Wednesday, December 17, 2008

43. 1923, Queen of the Manila Carnival, CATALINA CASTILLO APACIBLE

1923 QUEEN OF THE MANILA CARNIVAL. Catalina Apacible y Castillo, of Balayan, Batangas was the daughter of the well-known patriot, doctor and diplomat, Dr. Galicano Apacible.
In the 1923 Manila Carnival, a Batangueña with a distinguished lineage reigned supreme: Catalina Apacible y Castillo. She was the only child of physician, patriot and statesman Dr. Galicano Apacible and Conchita Castillo of Balayan. Galicano was a noted propagandist and also one of the founders of La Solidaridad.

As an ‘unica hija’, Catalina or Neny, was treated with parental strictness, but also with indulgence. So, when her sponsor, the Bachelors’ Club, asked her to run for the queenship, her parents gave their total approval. Immediately, friends and admirers began working for her victory, led by Eugenio Lopez, a young man from a wealthy Iloilo family. He had actively participated in previous carnivals before, and was a consort to one of the princesses of the previous 1922 court. He was relentless in his campaign for Neny, mobilizing musicians and organizing torch parades to raise much-needed funds.

QUEEN NENY I. Coronation picture of the beauty from Batangas.

Neny’s closest rival was a beautiful mestiza, Conchita Seiboth, but even she and her backers were no match to the well-oiled vote generating machine of Neny’s avid supporters. The 19 year old beauty was thus proclaimed as Queen of the 1923 Manila Carnival.
A 1923 article from The American Chamber of Commerce Journal described the events leading to the royal coronation: “The big outstanding event of the Carnival Week is the coronation of the Queen, which is performed with all the formal ceremony and pomp of real life. No expense is spared for costumes and properties. For days, the Queen and her court are rehearsed by the best talent available, to go through the elaborate ceremony in a proper manner.
THE 1923 ROYAL COURT. Queen Neny's top drumbeater, Eugenio Lopez, was the logical choice of her father to be her King Consort.

On the night of the coronation, the brilliantly lighted Auditorium is packed with a huge throng of Carnivalistas who watched the elaborate ceremony with bated breath snd burst out with a tremendous shout when the Queen finally takes the throne after the diamond-studded crown has been placed on her pretty head by the Master of Ceremonies.”

THE QUEEN AS A CZARINA. Neny cuts a beautiful figure at her coronation dressed as a Russian czarina. A similar themed ball had her dressed like Cinderella, complete with a powdered wig.
Indeed, Neny’s Grand Coronation was marked with much fanfare and gaiety. For one, the coronation theme was very unique—it was Russian. Wearing a czarina outfit complete with a vest and boots, Neny was attended by a court dressed like Hussars. Her King Consort was none other than Eugenio Lopez, a well-deserved partner chosen by Dr. Apacible himself.

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING! The Coronation Theme of the 1923 Carnival was Russian. The escorts were dressed like Hussars while the ladies wore czarina outfits.
When her Carnival days were over, Neny married Pedro ‘Perico’ Limjap in 1928. Perico too, had a noble pedigree, son of a well-known Chinese-Filipino family. His sister, Leonarda was in fact chosen as queen in 1908, but had chosen to relinquish that title. Another sibling, Esperanza, was married to Sergio Osmeña, a future president. A brother, Francisco Limjap would also marry a Carnival Queen.

NENY, QUEEN OF THE CARNIVAL, QUEEN OF THE LIMJAP HOME. Shown with her eldest child, Eddie Limjap.

The Limjaps had three children—Eddie (a pilot), Evelyn ( medical doctor) and Connie. But their happy family life was shaken when Perico, who was engaged in underground guerrilla activties, was captured and executed by the Japanese during the second World War. After the war, Neny, the widow, went to America for an eye surgery and decided to stay on in Daly City, California with her children. A woman of resilience and independence, she lived alone and even drove her own car. Though uprooted from her country, Neny regularly visited the Philippines and died at age 78..

THE APACIBLES. Back Row: L-R, Neny, husband Perico Limjap (executed by the Japanese during the war), father Dr. Galicano Apacible. Front: L-R: Son Eddie (who became a pilot), Mrs. Concha Apacible, Evelyn ( who became a doctor) and seated in the foreground is Carmen.


MANILA CARNIVAL GROUNDS, 1923. Carnival parade at the Luneta, the annual venue of the biggest commercial and industrail exposition in the Philippines.

