorium. That night, the winners were announced with Conching winning the crown effortlessly, without even trying.

THE 1935 MANILA CARNIVAL ROYAL COURT. Seated L-to-R, Catalina Zabala (Luzon), Conchita Sunico (Miss Philippines), Julieta Abad (Visayas), Celia Araullo (Mindanao). Standing L-to-R. Pedro Chanco Jr., Tony Bayot, Jose Feliciano and Jose Zamora.

Two days after came her Coronation Night. For her big day, Conching did away with the usual foreign fantasy themes and went Filipiniana. She was escorted by her handsome cousin, Antonio Bayot. Her court of honor included Catalina Zabala as Miss Luzon, Julieta Abad as Miss Visayas and Celia Araullo, who replaced Carmen del Rosario when she relinquished her title as Miss Mindanao. Mr. J. Pardo de Tavera emceed the ceremonial proceedings and a post-coronation garden party was held in the winners’ honor.

QUEEN CONCHING WITH KING CONSORT. Conching picked her good-looking mestizo cousin, Antonio Bayot to be her official escort for the duration of her reign.

The fist royal duties of the Queen and her court included gracing gala events of the Carnival. Miss Mindanao presided over the Prosperity Ball, while Miss Visayas graced the Parisian Night. Miss Luzon was the honored guest of the Far Eastern University Night while Conching, as Miss Philippines, was the star of the Miss Philippine Ball, emceed by the Hon. Buevantura Rodriguez on 3 March, the last day of the Carnival. Here, Conching and her court received their prizes as the Carnival royalties of the year.

AT THE FLORAL PARADE. Conching and Tony ride a flower-bedecked automobile at the traditional floral motorcade of the 1935 Carnival.

After the Carnival, Conching continued on with her nationalistic pursuits. Before the War, she assumed presidency of the Young Ladies’ Association of Charity, which organized benefit events for their various advocacies. When the War reached the Pacific, Conching did underground work and became a member of the Volunteer Social Aid Committee (VSAC) which counted Helena Benitez and Pilar Campos as members. She helped ran a hospital for the wounded, organized community kitchens for the hungry and managed a secret mail service for Manilans and their relatives imprisoned in Capas and Cabanatuan. Their programs were supported by fund raising productions like “La Traviata” and “Cavalleria Rusticana”. For her significant contributions to the war efforts, she was awarded the Legion of Honor by a grateful country.

When the War drew to a close, she proved herself a woman of culture by putting up high-profile shows for Malacañang functions highlighting various aspects of Philippine traditions. From this sprung Karilagan, the international fashion group she founded and which found fame the world over. In 1964, she was appointed as a Tourism Commissioner and in the 70s Marcos era, the fashionable Conching was named as one of Manila’s Ten Best Dressed, an affair that was marked with protest against this show of frivolity in the midst of the country’s growing poverty.

"TITA CONCHING", IN HER GOLDEN YEARS, actovely supported Philippine arts and culture and was, at one time, director of the restored Manila Metropolitan Theater.

When the Metropolitan Theater of Manila was restored to its glory in 1978, she was appointed as its first Executive Director. The theater sits just across the historic Luneta, where decades before, Conchita’s triumphant reign as the country’s ninth Miss Philippines began. Tita Conching, as she was fondly called, passed away at the age of 76 on 1 August 1990. She was the first to be bestowed the Presidential Medal of Merit, given posthumously by Pres. Corazon Aquino. On 18 May 2009, to honor her legacy in the performing arts, fashion and charity work, a concert entitled “Mga Ginintuang Ala-ala ni Conching Sunico sa Met” was staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

74. 1935, MANILA CARNIVAL


The Manila Carnival of 1935 was held from 16 February to 3 March 1935. The honorary president was the Governor-General Frank Murphy and Manuel L. Quezon remained as President of the Philippine Carnival Association. Still serving as the Director-General is Arsenio Luz. Comprising the members of the Executive Committee were Hon. Jorge Vargas and Felipe Buencamino. Manila Mayor Juan Posadas Jr. was one of the many honorary vice-presidents that also included Speaker Quintin Paredes and Vice Gov. Joseph Hayden.


Carnival architect Antonio Barretto designed an art-deco inspired Auditorium and Main Gate, linear in form and much simpler than in the past years. As always, the 1935 “fun and folly fiesta” emphasized the commercial and industrial aspects of the affair, with attention being given to the exhibits of the Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The three separate shows it held the past years were now combined into one big, complete exposition of commercial, agricultural and industrial products.

