Sunday, September 14, 2008

21. 1912, Queen of the Manila Carnival, PAZ JURADO MARQUEZ

1912 MANILA CARNIVAL QUEEN. Paz Marquez y Jurado of Tayabas, Quezon. She went on to become one of the leading lights in Philippine writing in English.

Once again in 1912, the Manila Carnival was staged with attendant fanfare and excitement. That year, the royal crown went to Paz Marquez y Jurado, an accomplished woman from a well-known family from Tayabas, and one of the first to be educated under the American system.

LA MATRON DA FILIPINAS. 'Dormitory Girl' Paz Marquez was one of the first graduates of the University of the Philippines.

Born in 1894, Paz was the second of 12 children of Gregorio Marquez and Maria Jurado, herself, a beauty queen in her hometown, Magsingal, Ilocos Norte. Maria was often referred to there as “La Estrella del Norte”. Paz went to local schools and attended Tayabas High School for her secondary education.

THE AUDITORIUM OF THE 1912 MANILA CARNIVAL. At Wallace Field, Luneta Park. site of the coronation of Paz Marquez.

As was the case with landed families, Paz was sent off to study at the Normal School in Manila, established by Americans. She stayed in the school dormitory under the watchful eye of their den mother, a certain Mrs. Burton, a widow of a U.S. senator. Her “Dormitory Girls”, as the elite group came to be known, learned English, adopted American ways and were trained social skills and proper deportment. The group, whose members also count Socorro (her sister), Francisca Tirona (her future sister in law) and Pacita de Guzman, became quite popular and were often invited to the Malacanang social functions hosted by Gov. Gen. W. Cameron Forbes, a bachelor.

Little did the members know that that they were being eyed for the queenship of the Carnival. But it was the slim 18 year old Paz—who, at 5’4” stood taller than the other girls—who was singled out for her beauty, brains and deportment to wear the prestigious title of “Matrona de las Filipinas” of the 1912 Carnival.

PAZ BE WITH YOU. Svelte, fair, tall and pretty--Paz was the top choice for the queenship, plucked from Mrs. Burton's 'Dormitory Girls'.

Her father, Don Gregorio was not pleased with the idea, and it took the Carnival Committee to convince him to give his consent. He acquiesced and the first thing he did was to write a congratulatory letter to his daughter: “Quiero ser el primero para render homenaje a los pies de la Reyna de Filipinas “ (I wish to be the first to render homage at the feet of the Queen of the Philippines).

The appointment of the Queens in the 1912 edition of the Carnival was significant in that the selected beauties were really from the regions they represented, and not according to their placements in the ballot count. Queen Paz was thus attended to by Reyna de Luzon, Pacita de Guzman (Nueva Ecija), Reyna de Visayas, Amparo Noel (Cebu) and Reyna de Mindanao, Remedios Reyes (Camiguin). They were also the first set of queens to wear national and regional dresses, as opposed to the European-influenced wardrobes of the past Queens.

THE 1912 ROYAL COURT. Paz, surrounded by a bevy of princesses, dressed in traditional Filipina costumes, a first in the carnival.

After her reign, it was business as usual for Paz, going back to her books to finish her Liberal Arts course at the U.P. She spoke sparingly of this moment in her life, even denying the fact that she was once a national beauty queen. She managed to have herself excluded from the souvenir programs of later Carnivals, which had pictures of past queens (only her “damas” were featured.)

Going back to her first love—literary writing—she founded founded Women’s Home Journal, the first women’s magazine in the country in 1919. One of the columnists was Leonarda Limjap, the 1908 Carnival winner who gave up her crown.

Paz is well-known for authoring the first Filipino modern English-language short story--Dead Stars—published in the Philippine Herald in 1925, now considered a classic in Philippine literature. She also became a professor of composition and English at the University of the Philippines . Later, she would set up St. John’s Academy in San Juan, together with her sisters.

It was at the U.P. that Paz met Francisco Benitez, also a former student of Normal School and a pensionado sent to study at the United States. Francisco's father, Higino, had been one of the original signers of the Malolos Constitution. Tasked with organizing the university’s College of Education, Francisco started the publication of “The Philippine Journal of Education”, which Paz would eventually edit.

PAZ AND FRANCISCO AT THEIR WEDDING. 20 year-old Paz and Dean Francisco Benitez of Laguna, a government pensionado, were a perfect match. Dean Benitez became a leading educator of the country, helping establish the College of Education at U.P.

It is interesting to note that Francisco’s brother, Conrado, married Francisca Tirona, a former “Dormitory Girl” like Paz, and founder of the Philippine Women’s College in 1919. Thus, in 1914, when Paz got married to Francisco, everybody agreed at the compatibility of the partnership.

The couple had 4 children—Francisco jr., Virginia, Roberto and Vicente Rafael. Francsico died of a sudden heart attack in 1951. Paz continued to edit “The Philippine Journal” till her late 80s. Paz died in 1983. The annual Paz Marquez-Benitez Lectures honor her memory by focusing on the contribution of Filipina writers to Philippine Literature in English. Her biography, “Paz Marquez Benitez: One Woman’s Life, Letters, and Writings” was published by her daughter, Virginia, in 1995.

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