“Get the Carnival Spirit!”, was the rallying cry of the Carnival publicists for 1923, an encouragement that is hardly necessary in Manila. For with the approach of the opening day of the Carnival, by force of habit, the city changes its whole aspect and becomes a realm of fun, frolic and amusement.

This year’s Carnival pretty much kept the same ingredients that made the previous year’s edition successful.. For the 2nd year in a row, a Filipino was named as the Director General of the Carnival, Mr. Arsenio Luz who, to his credit, administered the 1922 Carnival with aplomb. He was described as a livewire and a “go-getter”, qualities needed to ensure that the big event runs smoothly, and that, more importantly, the Carnival makes both ends meet, financially.

RESIDENT PRESIDENT . Gov. Gen. Leonard Wood, again, the honorary president of the 1923 Philippine Carnival Association.

Notable officials of the Philippine Carnival Association included once more, Gov. Gen. Leonard Wood as honorary president. Senate Pres. Manuel L. Quezon headed the association, ably supported by a host of vice presidents and directors like Tomas Earnshaw, Dee C. Chuan, Sen. Antero Soriano, Felipe Buencamino Jr., and Gen. Thomas Hartigan. Permanent committees in charge of the event’s administrative aspects—like Fire Protection, Law and Order, Publicity, Chinese Participation and Sugar Industry Exhibit—were organized and staffed.

As the commercial-industrial fair was of utmost importance to businessmen, the concept of a Sample Fair, done in a special building, was retained. The nightly balls,the three parades and the military presentations were likewise kept, but the special attractions were beefed up. This year included a water circus, featuring, according to the Carnival publicity department, “some of New York’s most beautiful diving girls”. A children’s playground called Toyland, carried a profusion of toys and good things to eat. An Airplane Swing was also added so that one can enjoy all the sensations of an airplane flight safely and comfortably.

From Australia came boxing kangaroos. A “House of Ice” was the offering of San Miguel Company. Borromeo Lou returned with his vaudeville revues, and so didmany of the foreign magic acts. Films showing the Villa-Buff boxing championship and other fistic matches were screened nightly. To drive interest, a radio contest opened to amateurs was put up. The usual minor attractions were also there: popular booths that sold peanuts, popcorn, soda water, refreshments parlors and beer gardens.

Of course, highlighting the Carnival was the selection of a Carnival sovereign, a process that began three months before the actual Carnival week. The manner of selection was the same: publications ran contests to select candidates, one candidate per newspaper. Candidates were then voted for by the public, the ballots being attached to Carnival stock certificates. The trend was even keenly observed by beauty enthusiasts: for the first few carnivals, American girls were invariably chosen, but since the Filipinos have taken such an active part in the event, beautiful Filipinas have sat on the regal throne at the head of the big auditorium.

The hard work of all the officials and committees paid of, as the 1923 Carnival broke the previous year’s record in terms of stock sales and unprecedented attendance.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

41. 1922, Queen of the Manila Carnival, VIRGINIA VIDAL LLAMAS

1922 QUEEN OF THE MANILA CARNIVAL. Virginia Vidal Llamas, a student from the progressive Philippine Women's College, beat candidates from exclusive schools for the crown.

1922 saw another banner year for the Manila Carnival, as the annual fair was used by the Americans to emphasize and instill health and sanitation consciousness among the Filipinos. The first “health parade” was witnessed in this year’s edition with hundreds of sanitary workers—from street sweepers, fumigators, health group members and puericulture officers participating. It was also this year that attractive art competitions (Fernando Amorsolo won 1st prize for his painting) and unusual ethnic exhibits (the mummy of 12th c. Benguet demigod Apo Anno was put on display) were put up for public enjoyment.

The Queen selected to reign over the fair was a quiet, demure collegian from Pagsanjan, Laguna: Virginia Llamas y Vidal. Born on 1 July 1905, she was the eldest daughter of Laguna’s former governor, Vicente Llamas and Feliza Vidal, in a brood that also included siblings Vicente Jr., Alicia, Ysmael, Ramiro, Gloria, Marina and Pelagio.

QUEEN VIRGINIA I. In her official picture as a Carnival sovereign.

When her father visited America, he was smitten by the sights of Virginia, so when he named his daughter after the said U.S. state. Virginia’s parents were progressive thinkers so when it was time for her o enter college, they sent her off to the newly-opened Philippine Women’s College known for its democratic system of education introduced by the Americans. It also helped that the founders, the Benitezes, were close family friends.

When the Carnival season arrived, contestants were outsourced from schools and it was in this manner that Virginia’s name was included in the official candidate list. Not only did the student population of PWC supported her candidacy but also The Herald, a leading newspaper edited by Conrado Benitez, whose wife, Francisca, was the PWC president.

