The Radio as a new communication medium officially came to the Philippines in 1922 when a test broadcast was made by a Mrs. Redgrave from Nichols Air Field using a 5-watt transmitter. Early broadcasting was a strictly an American affair until the 1930s when local songs and program, started to be heard from KZIB, KZRH and KZRG Stations. Radio took off quickly by leaps and bounds, with many Filipino homes tuning into entertainment programs and listen to the musical comic sketches of Dely Atay-Atayan and Andoy Balun-balunan, the classic standards of the Mystery Singer Cecil Lloyd, the operatic songs of Atang de la Rama, as well as sound effects laden-radio dramas and variety shows.
No wonder then that when the 1936 Manila Carnival was inaugurated, the crowds were treated not just to the usual sidelights of masquerade parties, university nights, amusement rides and contests but to a whole new event—the Radio Night. A radio tower was installed in the carnival grounds from which songs and performances were broadcasted. It was capped with the selection of a “Miss Radio”, chosen from a field of female announcers and radio personalities that included the most popular names of the airwaves.
The first winner, Miss Radio of 1936, was actually a married woman of Pangasinense-Swedish parentage--Januaria Constantino Keller (b. 1918)—a skilled modiste who moonlit as a singer at the station owned by the Jewish businessman Isaac Beck. Husband Ramon Novales was her accompanist. She sang kundimans and Tagalog love songs and she was soon attracting the attention of local production outfits like the Excelsior Studios, who also wanted to screen-test her. Januaria, now known as Carmen Rosales, at first, resisted, as she claimed to have no talent for acting, but she went along anyway—and passed her test. Carmen joined an audition for the movie “Mahiwagang Binibini” and was picked to play a small role in support o the lead star, Atang de la Rama.
It was her second movie, "Arimunding-Munding," that finally launched her to full stardom. Carmen’s team-up with Rogelio de la Rosa would prove to be one of the most formidable and most successful love teams in the history of Philippine cinema. The reclusive legend died at the age 74 on Dec. 11, l991.
Competing in the same Miss Radio quest were two well-known beauties from artistic families: Milagros Mat Castro and Lina Flor. Milagros was the daughter of Remigio Mat Castro who had already made a name for himself as a writer, producer and director of radio shows. While her sister Luz Mat Castro sang kundiman songs, Milagros performed literary declamations, all done under the watchful eye of their father.
Lina Flor (b. l914/ d. 1976) made her mark in radio by writing soap operas, but she also wrote insightful articles for the Manila Times and The Daily Mirror, where she was a popular columnist. She enjoyed a long career, writing both in English and Filipino, that would last for nearly 50 years.
Miss Radio 1937 was a Pampanga belle named Elisa “Ely” Manalo who dabbled in radio and movies. Ely had the distinction of reigning also as Miss Luzon in the court of that year’s Miss Philippines winner, Maria Carmen Zaldarriaga. That year's Radio Night was to be the last, although the popularity of the medium continued to soar.
The golden age of Philippine radio would peak in the 50s, with almost every home having their own Bakelite or plastic transistor radios—but by then, the Manila Carnivals were already just distant memories of our colonial past.