The Bureau of Commerce compartmentalized its booths to showcase Foodstuffs, Textile and Embroidery, Hats and Leather Goods, Chemical and Pharmaecutical Products, Wines and Liquors, Cigars and Cigarettes and Fancy Articles and Toys. Provincial exhibits were put up by 23 provinces, each touting their unique quality products—from Moro curios, shells and pearls to the best products derived from sugar, hemp, coconut, tobacco, corn and rubber.

All the fabulous elements of the previous fairs were retained, especially the four major parades, kicked off by the opening Grand Carnival Parade held on 16 February and participated in by costumed groups, athletes in uniform and masked revelers. The Educational and Health Parade, held on 20 February, presented “a graduated vista of the educational resources of the Philippines”, from primary to collegiate levels.

The Military Parade held in the afternoon of 25 February was one of the most extensive ever, comprising of the U.S. and Armed Forces, Philippine Constabulary and the ROTC of the University of the Philippines, Ateneo, San Juan de Letran and the National Volunteers. Lastly, the Floral Parade, held on 1 March, was a replica of the floral pageants of the Old World and America, featuring floats and automobiles from different socio-civic, educational, business and government organizations decorated with flowers of all variety. The Queen and her Court rode on their own flower-bedecked cars escorted by ladies on horseback. As was the custom, people showered the passing beauties with flowers, who in turn threw flowers at the crowds.


The much awaited grand balls also unfolded with the Billiken’s Ball on the first day of the fair, in honor of the stockholders. Then followed the Princess of the Art Night where the Miss Philippines candidates were presented. An open contest for the Best Impersonation of Mae West, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Maurice Chevalier and Laurel and Hardy was held to the delight of the crowd. The other balls were the Pan Pacific Ball (Feb. 18), Princess of Commerce Night (Feb. 19), Comparsas Ball (Feb. 20), Coronation Ball (Feb. 21), Bohemian Ball (Feb. 22), Inter-Collegiate Ball (Feb. 23), Children’s Fancy Dress Ball (Feb. 24) and a Fashion Show Night.

The Carnival audiences were treated to a dazzling, dizzying array of shows, the likes of which no one has seen before. The spectacular Russian Flying Ballet, starring Mlle. Rogovska, the “young Pavlova”, thrilled the crowd with their balletic leaps and superb choreography. Disney mascots led by “Mr and Mrs. Mickey Mouse” and the awesome snake charmer Mex Tarzan, lent color and entertainment to the fair. Mr. Q., a leading hypnotist from San Francisco, mesmerized local citizens when he put to sleep a young girl before their disbelieving eyes. Alexander the Mystic also staged a vaudeville show that demonstrated his “supernatural” powers. Marjorie Van Camp’s Pig Show featured an amazing display of porcine talent, in which trained pigs showed off their boxing skills.



Over at the fairgrounds, heart-thumping rides were provided by a giant Merry Go-Round, The Whip, the swinging Merry Mix-Up and the Leaping Lena. Other exciting rides were the Dodgems (auto ride), the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Caterpillar. The Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation conducted the usual national sports championships that included sports like Tennis, Gymnastics, Socces, Volleyball, Basketball, Baseball, Wrestling, Swimming, Track and Field, Sipa and even Folk Dancing.

The brilliant Fireworks Display, presented by Rusca, capped the 1935 Manila Carnival festivities with a grand exhibition of fireworks program bearing fancy titles as Tutankhamen and the Magic Fan, Bouquet of Fancy Jewelry and Niagara Falls—in which “Manila Carnival 1935” was written in lights with Carnival colors. The Grand Finale featured the lighting of 5,000 firecrackers in a continuous bombardment, a most spectacular finish to the greatest show of the Orient

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

73. 1934, MISS LUZON, MISS VISAYAS, MISS MINDANAO


LUISA LACONICO, Miss Luzon 1934


Luisa sought to extend the reign of beauty of the Laconicos by running for the Miss Philippines queenship in 1934. It was a tall order, as the reigning royal was her own first cousin, so it was unlikely that she would figure at all in the finals. Her facial beauty and form were outstanding, even by today’s standards (she was called ‘Body Beautiful'). It came as no surprise that she placed a strong second in the finals, claiming the 1934 Miss Luzon title.