The queenship was closely contested by several girls of irrefutable qualifications, led by Vicenta Osmeña, daughter of then Speaker of the House, Sergio Osmeña. Nena Valera, the candidate of El Ideal also was a rival to contend with. Both girls by the way, were also backed by the very influential Bachelor’s Club. Then there was Margaret Murray, the American candidate of Manila Bulletin. But another group had formed behind the candidacy of Virginia, whose aim was to elect a “really popular queen”.

THE ROYAL TRIO. Queen Virginia, flanked by her two princesses, in Roman costumes.

Virginia was herself a regular student of a progressive college, atypical of other candidates who came from exclusive schools favored by society’s elite. Considering her as one of their own, student leaders, thus, rallied behind Virginia, tirelessly campaigning and soliciting votes in her behalf. Young Fernando Lopez of U.S.T.’s College of Law, for instance, organized a dance affair that proved to be one of the biggest fund-raising event for Virginia. When all the votes were tallied, Virginia garnered 2,868,400 votes, giving her a lead of almost a million votes ahead of the second placer, Nena Valera. Her victory made it to the headlines of The Herald which proclaimed: “Ave Regina! Queen Virginia II, Hail, All Hail—Queen of the People!”

A ROMAN CORONATION. Su Majestad La reyna Virginia II y su Corte. Carlos P. Romulo is the 3rd person from the left. Fernando Lopez stands on the right.

As The Herald was instrumental in her win, the management also handpicked her consort, Carlos P. Romulo of Camiling, Tarlac, who happened to be an editor of the paper. American-educated ‘Rommy’ was already making a name as a brilliant writer, orator and debater and he naturally balked at the idea of participating in a carnival which he considered light and trifling. At that time, he was still mourning the loss of his father. And he had a girlfriend to booth-- presenting himself with a female partner before an audience that included her girlfriend could be quite unsettling. Lastly, the thought of wearing a Roman costume and tights for the coronation mortified him.

THE 1923 QUEEN AND HER COURT. Virginia's King Consort was Carlos P. Romulo.

However, Don Manuel Earnshaw, the big boss of The Herald, was stern and insistent. Romulo grudgingly complied lest he incur his anger and lose his job. At the coronation festivities, Romulo left the Queen’s side many times to dance with other partners, and it was only until the last day of the festivities that he finally asked her for a dance.

ROMMY ANG GINNY. Virginia and Carlos P. Romulo in Roman costumes. Romulo was so uncomfortable wearing the tunic and was not exactly thrilled with his escorting duties; he left his Queen to dance with other girls during the coronation ball.

Eventually, romance blossomed between the two and two years after the Carnival, on 1 July 1924, the two were married in Pagsanjan. They had four sons: Carlos Jr. (who died in a plane crash on 11 Oct. 1957), Greg, Dick and Bobby. Romulo of course, became a distinguished international diplomat and statesman (Secretary of Foreign Affairs, President of the UN General Assembly) and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Virginia preferred to stay in the background and only once were she and her husband separated for some time, when Romulo joined Quezon in exile during the war years in Washington.

Virginia passed away ahead of her King Consort, dying at the age of 63 on 22 January 1968. In life as in death, Virginia was recognized as “one of the greatest Filipino women of modern times”. In 1961, she was awarded a Presidential Award, acknowledging her for her “womanly virtues of a devoted wife and mother, the guardian of home and family values, and traditions and modesty.”
In a touching tribute published in a national newspaper, a journalist wrote: “What may remain forever engraved in the memory of not a few generation and of those following is the silent, sovereign grace of her life as a queen—once in a national festival, and, continuously, as a housewife and mother. Virginia Llamas Romulo was a Queen”.


The 1922 Manila Carnival and Industrial Fair was held from 4-12 February 1922, headed by the President of the Commonwealth, Manuel L. Quezon (L), with the Governor General of the Philippine Islands, Leonard Wood named as honorary president. Arsenio Luz (R) was the Director-General.

The premise of this year’s carnival was that “it is more than a fun and folly fiesta. The promotion of health, education, commerce, industry and community spirit are permanent interests of this great annual event”.

The Carnival authorities have spared neither effort nor expense in making the fair the biggest and best free attraction on the Carnival grounds. The Main Exhibition Building housed the displays of the Insular Bureaus, Provincial Governments and Business Houses of the Philippines. The National Federation of Women’s Clubs. American Guardian Association. Public Welfare Booth, Anti TB Society and the Red Cross had their booths in this building for demonstration purposes. Beneath the Tower of Jewels there is an attractive display of electrical merchandise.

