Sunday, August 31, 2008

18. 1909, Queen of the Manila Carnival, JULIA GUERRERO AGCAOILI

1909 QUEEN OF THE MANILA CARNIVAL. Julia Agcaoili y Guerrero, the pride of Ilocos Norte, was gifted with vocal and musical talents.

The Queen of the Manila Carnival of 1909 comes from the most prominent family of Ilocos Norte—the Agcaoilis. Julia Agcaoli’s father was Julio Agcaoli, the 1st ever governor of Ilocos Norte, elected during the American Occupation and a good friend of then Governor-General William Howard Taft. Her mother was Ruperta Guerrero, a Spanish mestiza.

ILOCANA BELLE. The young Julia Agcaoili liked to perform for visitors at their Ilocos mansion, often playing the harp and piano, together with his musically-inclined siblings.

Julia was the fourth in a brood of 12 children, and her schooling was very traditional, spent in a convent school and taught by nuns the fine art of music in which she excelled. Not only did she play the harp and piano, but also sang beautifully. In fact, most of her siblings had strong artistic inclinations that the family often held gatherings in which honored guests from Manila would come and be regaled with their music, song and poetry.

NAGPINTAS TI REINA! Julia wore a more contemporary empress-style gown, richly emboroidered and trimmed with beads. She held an ivory scepter and a crown symbolic of her queenship.

When the Carnival season came around, Julia, who had just turned 20, became a frontrunner for the queenship. Petite and well-mannered, with prominent cheekbones and dark eyes, Julia was a sure bet to win the crown. When she did win, she was besieged by male admirers, and her father was forced to appoint Julia’s brother, Francisco, as her consort.

SIBLING ACT: Queen Julia was escorted to her coronation night by her own brother, Francisco, who also acted as a guard against her overzealous admirers.

At her lavish coronation, the Ilocano belle opted to be gowned in an empire-cut dress of sheer net, over taffeta, with gold and silver thread. Embellished with rhinestones and sequins. She wore a small crown and held an ivory scepter as emblems of her royal authority. Her corte de honor included a dozen prince and princesses, all from well-known families.


Julia had a marvelous time during her reign, but the year after proved to be more fulfilling for her. She married longtime suitor Jose Martinez, a Spanish mestizo from Laoag. His father had been sent by the Spanish government to head the Tabacalera in Vintar, and had married an Ilocana. Jose proved to be just as accomplished like his father-in-law. He was named as the 1st governor of the newly-formed Mountain Province and later assumed the post of a Philippine National Bank manager in Cebu. The Martinezes fell in love with the place and settled there. After his government service, Jose continued his banking work by establishing and heading the Insular Bank of Cebu.

Julia bore 10 children in all. Her 8th daughter, Teresita, went on to become a post-war Miss Cebu. Two sons became Jesuits—the eldest Francisco and the younger Jose Jr. who perished in a plane crash en route to Boy Scouts World Jamboree in Athens as part of the Philippine delegation. Another daughter, Manuela Maxima, became a nun. Their other children were Julio, Maria, Jesus, Angel Ruben, Ruperta.

JULIA'S JOY. Mementos of Julia's reign are on exhibit at the Piddig Museum in Ilocos.

Julia died after the end of World War II on 8 August 1945, of a bone disease that had plagued her in childhood. Jose, her husband, outlived her for 17 years, passing away in 1962. In the Piddig Museum today, mementos of her reign are on display to remind visitors of the life and times of one illustrious Ilocana who once ruled over the second edition of Asia’s most awaited spectacle—the 1909 Manila Carnival.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Optimism was at a record-high when the plans for the second edition of the Manila Carnival unfolded in October 1908. A magazine observed, “ The Carnival of 1909, in presenting itself to the Orient, needs no more substantial guarantee of success than the truly wonderful record left behind by the Carnival of 1908. It would be extremely difficult to conceive of a project which started under more unfavorable conditions and ended in such a literal blaze of glory as did this Big 1908 Show”.