At the coronation, she was escorted by Hector Gomez, whom she eventually married the next year at the Quiapo Church. Their main wedding sponsors were Dna. Angela de Butte and Gov. Ramon Racelis.

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MARCELINA CUENCA, Miss Visayas 1934


Marcelina Cuenca, the 1934 Miss Visayas had represented Manila in the Philippine Free Press search for Miss Philippines. In the finals, she placed second to win the Miss Luzon title. She took one more shot at the more prestigious quest for Miss Philippines of the Manila Carnival and earned a spot in the winner’s circle by becoming Miss Visayas. Her Prince Consort was Antonio Albert.

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CONSUELO VILLAMOR, Miss Mindanao 1934

Consuelo, Miss Mindanao 1934, was the daughter of Pedro and Josefa M. Villamor. She was born on 26 September 1911 in Bangued, Abra. Her siblings included Domiciano, Baldomero, Belen (Sr. Thecla of St. Paul) and Luz. “Consoling” spent her early years in Abra, but at various times, she also lived in Sta. Rosa, Laguna and Cabanatuan for her high school education. She was a popular girl in her time, famous for her beauty and intellect, and for which she was elected Miss Abra.

When she went to Manila to study at the University of the Philippines, her popularity grew even more. She became a cadet sponsor of the school’s R.O.T.C., an honor reserved for accomplished campus beauties. When nominations for the 1934 Miss Philippines opened, Consuelo was the overwhelming choice of U.P. She did not disappoint, as when the judges handed out their decision, they included the lovely Consoling in the winners’ list as Miss Mindanao.

The heady Carnival days soon ended and Consuelo went back to her books at the state university. Upon graduation, she taught at her alma mater and became an accomplished academician, educator and author, serving U.P. for many years. The grateful school named her a Professor Emeritus.

In the midst of her career, she married Abraham A. Asis and bore three children, Antolin, Victor and Angela. The Villamor family settled in San Juan. Consoling lived a long and full life, outliving all her siblings, husband and two sons. She passed away on 6 April 2009, just a few months short of her 89th birthday.

72. 1934, Miss Philippines of the Manila Carnival, CLARITA VILLARICA TAN KIANG

1934 MISS PHILIPPINES. Winsome Chinese-Filipina beauty Clarita Tan Kiang emerged victorious as the queen of the national fair. Her father was pure Chinese from Amoy.

In the 1934 edition of the Manila Carnival, the Miss Philippines crown went to an Oriental Filipina beauty, instead of the Spanish mestizas who had regularly dominated the past editions of the pageants. That year's winner was UP coed Clarita Tan Kiang. Clarita's father, Eduardo Tan Kiang, was born in Amoy, China and arrived in the Philippines as a young boy. He met and married Luisa Villarica and the couple settled in Marilao, Bulacan. Eduardo would serve as the first municipal mayor of this town and would further expand his family to 10 children.


When the children came of age, they were sent to Manila schools, and so the Tan Kiangs eventually spent more time in the city than in Marilao. Besides, Eduardo had other business interests in Manila. Clarita, the second eldest child, finished high school at the Holy Ghost College. Simultaneously, she also took up music courses at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music.


It was as a high school student that she was nominated to vie for the Miss Philippines title, and The Philippine Collegian became her major sponsor. Clarita had, as her main drumbeater, Arturo Tolentino, the editor of the school publication.Clarita was wrote about in the school paper in glowing terms—from her “laughing eyes, bedimple smile” to her voice that was likened to “the tinkle of golden bells”.


However, Clarita faced formidable opponents at the pageant. She had to contend with the reigning Miss Manila, Marcelina Cuenca and a bevy of Kapampangan belles led by Luz Sarmiento of Bacolor and Lucy Pamintuan of Angeles, daughter of Pampanga’s very affluent hacendero, Don Florentino Torres Pamintuan. Then there’s Luisa Laconico, a cousin of last year’s winner, Engracia, who was no less beautiful.


The Chinese community’s support of Clarita proved pivotal, as when all the votes were accounted for, Clarita came on top of the heap. She was thus proclaimed as Miss Philippines of the Eight National Beauty Contest in glittering ceremonies at the Carnival Auditorium together with her court: Luisa Laconico as Miss Luzon, Marcelina Cuenca as Miss Visayas and Consuelo Villamor, a UP schoolmate, as Miss Mindanao.


