1926 MISS LAGUNA. The lovely Loreto Relova a noted town beauty, comes from a very large family from Pila, Laguna. She, too, had 10 children with Dr. Miguel Santos-Pascual. She competed in the very 1st search for Miss Philippines won by Anita Noble of Batangas.
The first Miss Laguna--Loreto “Etong” Relova was born on 24 February 1907 in, Pila, Laguna, the daughter of Regino Diaz Relova, a Katipunero colonel of the Magdalo faction and Teodula Oca Bartolome. The Relovas were a large and well-known family in the province—Loreta had ten siblings (Delfin, Rosario, Federico, Jose, Maria, Socorro, Roberto, Juan, Regino Miguel and Gonzalo)-- and for one of their fair daughters to be named Miss Laguna, was indeed a big honor. Her beauty was apparent at an early age—at 15, Etong was chosen to be Rosa Mistica in the annual Flores de Mayo of her town.
A first cousin, Supreme Court Associate Justice Lorenzo Rivera Relova mused about the Relova sisters—“si Charing ay sosyal, si Coring ay sosyal, si Etong hindi sosyal pero naging Miss Laguna”. As people close to her recall, Etong preferred staying at home, in the company of the tenants’ children who worked their Laguna farms. When gentlemen callers came visiting, she would stay in the bathroom, pretending to be busy. Her father had to have the trees surrounding their house cut down for fear that her admirers would climb them, since she refused to entertain them.
While her sisters and cousins went to school either at St. Scholastica or Philippine Women’s University, the young Loreto became an interna at the Holy Ghost College ran by German nuns from 1923-27. It was while she was a student there that the Governor of Laguna, Feliciano Arambulo Gomez, handpicked her to be the first Miss Laguna for the Miss Philippines search of the Manila Carnival.
Hopes were high for Etong to capture the Carnival crown, which, only four years before, had been won by a Pagsanjan beauty, Virginia Llamas—a first for Laguna. It was an exciting time for a 19 year old girl to come to the big city and meet other lovely girls from all over the country. As candidates, they toured different provinces and islands as part of their activities. Loreto did not win, but certainly relished her experience. Besides, much more wonderful things were happening in her life.
That same year, in May, while the beauty queen was coming out of the historic Pila Church, Dr. Miguel Santos-Pascual saw her from atop the veranda of Etong’s uncle, Ruperto Diaz Relova. Dr. Pascual was 10 years her senior, and already an established surgeon-physician of repute. He had finished his medical course at U.S.T and had gone to the United States and Paris, France for special studies.
It was love at first sight for the smitten doctor, and drove from Malabon to Pila to begin his courtship of Loreto. Dr. Pascual’s mother had to rent a house in Los Baños so that her son could be nearer his object of pursuit. On 7 September 1927, Loreto and Miguel tied the knot and their union resulted in 10 children (Miguel II, Raul Justino, Renato, Ma. Teresita, Dolly, Loreto II, Chit, Rene, Ed and Eduarda). It was a blissful married life, marred only by a fire in 1962 that razed their house to the ground and her Carnival photos and mementos. But Etong possessed such a sharp memory that she could easily identify relatives, determine their connection and name the provinces where they hailed from.
Their union sadly came to an end with Dr. Pascual’s passing on 7 July, 1967. Widowed at 60, Etong led a simple life surrounded by her children and grandchildren. She also became an ardent devotee of the Blessed Virgin. A routine hip operation in 1994 went awry when, after being given anaesthesia, she lapsed into a coma that would last for two long years. Loreto passed away peacefully on 3 June 1996. Had she survived her operation, she would have lived for the rest of her life in the United States where her children have all settled. Her memory continues to live on in the hearts of her family, as well as in the minds of Laguna oldtimers who, once upon a time in 1926, cheered their fair daughter as as she took centerstage to vie in the country’s biggest beauty concourse, all for Laguna’s pride and honor.
(I am indebted to Lou Relova, daughter of Loreto Relova, for her mother’s biographical sketch. My sincerest thanks! )