Indeed, critics, skeptics and pessimists were silenced when the 1908 Carnival proved to be such a rousing success. “Everybody gushed”, the write-up continued, “ every body had always known that the dear lovely men did know their business and how dared any one, even for a moment, imagine that we could not put on the best Carnival in the world, how glad we are that we worked so hard to produce this effect and last of all and most important, let’s have a Carnival every year!”. Thus, on this very high note, the Carnival of 1909 was planned.

Immediately after the close of the 1908 Carnival, a local member of the Carnival Association had toured the United States to learn from carnival societies and organizations there. The Carnival Association had thus amassed a wealth of resources and materials that were used in the mapping the details of the 1909 Carnival —from costume designs, buildings and floats. Valuable lessons in stage logistics were learned from this trip, including seating arrangement and crowd control.

The Carnival Committee had decided that the proven strong features of last year’s show will be presented in a highly improved form. The Hippodrome, for instance, will be greatly expanded to accomodate more horse races. The narrative exposition of the theme, on the other hand, will be told via a combination of water demonstrations, land parades and a host of spectacular effects in which pyrotechnics will dominate.

It has also been agreed by members of the Carnival Association that the great effort of the Carnival of 1909 will be along industrial lines. Special effort was made to induce provinces to display their products and features of interest on the largest scale possible. Foreign commercial houses were also contacted so that their purchasing agents can make side trips to Manila and see the country’s products for possible international business.

The Carnival Association contracted Paine’s Fireworks Company design elaborate pyrotechnics to dazzle spectactors. The features of the floats for the land parades were to be more artistic, rather than commercial. Bigger prizes will be given away to attract participants , to extend in all other fields of display, industrial and commercial exhibits, consisting of individuals, groups and organizations and feats of skills and strength.

For the action-packed athletic meets, crack athletes of the United States Army will be making their appearance. Negotiations were made with the different branches of the British Service as well as the French and Dutch Colonies in Asia to field in their sports delegates. Military groups from China were also being eyed to participate—“who will constitute formidable rivals to the best that the ‘white man’ can produce in the Orient. “

The Carnival Association had its highest hopes that in presenting its 1909 show to the public, it is in a position to guarantee high class performances while offering the possibilities of a profitable and pleasant participation and giving the ‘time of their lives’ to people who have the good fortune to attend.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


COL. GEORGE T. LANGHORNE as Monsieur Beaucaire. The very concept of a Carnival in Manila was the brainchild of Col. George T. Langhorne, who served in the Spanish-American War and was later aide-de-camp of Major Leonard Wood. At the costume balls of the 1908 Carnival, he came as a character from Booth Tarkington’s 1900 novel, Monsieur Beaucaire, an English duke in disguise. Langhorne later saw action in the chaotic revolution of Mexico and served as commander of Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas in 1917.He married Mary K. Waller in England in 1928.

MAJ. GEN. LEONARD WOOD as Dirk Turpin. (b. 9 Oct. 1860-d.7 Aug. 1927). New Hamsphire born Wood was trained as a physician. Came to the Philippines as commander of the Philippine Division and later, commander of the Dept. of the East. Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, later Governor General of the Philippines (1921-1927). At the Carnival, Wood came as the legendary English rogue and highwayman, Dick Turpin. He was married to Louise Adriana Wood with whom he had 3 children: Leonard Jr., Louise Barbara, Osborne Cutler.

GEN. JOHN J. PERSHING as The Minstrel. (b. 13 Sept. 18609-d.15 Jul. 1948). Ordered to Manila in Mar. 1899 for the Philippine-American War. After going back to the U.S., he was re-assigned to the Philippines from 1909-1912 as Commander of Fort McKinley. Promoted to General of the Armies of the United States, the highest rank possible for any member of the U.S. armed forces, a title especially created for him.

COL. JOSEPH N. WOLFSON as The Buccaneer. After his military career, he started a lucrative law practice in the Philippines.