She received her crown that was uniquely designed with three stars representing the island groups—one star as a center topper, and two, dangling on strings of pearls. Clarita kept this crown as a memento of her reign all her life. She wore a sequined terno at her coronation, but changed to a billowy long sleeved gown with a long train for her Miss Philippines Night. Her damas wore identical ruffled numbers, with consorts dressed as Grecian princes.


It was back to her studies at U.P. when the Carnival ended, and she made up for her lost time by taking summer classes. She finished high school in 1935 and continued with her music course at the U.P. Later she enrolled at the College of Banking, Business and Economics, but her studies were interrupted by the coming War. Clarita did not remain idle and instead, she worked with a group that ministered to ailing former prisoners in a Pasay-based hospice. She worked tirelessly to maintain this home for convalescing war patients.


When the war years ended, she went back to her books, enrolling at the Philippine Law School, and earned another beauty title—Miss Justice—as part of the school’s silver anniversary celebration. It seemed that Clarita was too busy to make time for romance; she was already in her 40s when she found true love.


In one Malacanang occasion, she was introduced to Conrado Sanchez, a widower and a former law school professor, by First Lady Trinidad Roxas, herself a former Carnival Queen. Conrado was all set to become a Supreme Court Justice when he was smitten by Clarita. They tied the knot on 9 May 1965 and adopted a child in 1969.


After law school, Clarita immersed herself in the Tan Kiang family business and founded professional women’s organizations such as the Women’s Management Association and the Women’s Lawyers’ Association. She remained involved in socio-civic causes in her golden years, but she also continued to honor her roots by keeping her Marilao haven until her death.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

71. 1933 MISS LUZON, MISS VISAYAS, MISS MINDANAO

CHARITY O. CROW, Miss Luzon 1933


Miss Luzon 1933, Charity Crow, was born on 6 Dec. 1915 at the Philippine General Hospital, daughter of Joseph William Crow of Hollister, California and Asuncion de Ocampo of Iloilo, Iloilo. Joseph was a member of the “Thomasites”—American teachers recruited to teach in the Philippines and tasked with reforming the public school system in the country. It was while assigned in Iloilo that he met and married Asuncion, who bore five more daughters (Carmen, Carrie, Charity, Celeste, Catherine ) and two sons (Clem, Carl).

Charity started schooling at St. Bridget’s Academy in Batangas where her father was then the Provincial Treasurer. Then she moved to Manila where she finished high school at St. Scholastica’s College in 1932. From there, she enrolled at the University of Sto. Tomas where she was elected as the “Most Beautiful College Girl”. Her beauty title brought her to the attention of Carnival organizers who enlisted her as a candidate to the 1933 Manila Carnival.

No doubt, it was more than her physical beauty that made her a leading contender to the crown—it was known that she treated every one with the highest regard, and people found unique qualities of having “beauty, brains and heart” so endearing. One story has it that once, she saw a dog drowning and she jumped into the water to save the canine’s life.

Charity was just a step away from winning the Miss Philippines title. Even then, she became even more popular in college. She graduated from UST with Summa Cum Laude honors. Charity was often invited to Malacañang Palace affairs and became friends with the family of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon. The high profile socialite met and married La Salle’s top athlete in 1938—Rafael Ygoa—then Asia’s No. 1 soccer goalkeeper. They had 4 children, born during the War years. After the Liberation, the Ygoa family moved to New York and then relocated to Colombia, in South America, where Rafael was appointed as Treasurer-Comptroller of TACA Airways. A fifth child was born there.

In 1948, Charity and her family returned to the Philippines at the request of Don Andres Soriano, who offered Rafael a job as a treasurer of the fledgling Philippine Airlines, Asia’s first airline. She took to her role as a housewife and mother back home, raising her 5 children while enrolling in modeling and cooking classes, both her personal interests. She also became involved in Catholic church activities, even supporting Fr. Patrick Peyton’s Holy Rosary Crusade.

A few years after, Rafael was asked to establish a leisure resort in Sotogrande, Spain and become its General Manager. Charity and the children followed suit and resided in Spain for 3 years. But then Rafael was called back to Manila to accept an offer he could not refuse: to be the head of the Philippine Airlines. He became eventually the Chief Operating Officer and President.

After retirement, the family moved to the United States. Charity and Rafael celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary at the Carmel Monastery in California in August 1988. Two years after, Charity passed away in February 1990. Rafael joined her in 2008 and the two rest in peace in Santa Monica, California. She is survived by her 5 children, 9 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

(I am indebted to Ms. Cristina Igoa, daughter of Charity Crow, for the biogaphical sketch of her mother, sent via e-mail.)