ENTRANCE TO THE AUDITORIUM. Bluperint as drawn by Arch. Juan Arellano. 1922

Provincial representation was boosted by the booths of Iloilo, Leyte, Tayabas, Pampanga, Laguna, Rizal, Tarlac, La Union, Marinduque, Ilocos Sur, Cagayan, Cebu and Palawan, with each province showing off their best manufactured products.

THE CARNIVAL 1922 AUDITORIUM. A designed by Arch. Juan M. Arellano.

February 8 was designated as a “Merchants’ Day”, in recognition of the role of commerce in nation-building. The 3-day Far Eastern Commercial-Industrial Convention was held within the Carnival period, attended by members of the the chambers of commerce, ending with a fabulous “Merchant’s Ball”. A Sample Fair Theater was also set up for selling and order-taking of different commodities and products.

As always , the Army was well-represented in the Carnival by specially selected units of Infantry and Machine Gun, Mountain Artillery and Cavalry. February 7th was reserved for the Infantry Day, marked with squad drills, call to arms, salvo and volley firing and other military maneuvers like bareback and rough riding.

Special sideshow attractions included stunt performances by Oscar Varley Babcock, whose “Death Gap Loop”—in which his automobile goes on a swift descent down a narrow incline and makes a death-defying loop as it twists and turns—was billed as the most sensational feature of the 1922 Carnival. Borromeo Lou, the Filipino impresario, also wowed the evening crowds with the theatrical performances of his troupe. Other much-talked about acts included magicians and illusionists Orville the Great and Professor Shaw, with his mystifying card tricks and sleight of hands.

The 1922 Carnival staged a record number of 4 parades, starting on Feb. 4, with the Carnival Parade participated by costumed and uniformed groups. This was followed on subsequent days by a series of Educational Parades, Military Parades and the new Health Parades, to call attention to the widespread effort s of different health and civic groups to suppress disease and maintain a high standard of public health.

MAIN GATE OF THE 1922 MANILA CARNIVAL. As designed Arch. Juan M. Arellano.

For Carnival revelers, there were the opulent and festive balls to look forward to. Daily balls were held from 4 Feb. to Feb. 12., beginning with the International Ball, Parejas Ball (prizes to the Most Comic and Most Original Couple), Coronation Ball, Comparsa Ball, Children’s Fancy Dress Ball, Merchant’s Ball, Stockholders’ Ball, Army and Navy Ball, Popular Ball and finally, the Grand Carnival Ball.

COMMERCIAL AND INDUSTRIAL FAIR HALL. For exhibition of the country's finest manufactured produce.

An historical pageant was presented by the Dramatic Association of the University of the Philippines to picture the splendor of the court of the Rajahs of Manila before the coming of Legazpi. Characters like Lakandula and his Queen, Legazpi, Rajah Soliman, Augustinian priests, Spanish soldiers, dozens of native princesses and Asian merchants came to life in colorful costumes to thrill an adoring crowd.

Then there were the exciting Athletic Competitions that featured everything from Cricket. Soccer to Track, Golf, Bowling, Baseball, Volleyball and Basketball. A Dog and a Horse Show were even held to show off canines and equines of the most exotic kind.

The 1922 Manila Carnival will also be remembered for its Queen and her King Consort, she, a quiet, unassuming beauty and he, an American-educated achiever who, together, went on to win greater acclaim in the field of international diplomacy and government service.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

39. 1921, Queen of the Manila Carnival, CARMEN LEGARDA PRIETO

1921 QUEEN OF THE MANILA CARNIVAL. Carmen Prieto y Legarda, a 16 year old beauty from a prominent family in Manila.

The 1921 edition of the Manila Carnival coincided with the 400th year of the discovery of the Philippines in 1521 by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. To mark this anniversary, the 1921 carnival thus was dubbed as the Carnaval Magallanico (Magallanes Carnival).


To highlight the significance of such a historic moment, the discovery of the Philippines was re-enacted in the Luneta Auditorium, participated in by hundreds of Filipino and foreign performers essaying the roles of Magellan, Lapu-Lapu and other important characters. Some people found the re-enactment too long-winded and boring, especially the Blood Compact scene between Legazpi and Rajah Soliman (played by Jose Castillo), defender of Manila, but overall, the 1921 edition was an astounding success, made even more memorable by the election of a beautiful Carnival Queen from Manila, Carmen Legarda Prieto.