CAPT. DANA W. KILBURN as The King's Guard

"HUMP" SULLIVAN, as The Court Jester

Monday, August 25, 2008


A picture album of the Carnival of 1908, from THE PHILIPPINE MAGAZINE, Manila, October 1908. Issued annually at Manila by Howard Furman Hedden.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

14. 1908, A ROYAL CLASH

As dual queens of the 1st Manila Carnival, Pura and Marjorie held equal rank and shared equal billings, but newspapers, egged by the crowds and their observations, played up the competition angle between the two, further fuelling more controversies, both real and imagined.

WHO'S THE FAIRER OF THE TWO? Oriental Queen Pura Villanueva, "this queen will not fade away"-the caption on this photo says.

First, there was the question facial beauty. The newspaper El Renacimiento was very vocal about who was the better-looking queen. In one important public appearance of the 2 royals, it observed: “The King and Queen of the Occident were very simple in their attire. Perhaps because they had come from a trip. But they were very ordinary looking, including the members of their court. Not so, however, those of the Orient….Altanera sin pedanteria, augusta sin pretensions, producto su distincion de la sangre y de la cuna” (Highborn but without ostentation, majestic without the pretensions, a product of refinement, in blood and in influence).

Then there was the issue of the Occidental retinue getting preferential treatment. For example, when the royalties arrived at the landing, the cars reserved for the Oriental court where nowhere to be found. Thus, Pura and her King Consort left for the grandstand, unattended.

FAVORED AT THE FAIR? Newspapers reported the preferential treatment accorded to the American queen--from the carriage that was ever-ready to take her to carnival functions to the flowers she received.

More discourtesies towards the Oriental Royals were reported with astute observation. El Renacimiento recounted one circumstance: “ When the King of the Occident descended from his carroza, he had a bouquet of flowers for the Queen of the Occident, but not even a leaf for the Queen of the Orient. This was a grave fault and a crass ignorance of the forms of courtesy. A sacrilege to etiquette. Attention is due the Queen, who had graciously accepted them into her country”.

A MONARCH SPURNED. Although they introduced themselves at the Carnival gate as the King and Queen of the Carnival, Pura and Manuel were not immediately let in by the insolent 'portero' who even answered that 'not even Christ can enter without paying the entrance fee'.

The final insult was when the King and Queen of the Orient were refused entry into the Carnival fairgrounds. Detained by the guard at the gate, they were asked to pay the entrance fee of P.20 at the gate. El Renacimiento was livid. “Inandita osadia!!! (Such inane audacity!!!) The Orient Monarchs prevented from entering their own kingdom! Is this revolution or anarchy? All these reactions need immediate reparation.”

Pura was not to be cowed. She excused herself from one significant evening ball, alleging an indisposition, and the members of her court followed suit. As a demanded by native decorum, the whole court of honor resigned their positions.

Monday, August 18, 2008

13. 1908, PAGEANT BY THE BAY: The Meeting of Royals

One of the most spectacular ceremonials conceived for the 1908 Carnival was the meeting of the Occidental and the Oriental Queen on the bay of Manila, a "cadena-de-amor" maritime procession meant to symbolize the eternal friendship of two Continents. In the well-choreographed event, royal barges bearing the queens were to arrive simultaneously at the Luneta, to be welcomed in the grandest of styles.

The grand plan was laid out to include a ceremonial boat for the use of the Occidental King, a 15th century "carebela” type, while that of the Oriental King was of Indo-Chinese style. Each will have a throne, where the King will be surrounded by his Court, followed by the beautiful Queens of the Carnival and their courts. The boats will be escorted by decorated launches.

An eyewitness account records the fantastic fluvial pageant of 27 February 1908: “It was about 4:30 o’clock when the King and Queen of the Occident occupied their throne on the stern of the royal barge and gave order for the procession to start. The boat was towed by the launch Isabel. The constabulary band was stationed in the bow of the royal barge and the 9th cavalry trumpeters on the launch.”

The boat left with its distinguished guests on board, trailed by artistically-decorated launches simulating whales, clown heads, pelican and marine creatures. At the entrance of the breakwater, the ritual meeting of royalties happened. This was followed by a display of fireworks, boat whistles and salvos from battleships and the wild acclamations of the people. Then, all proceeded to the landing, where our account continued.