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BLANQUITA OPINION, Miss Visayas 1933

Blanquita's beauty career was launched early, when she was crowned as the 1925 Princess of Charity of Centro Escolar, an annual anti-tuberculosis fund raising program of the government. Eight years later, now a collegiate beauty, she placed third in the annual Manila Carnival Queen search. In later years, Blanquita became Mrs. de Testa and settled in Quiapo, Manila.

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ANGELINA BIUNAS, Miss Mindanao 1933

Angelina was born in 1915 to Pilar Tronqued and Victor Biunas. Married Carmelo Alonso with whom she had 5 children: Milagros, Rolando, Rose, Tina and Jose Mari. She died in 2003 and is interred at the La Loma Cemetery.


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Monday, May 18, 2009

70. 1933, Miss Philippines of the Manila Carnival, ENGRACIA ARCINAS LACONICO

1933 MISS PHILIPPINES. As a young woman growing up in Tondo, Engracia Laconico y Arcinas was elected as Miss Trozo. But the biggest title yet was the Miss Philippines crown which she won in dramatic fashion at the 1933 Manila Carnival.


Trozo-born Engracia Arcinas Laconico, came into the world just as the gates of the 1912 Manila Carnival were opened. In Tondo, then part of the Sta. Cruz district, Engracia grew up, the youngest daughter of Panfilo Laconico and Rosario Arcinas.

NENE OF THE NATIONAL VOLUNTEERS. The young candidate, sponsored by the National Volunteers which ran a small publication, upset the favorites for the crown with a last-minute surge of votes solicited by her father.

Engracia’s beauty was apparent at a young age, for in one of the yearly fiestas, she was elected as Miss Trozo. But a bigger honor awaited her when she was nominated to be one of the contestants to the search for the 1933 Miss Philippines of the Seventh National Beauty Contest of the Manila Carnival. At the time of the pageant, Engracia was a piano student at the University of the Philippines, but her fingers were also adept with the fine art of crocheting, a lifelong hobby that she enjoyed doing.

QUEEN-ELECT NENE LACONICO. The helmet-like crown she wore at her coronation garnered mixed reviews from the newspapers covering the event.

ENGRACIA'S GRACE. The uncrowned beauty sits in one of her salon sittings as Miss Philippines of 1933. Pictures of her crown-less are rare.

At the onset, Engracia preferred to take a backseat to the more popular girls of the contest who were avidly supported by giant newspapers like Tribune, Bulletin and La Vanguardia. Engracia’s victory came in dramatic fashion that left the favorites stunned.

ENGRACIA'S COURT OF BEAUTY. Charity Crow (Miss Luzon), Balnquita Opinion (Miss Visayas) and Angelina Biunas (Miss Mindanao).

In the final moments of the balloting, Engracia’s father engaged the resources of the National Volunteers, an organization that he headed as President, and which piblihsed its own journal. Enlisting the help of another civic association he headed, he amassed enough votes to help clinch his daughter’s triumph at the Carnival.

THE WINNING CIRCLE. Engracia Laconico with her court of honor, Miss Luzon, Miss Visayas and Miss MIndanao.

The tall, fair beauty thus was proclaimed as the country’s seventh Miss Philippines, with Charity Crow emerging as Miss Luzon, Blanquita Opinion as Miss Visayas and Angelina Biunas as Miss Mindanao. She wore a crown in the shape of a helmet strung with pearls and topped with a 4-pointed star. By her side, her accomplished King Consort and close family friend, Dr. Gregorio Y. Zafra, smartly stood in his militaria regalia, Dr. Zafra , 10 years older, had by then established himself as one of the country’s brilliant scientists.

QUEEN AND KING OF THE 1933 MANILA CARNIVAL. Family friend Dr. Gregorio Zara, who was many years Engracia's senior, escorted the lovely queen at her coronation.

A THRONE FIT FOR A QUEEN. Engracia, a most photographed royalty at the Manila Carnival of 1933.

A fairy tale ending was in store for Engracia and Gregorio as romance bloomed between the two and resulted in their wedding in 1934. They made their home in Quezon City where they raised four children: Antonio, Pacita, Josefina and Lourdes.

