QUEEN CHARING. Rosario Panganiban in her official Miss Pampanga photo, for the 1926 Manila Carnival. A popular beauty, she was also elected Miss Philippines of the leading national magazine, The Free Press. Dated 1925.
Rosario Hernandez Panganiban or Charing, holds the distinction of being the first ever girl to wear the Miss Pampanga title. Born on 30 May 1904 in Macabebe, Charing’s eye-catching beauty was apparent even in her college days when, in 1924, she was chosen as Miss Centro Escolar University of 1924. The next year, she was voted as Miss Philippine Free Press, chosen from over two thousand photographs of the most beautiful Filipinas of that time. Then, in the province’s 1st ever Carnival held in Angeles in 1925, Charing was named Miss Pampanga. At her coronation, she wore a crown of sampaguitas instead of traditional rhinestones and was feted around the town with a motorcade.
As Miss Pampanga, Rosario was sent to compete in the 1st National Beauty Contest of 1926, a parallel pageant of the Manila Carnival. Another Kapampangan from Tarlac, Isolina Palma was a fellow contender. The provincial candidates roomed with selected families in Manila for the duration of the contest activities. One of the official functions Rosario and the rest of the candidates attended was a tea danzant hosted by the Bachelors Club, held at the Hotel de Francia, then one of the premier hotels located at the corner of Avenida Rizal and Plaza Goiti.
An evening parade followed, with the beauties riding in flower-decorated cars. The motorcade wended its way through Avenida, Azcarraga, Legarda, Escolta, Taft Avenue until it reached its final destination, the Manila Grand Carnival Auditorium at the Luneta. Here, the candidates transferred to their own lighted “chariots”, each bearing the name of their respective provinces. They were then wheeled around the auditorium to be viewed by the crowd and the judges who rendered their decision in a secret balloting.
Thus, by this process, the very first ever Miss Philippines was chosen. The coveted title went to a Batangueña, Anita Noble. Miss Noble boasts of an illustrious pedigree with a score of patriots and heroes on both sides of her families that included the Agoncillos. (Three decades later, Anita’s daughter by Juan Nakpil, Edith Nakpil, would become Miss Philippines 1955). A separate title, Miss Pearl of the Orient Seas, was given to Zamboanga’s bet, Carmen Fargas, who tied twice with Miss Noble, going into the finals.
Rosario took her loss in stride as more exciting things were happening in her young life. While still a campus coed, Rosario found her true love in Vicente Salumbides, a budding filmographer from Lopez, Quezon. They met through Vicente’s niece, Nanita, who was a classmate of Rosario, then just recently-proclaimed campus queen. Salumbides studied acting and directing in Hollywood then later took up Law at the University of Southern California. In 1924, Vicente formed a movie production outfit together with Jose Nepomuceno.
When the Manila Carnival of 1926 ended, Vicente convinced some of the candidates to appear in his films—including Muslim princess and former Miss Cotabato, Sofia Lota (real name: Pinaganda Magadi Sinambal Malibatang). In a scene from the movie “Fate or Consequence”, Vicente had to engage Sofia in a passionate embrace. Rosario, who would also appear in Vicente’s next film, was livid. “When I saw you (Vicente) kissing Miss Cotabato”, Rosario recalled, I suffered the worst feeling of jealousy although we were not engaged at that time. I don’t want to experience another attack of that sort. It’s better to be away from temptation”.
She finally married the famed director in 1927 with Jacobo Fajardo and First Lady Dña. Aurora Aurora Quezon as sponsors (Later in 1939, Dña Aurora became a partner in Salumbides Film Co. Ltd.). Charing’s uncle, Don Emiliano J. Valdez walked the bride to the altar. The marriage was officiated by Rev. Fr. Selga (director of the Weather Bureau) at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul in Malate. Vicente filmed their wedding which became the basis of the movie, “The Soul Saver”, in reference to Charing’s conversion of the agnostic Vicente to Catholicism. Their union bore 8 children: Thelma (+), Vilma (+), Nida, Marlene (+), Ruby, Vicente Jr., Rizalina and Florante (+).
Certainly one of the most photographed beauties of her time, Rosario appeared in photo spreads on major Philippine magazines such as Liwayway. She was also featured in the Free Press Album of Filipina Beauties, a tribute to the country’s fairest ladies of 1926-27. A bust in her likeness was also cast in bronze by noted sculptor, Guillermo Tolentino. Rosario, our 1st Miss Pampanga, passed away on 14 September 1969.
It is interesting to note that a famous relation of Rosario is the actress Yolanda Marquez (Mary Hernandez in real life), who was a featured player in Salumbides’ “Milagro Ng Nazareno”. She is more popularly known as Mary Prieto.