HAPPY LANDING. Queen of the Occident, Marjorie Colton, alighting from the royal barge, welcomed by her royal entourage.

“Thousands of surging humanity crowded along the edge of the Luneta fill, the banks of the inner basin where the landing was o be made, and along the road leading to the Legaspi landing, to get a glimpse of the royal party. Never before had so many people gathered together in this city on any occasion and while it is impossible to state the exact number of people who were on the Luneta and the new-made land, a conservative estimate would be from 80,000 to 100,000”.

The royalties arrived a few minutes after 6 at the pier, where they were received by the Carnival Committee composed of Mayor W.W. Brown, Judge Gilbert, Dr. Reno, Dr. Guerney, Capt. Weigl and Mr. Nolting.

DRIVING MISS MARJORIE. Queen Marjorie and Consort Col. George Langhorne

The two royal couples were escorted to automobiles which were awaiting their arrival and the procession then started for the grandstand on the Luneta. The court rode in stately carriages. During this trip, bright lights were focused on the entire entourage. The Queens stood up in their cars to acknowledge the cheers of the spectators. “Everything looked fairy land, decorations, lights, people, everything.”, a newspaper reported.

At the grandstand fronting the Legazpi Monument, the keys of the City of Manila were given by the Mayor to the foreigners. From there, amidst the sound of trumpets of cavalrymen, the courts filed past to go to their fancy palaces, to meet again at Elks Club and then to the Carnival Hippodrome to start the national ball.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

12. 1908, Queen of the Occident, MARJORIE RADCLIFFE COLTON

1908 QUEEN OF THE OCCIDENT. Marjorie Radcliffe Colton, of Illinois. Sister of Philippine Collector of Customs, George R. Colton and future governor of Puerto Rico.

Little is known about the other queen of the very 1st Manila Carnival of 1908. Elected as the Queen of the Occident (Reina del Occidente), Marjorie Radcliffe Colton was the sister of then Philippine Collector of Customs, George R. Colton (1866-1916). George R. Colton had arrived in the Philippines as a Lt. Colonel of a Nebraska Regiment, then became a Collector of the Port of Iloilo. After his Philippine service, he was appointed as the Governor of Puerto Rico (1909-1913) by U.S. Pres. William H. Taft. The Coltons were originally from Galesburg, Illinois.

Marjorie’s name appeared on the candidates’ list for the Carnival queenship on El Renacimiento, where, with 338 votes, placed her second to the last. But with the pull-out of the leading contenders brought about by the controversial newspaper coupon scam, Marjorie suddenly pushed to the forefront of the race, and eventually captured the title of the Occidental Queen, to reign alongside the Oriental Queen, Pura Villanueva.

ROYAL MATCH. Queen of the Occident, Marjorie Colton with with Col. George T. Langhorne, King of the Occident.

Upon their selections, the 2 queens had several private conferences regarding clothes and the selection of their court. As part of her royal wardrobe, Marjorie initially chose a blue colored gown with a velvet cape of the same color. Her maids of honor, who came from distinguished American and Spanish families, were to be dressed in European clothes with wide capes of blue satin.

THE OCCIDENTAL TOURISTS. The court of honor of the Occidental Queen was assembled from prominent American and Spanish residents in the Philippines.

Designated as the King of Occident to escort Marjorie was no less than Col. George T. Langhorne, aide de camp of Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood and a Spanish war veteran (he would later wed Mary K. Waller of Chicago). The Occidental retinue included Nina de Lis, Hemphill Irving, Luz Rubio, Alberta Clark, Helen Dorrington, Carrie Angur, Marie Fecket, Harriet O’Brien and Mary Macleod. Their consorts were G. S. O’Reilly, Herbert Glona, Daniel Maloney, Maj. Howland, Capt. Paxton, Hanson E. Ely, Capt. Nuttman, Capt. Weigel, Mr. Bowdith and Mr. Gesler—all Americans living in the Philippines at that time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

11. 1908, Queen of the Orient, PURA GARCIA VILLANUEVA, part 2

A ROYAL GATHERING. The King and Queens of the Orient with their corte de honor.