ROYAL COUPLE, ROYAL MARRIAGE. Engracia and Dr. Zafra at one of the Carnival Floral Parades. Romance would blossom between the two and they would become man and wife a year after the Carnival.

The Zaras frequently traveled together whenever the venerable doctor was invited to conferences abroad. Engracia however was content to devote her time to home and family. Her beloved husband passed away in October 1978 after receiving the National Scientist Award from the government 4 months earlier. Engracia lived the rest of her days in her Quezon City home made cozier with her crochet creations and the warm memories of her accomplished husband.

A FAIRY TALE REIGN. A very rare souvenir photo postcard of Engracia ruling over the 1933 Manila Carnival as our 7th Miss Philippines.

69. 1932, MISS LUZON, MISS VISAYAS, MISS MINDANAO



ROSALINA C. LIM, 1932 Miss Luzon


Rosalina Lim placed 2nd to Emma Zamora in the 1932 edition of the search for Carnival Queen. Her father was Ramon Arandia Lim, a Spanish-Chinese mestizo who was connected with San Miguel Brewery as a comptroller, until he fell ill. Her mother was Justa Cispon, of Portuguese-Pangasinense extract. Her photographs show a delicate, contemplative kind of beauty, her Eurasian heritage evident in her height and Oriental eyes. At the coronation of the 1932 court, Rosalina was escorted by Geronimo Santiago Jr.

Further enriching her multi-cultural background, she married Claude Devlin Martinez, a British-Filipino. Claude's father, from Balayan, Batangas, was studying shipbuilding in Scotland when he met and married an Englishwoman from London. The couple lived in London for some 15 years before returning to the Philippines.Rosalina and Claude had an only daughter, Tita Martinez Sicat, a Ph.D. holder and a U.P. professor.


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ALELI A. GUZMAN, 1932 Miss Visayas


One of the most accomplished women ever to emerge from the Manila Carnivals is Aleli Guzman, Miss Visayas 1932, in the court of Emma Zamora. Her father was one of the country's 1st accountants, Fortunato Guzman, while her mother, Angela Aguilar, was a gobernadorcillo's daughter from Manila. The family lived on Marquez de Comillas St., in Paco.

Aleli was a UP student when the 1932 contest beckoned. She was a charter member of the U.P. Sigma Delta Sorority and was an Upsilonian Fraternity Sweetheart and Corps Sponsor of the U.P. Vanguard. With these "beauty and brains" credentials, she easily made it to the winners' circle. When the Carnival ended, she quickly put the title behind her and pursued her education, graduating in 1937 with a double degree in Chemistry and Medicine.

As if that achievement was not enough, she placed among the Top 10 in the medical board exams. Despite her busy schedule, she found time to marry her college sweetheart, Antonio Quirino, a future judge, who was quite active in the same school associations that Aleli joined. The doctora devoted much of her time to church and charity. She is credited with performing the 1st abdominal operation in the Philippines. She founded the St. Martin Charity Hospital in the parish of Santuario del Sto. Cristo in San Juan, Metro Manila.

For her lifetime of selfless service, she was accorded the Mariang Maya Award for Humanities (1983), Community Development and Social Work, the Ulirang Ina Posthumous Award (2001) and the Mother Teresa Award. Nowhere did the expression "beauty with a purpose" ring truer than in the life of Aleli Guzman, Miss Visayas 1932.


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VIOLETA LOPEZ, 1932 Miss Mindanao

The controversial beauty from Iloilo who cried "foul" over the bathing suit incident at the 1930 Carnival came back to compete at the 1932 search for Miss Philippines, proof that she harbored no ill feelings towards the organizers. Violeta Lopez's good sportsmanship paid off, as she placed third and earned the Miss Mindanao title in the finals.

The written dedication on the back of this picture written by a starstruck sender noted Violeta's outstanding beauty. She writes: "She is the most beautiful candidate, but she lacks votes. I all saw them in the Floral Parade and she was naturally beautiful. She is Miss Mindanao".


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(Many thanks to Mrs. Tita M. Sicat, daughter of Rosalina Lim for the biographical sketch of her mother, who, in her own words "eschewed beauty, and went on to earn a Ph.D. , became a professor, and who met you at the U.P. book awards lunch!" Thanks too, to Mrs. Ping de Jesus for inviting me to judge at the BDAP awards where the fortuitous meeting happened. I am also indebted to Atty. Lila Guzman Quirino, daughter of Aleli Guzman, for providing the short biographical sketch of her mother).