Carmencita was the daughter of Mauro Prieto and Consuelo Legarda, both well-known in Philippine elite society. Mauro was a successful executive of La Germinal, the leading cigar factory in the Philippines, and was the president of Congreso Agricola de Filipinas. He had been, in fact, one of the escorts of the first-ever queen, Pura Villanueva. It came as a surprise then that he initially objected to the candidacy of her daughter, finding the 16 year old too young to join an adult event.

Again, it was Manuel L. Quezon, then the Senate President, who came to the rescue. Word was out that a pure Hispaniola candidate was being groomed to win the crown in keeping with the Spanish theme of the Carnival. But the ardent nationalist wanted a Filipina or a mestiza at least, to rule over the festivities. Carmen’s father gave in when the president himself pleaded with him to let his daughter run.

HER ROYAL JEWELS. Carmen wore the family's heirloom jewelry to the coronation. On her neck is a dog collar choker studded with pearls and diamonds.

With Quezon's support in place, Carmencita’s victory was sealed. She topped the preliminary contests of 8 periodicals: La Vanguardia. Taliba, Philippine Herald, El Ideal, El Debate, Philippine Herald, Ang Mithi, La Nacion and Confetti. Her nearest rivals were Snrta. Dolores Casanovas, the Spanish community candidate and Nellie Ping, who had the backing of the influential Chinese dailies, Man Ho Po and Kong Li Po as well the moneyed Chinese community of Manila.

In the days leading to the final balloting, more drama unfolded. Candidate Clotilde Blancaflor, who was running sixth, withdrew to marry her beau. Cornelia Lichauco also threw in the towel, saying she had never wanted to run in the first place. When all the votes were tallied on 20 January, Carmen, with the the Bachelor’s Club, Sociedad de Tiro al Blanco, Club Filipino, Philippine Columbian and Bohemian Club behind her—won the 1921 Carnival Queen title with 9,838,300 votes.

HER NIGHT HAS COME. Official coronation picture of Carmen Prieto, 1921 Manila Carnival Queen, with her court of honor.

The Grand Coronation rites were full of pomp and pageantry unlike any other. The theme of the evening was the “occidentalization of the Islands”. But Carmen and her court opted to wear native Philippine costumes—traje de mestizas. Her mother made her wear family heirloom jewelry, necessitating the hiring of guards to secure and protect her. She wore a choker, studded with pearls and diamonds. Her royal crown was made especially by Carnival Director Jorge Vargas and it featured a brilliant diamond solitaire in the middle.

The evening was pure excitement for the young Carmencita. After the national anthems of Spain, America and the Philippines were played, a hymn to peace was rendered by the Philippine Constabulary Band. And, as she was seated on her throne, Eduardo Ros, playing the role of a Cardinal, crowned Carmen amidst fireworks, music and accolades from the leading poets of her time.

THE QUEEN AND HER KING CONSORT. Dr. Basilio J. Valdes was hanpdicked by Carmen's father to act as her official consort. A graduate of UST medical school, Basilio served in the 1st World War in Europe. He later married Rosario Legarda, a princess in her court.

Carmen’s King Consort was the accomplished Dr. Basilio Valdes, already well-known for his medical and military experience here and in Europe. Later, Valdes, who was also a relative, became a Secretary of Defense and a Chief of Staff. A court was assembled to attend to the new queen, and it included Florentina Goyena, Vicenta Osmeña, Benita Bayot, Rosario Legarda (the future wife of Dr. Valdes), Dr. Augusto Cortez, Dr. Francisco Tecson, Dr. Ramon Ongsiako, Jose Araneta, Jose Revilla. One of the prizes Carmen received for her victory was a portrait painting done by Fabian de la Rosa, a close friend of her father. Carmen was toasted with lavish parties by her proud parents and gala affairs were held in her honor by dozens of socio-civic groups and various associations.

CARMEN'S PRINCESS. Part of the 1921 royal entourage.

When the Carnival year was over, Carmen, together with her cousins, traveled to Europe and took French lessons in Paris. Carmen came home a fulfilled young woman, but chose to live in semi-reclusion. As a result, she married rather late at the age of 33 years old to Ramon Caro. Ramon was the founder of a well-known automotive and electrical firm, Ramcar, which he established in 1919. The couple ran a successful business until her husband died in 1979. The union bore daughter Rosario Agustines, and 2 stepdaughters, Isabel Wilson and Cristina Ozamis.

She suffered a hip injury in the late 1970s, but this did not prevent her from pursuing her various personal interests.