With her retinue, she must have been a sight to behold. Newspaper coverages of the Carnival recorded the atmosphere upon her entrance: “ The people were delirious with joy, shouting, “Mabuhay!. Ceaseless clappings, specially for the Queen of the Orient, a fresh flower of the Filipino plant, She was standing up and happily greeting the joyful people. Dressed beautiful and maringal, because she was dressed in the native dress, “bagay sa kahinhinan ng maysuot!’ Most becoming the wearer. Wherever she want, she received acclaim. Everyone admired her beauty, and, to the last minute of her passage down the field, there was endless clapping of hands..”.

Pura turned out to be a perfect Queen for Manila’s first carnival, holding her own against her co-royal. Indeed, as the Carnival came to an end, her newspaper, El Tiempo, concluded: “She was a real enchanting Queen. If she can occupy the throne of the Carnival, she can also that of a nation. Because of her simpatico aspect, she takes with her the love and affection of all her subjects..”

ROYAL FLOAT AT THE LUNETA. One of the floats bearing the 1908 royalties of the Manila Carnival wends its way around Wallace Field as an adoring audience waved, clapped and shouted, "Mabuhay!"

With the Carnival now behind her, Pura continued on with her social activities. Friendship had grown between her and El Renacimiento editor Teodoro Kalaw of Batangas after their first meeting at a 1907 event at the Centro Escolar de Senoritas. Pura had been an invited lecturer there, and Teodoro found himself smitten by the Ilongga beauty. But the Manila Carnival had intervened before anything could happen. However, his courtship resumed and two years after, on 6 May 1910, Pura Villanueva and Teodoro Kalaw were wed in simple rites at the Molo Church.

After their wedding, the two moved to Lipa, hometown of Teodoro, and finally to Manila, where they settled to raise their fine family: Maria (herself, a Carnival Queen in 1931 and a future Senator), Teodoro Jr. (husband of senator Eva Estrada), Purita (Mrs. Rafael Ledesma) and Evelina (Mrs. Aaron Pines).

STILL QUEEN OF THE HOUSE. Pura, in her later years, with husband, Teodoro Kalaw and 4 children: Maria (future Carnival Queen of 1931), Teodoro Jr., Purita and Evelina.

Pura turned out to be a supportive wife to Teodoro in his multi-facetted career as a journalist and as a government executive (Secretary of Interior, Director of National Library, Chairman of the Commission on Philippine Independence.) With her real estate investments, she also established a successful business on her own. Pura’s advocacies too, are legendary. She engaged in many socio-civic activities, founded a school, became a woman’s suffrage champion and earned a Presidential Award of Merit from Pres. Elpidio Quirino in 1951.

The most accomplished woman ever to emerge from the Manila Carnivals—“pioneer for women’s political and property rights, writer, beauty queen, businesswoman, exemplary wife and mother”--passed away on 21 March 1954, aged 67.

Monday, August 11, 2008

10. 1908, Queen of the Orient, PURA GARCIA VILLANUEVA, part 1

REINA DEL ORIENTE 1908. Pura Villanueva y Garcia, of Molo, Iloilo at her coronation. A Filipino-Spanish mestiza, Pura was known for her literary works in Spanish before she was invited to participate in the carnival queen quest.

Pura Villanueva was already acclaimed as a ‘beauty with brains’ even before she became a Carnival candidate. In her hometown, Molo in Iloilo, she had established herself as a Spanish writer of repute for El Tiempo, a leading newspaper. Here, she contributed literary articles and insightful essays, mostly on feminine issues. She was also the founder of the Asociacion Femenista Ilonga, a woman’s group. When the first Carnival needed a queen, Carnival officials immediately enlisted her.

HER ROYAL VESTMENTS. As she appeared in her official portrait sitting, dressed in a "panuelo-less" costume designed and executed by her Spanish mother, Emilia Garcia. She holds Japanese fan to symbolize her queenship of the Orient.

Pura was born on 27 August 1886 to lawyer Emilio Villanueva and Emilia Garcia—a Spanish girl from Palencia. Emilio had met the 15 year old girl while a student of the University of Salamanca, freely associating with expatriated Filipinos like Graciano Lopez Jaena, Marcelo H. Del Pilar and Jose Rizal. The couple went back to the Philippines to start and raise a family. They were to have two daughters, the elder Maria and Pura, or Purita.

As a youngster, Pura enrolled at the local school for girls founded by Maestra Vitang and then went became an intern at the Sta. Catalina College in Manila. Purita stood out with not only because she was amestizada, fair and tall, but also because she had a strong personality, never timid or modest , was the manner of ladies then. By the time she was 18, she was the toast of Iloilo’s social set, known for her incisive write-ups as a social reporter for the local daily.

CROWNED FOR THE CARNAVAL. Another picture of Pura resplendent in her coronation attire. From the book, "LEGACY, Pura Villanueva Kalaw: Her Times, Life and Works 1886-1954, by Maria Kalaw Katigbak. Publisher: Filipinas Foundation, Inc. (c) 1983.

Her elevation to the Queenship was fraught with complications, as discussed earlier, but when Pura finally made up her mind to accept the offer of taking over the vacated throne, she did so with a firm commitment . “I am very happy that I have been chosen Queen of the Orient”, she said when asked for a message to the people of Manila. “I shall try to perform my duties in a way that shall please everyone”.

DAMAS Y CABALLEROS. Pura's court of honor included a dozen or so ladies and swains of prominence who accompanied her at her official functions. She was escorted by King of the Orient Manuel Gomez, an executive of La Germinal Cigar Factory who was dressed as a maharajah.

Fetched from Iloilo on a special boat, Pura reigned over the Carnival together with the Queen of the Occident, Marjorie Colton. Her King Consort was Manuel Gomez, an executive from La Germinal. (Mauro Prieto, Tomas del Rosario were previous choices). Queen Pura’s maids of honor were Fe Escurdia, Luz Hugo, Esperanza Poblete, Cirila Legarda, Rosario Gomez, Carmen Gonzales, Antonia Fuster, Luisa Hernandez, Elisa and Purificacion Tempongko, Ramona and Rosa Ponce de Leon. Their courtiers were Feliciano Basa Jr., Emilio Veloso, Juan Zalvidea, Clodualdo Tempongko and Emilio Mapua.

COVER GIRL. Queen Pura, on the cover of a popular local newspaper, Lipang Kalabaw. The papers had a heyday reporting the on-goings of the Carnival.

It was reported that the Queen of the Orient “will be dressed in a red mestiza dress of native material, with veil and crown, and decorations of natural flowers”. Instead, for her coronation, Pura wore a native costume made by her own mother—minus the panuelo. It was made of piña cloth and fine sinamay gauze, then hand embroidered. Instead of an ostrich feather fan, she held a Japanese fan to highlight her sovereignty over the Orient.

ROYAL PAIR. The King and Queen of the Orient, surrounded by a retinue of princes, just part of a royal court that numbered all of 24!

Pura created quite a sensation when she arrived at the grandstand. An eyewitness report published on El Renacimiento enthused: “The Queen of the Orient, standing up in her car, and waving her handkerchief in answer to the enthusiastic cries of the crowd delirious with joy, was easily the most simpatico figure of the royal cavalcade. Dignified without descending from her rank..she had in her the beautiful amalgam mixture of the aristocratic and of the affectionate towards her people”.

Alongside the august King of the Orient who was arrayed as an Indian Maharajah in blue velvet, Pura, the Queen of the Orient “carried the recopilacion of all Oriental dresses, luxuriously costumed, beautiful and resplendent in her dignity..”

Thursday, August 7, 2008


AND THEN THERE WERE TWO. Sovereigns of the 1st Philippine Carnival of 1908. Capt. George T. Langhorne (King of the Occident), Marjorie Colton (Queen of the Occident), Pura Villanueva (Queen of the Orient), Manuel Gomez (King of the Orient).

Monday, August 4, 2008

8. 1908, LEONARDA LIMJAP: A Royal Resignation

LEONARDA LIMJAP, the first 'Reina del Oriente' of the 1908 Manila Carnival, abdicated her throne in favor of a family trip to Japan. Here, she stands on the fair left, together with sister Esperanza (middle, future wife of Pres. Sergio Osmena). Seated is her mother, Maria Limjap.

To ensure that only “quality” candidates signed up for the queenship of the first Manila Carnival, W. Cameron Forbes began approaching prominent pater familias with daughters of suitable age. One such person he met was Don Mariano Limjap, an immensely affluent Chinese-Filipino businessman from Legaspi who helped finance the Revolution. Forbes persuaded the patriot to allow one of his daughters– the accomplished Leonarda Limjap--to participate in the Carnival, but the Don replied that “he did not want to be talked about”.

DON MARIANO LIMJAP. Prominent Filipino-Chinese patriot and the reluctant father of the Queen-elect, Leonarda Limjap.

With or without his permission, Leonarda’s candidacy was announced in the papers, and the votes she amassed were a testament to her popularity and influence, with many answering the call to “rally to her beauty, dignity and patriotism”. Only 17 years old, Nena finished high school at the Assumption College and became a pupil of the arts. She studied painting under Fabian de la Rosa and piano under Dna. Ventura Galvez. Likewise, she excelled in the sports of tennis and fencing. A well-travelled girl, Nena has journeyed to Europe in the company of her governess, covering Paris, London, Rome Madrid and other major European cities. It was also her dream to visit all the islands of the Philippines to know her country better.

With sterling credentials such as these, it was no wonder that Nena led Filipina candidates all the way in the quest for the Oriental Queen title. But in the midst of the newspaper scandal, the voting was suspended and instead, the final selection process was thrust in the hands of the members of the Philippine Assembly.

On 13 January 1908, the Philippine Assembly cast their votes and of the 69 votes tallied, 39 were in favor of Leonarda Limjap, beating other distinguished ladies like Purita Villanueva, Carmen Francia, Dolores de Morio, Paz Yangko and Inocencia Reyes. Leonarda Limjap had won the 1908 Reina del Oriente crown of the 1st ever Manila Carnival. The newspapers rushed to print her sensational victory and congratulatory accolades pured in. “We congratulate her sincerely”, the leading newspaper El Renacimiento proclaimed, “the Assembly chose a worthy queen to wear the crown of the Queen of the Orient”.

But alas, hardly had the ink on the papers dried out when Nena shocked the Carnival Committee and the Philippine Assembly that had chosen her by renouncing the honor and declining the queenship. Her reason was that she was traveling to Japan for a month in the company of Mr. Regidor and his daughter and further expressed that “she does not want to miss the opportunity to travel in the company of such a nice family”.

THE ROLE OF THE 1st RUNNER UP IS VERY IMPORTANT. The Queen of Iloilo took over the throne and the title refused by Leonarda Limjap who cited a trip to Japan as her reason. Pura Villanueva had consistently ranked 2nd after Leonarda in the counting.

With just a few days to go before the opening of the Carnival, the title was offered to the reigning Queen of Iloilo who had placed a strong second to Leonarda: Purita Villanueva. A telegram was quickly dispatched to Iloilo, but Pura initially declined the proposal, preferring to represent her province. A day later, she relented and accepted her appointment with grace.

At last, the Carnival has found its Oriental Queen: Pura Villanueva y Garcia.
Long live the Queen!

(POSTSCRIPT: Leonarda Limjap married Aristeo Rizal Ubaldo, the son of Olimpia Rizal, Jose Rizal's sister. They had 4 daughters. Her sister, Esperanza, would eventually marry Sergio Osmena and become a First Lady of the Philippines. )

Many thanks to Mr. Joey Tirona, grandson of Leonarda Limjap, for the use of the Limjap family photo. Likewise to Mr. Raul Boncan)