Thursday, January 8, 2009

45. 1924, Queen of the Manila Carnival, TRINIDAD RODRIGUEZ FERNANDEZ

1924 QUEEN OF THE MANILA CARNIVAL. Trinidad Fernandez y Rodriguez of Cuyo, Palawan, was a popular winner identified with the working class. She became a distinguished diplomat in later life.

One of the most photographed beauties of her time was the queen-elect of the 1924 Manila Carnival, Trinidad Fernandez y Rodriguez. Much attention was focused on this accomplished beauty because she was one of those rare queens who triumphed over the more well-heeled candidates from the key cities of Luzon and the Visayas. Thus, when she won, she was not only the first winner from that province, but she was also the first to identify with the working class.

Trining’s father was Clemente “Minting” Fernandez, one of two sons (the other being Carlos) of Jose Ma. Fernandez, a Spanish officer originally from Valencia. Assigned to Sta. Rita, Pampanga, Jose met and married a local lass with the surname Lasanga. He took her to Cuyo, the former capital of Palawan—together with her younger sister. Clemente and Carlos, however, were children of the first marriage. Clemente practically grew up in Palawan where he met and married Vicenta Rodriguez. It was in this far off island of Cuyo, located north of Sulu Sea that Trining first saw the light of day on 28 March 1899. Family stories tell that she was actually born in the Cuyo Church during a Moro raid.

When the 1924 Manila Carnival unfolded, Trinidad was already working for the Department of Public Welfare organizing puericulture and health centers , women’s associations and nursery classes throughout the country. To prepare her for this government career, she had gone as a pensionado to the Philippine Normal School, and then to the University of the Philippines where she picked a degree in Liberal Arts. She was a popular campus figure, noted for her beauty, personality and leadership qualities. It also helped that her mother was an indefatigable champion of charity work back home in Cuyo. Her father, too, had risen to become the 1st Cuyono municipal president and the first Palaweño to pass the Civil Service Examinations, so it can be said that early on, Trining developed a sense of awareness for social issues and civic concerns.

BACHELOR'S PICK. Queen Trining was the candidate of choice by the powerful Bachelor's Club.

The members of the influential Bachelors’ Club had their eyes on Trinidad even before the Philippine Carnival Association opened the nomination for the queenship of the annual prestigious event. But the while her candidacy was launched by the elite club, it was Trinidad’s ties with the working class and the government sector that, she feels, decided the votes in her favor.

QUEEN TRINING II, In one of her official portrait as the 1924 Manila Carnival Queen.

Trinidad’s triumph was met with resounding approval and was a big cause for celebration. Her grand coronation, unlike the past years, was not themed; she opted to wear a simple, white Filipino terno, matched with a long, flowing velvet cape. Her jewel-encrusted crown was similar to the one worn by Carmen Prieto three years before, and after her reign was over, it was donated to the Cuyo Church.

1924 CORTE DE HONOR. With Jose Araneta standing as his King Consort, Queen Trining is flanked by her princesses and escorts in this official sitting.

By her side was her handsome King Consort, Jose Araneta, and attending her was the 1924 royal court: Magdalena del Rosario, Consuelo Francia, Felising Anido, Juling Montenegro, Nena Calvo, Lourdes Singian with their escorts Salvador Araneta, Pepe Limjap, Victorino Abrera, Pendong Tuason, David Fernandez Lavadia and Ito Kahn.


But more unforgettable than that evening was the wedding of Trinidad to her beau a year later. Benito Legarda, a special friend from way back her U.P. days and a chemist, became her husband and father of threechildren: Benito Jr., Filomena and Carmen. Her involvement with socio-civic work seemed to have intensified after her marriage, working tirelessly for a number of institutions like the Girls Scouts, Community Chest, Catholic Women's League, Philippine Red Cross, Civic Assembly of Women and the National Federation of Women’s Clubs, where she was responsible for the post-war rehabilitation of its damaged headquarters.

She was also sent as a Philippine representative to important conventions abroad, from the Rotary International, UNESCO meetings to conferences on social work. She was a much sought after public speaker as well.

Her crowning glory came in 1958 when she was appointed as the first Filipino woman ambassador and chief of mission to Saigon and also minister plenipotentiary to Laos and Cambodia, accredited to look after the interest of Filipinos in those countries. She was, in fact, the first woman in Southeast Asia to hold a post as an ambassador, which she held until the 1980s. It is no wonder then that she was named as one of the 13 outstanding women leaders of Asia for her barrier-breaking achievements.

GRACING LUNETA. The Queen, attending a Carnival festivity at the Luneta.

As an avid art lover, she was one of the founders of the Manila Symphony Society from 1933 to 1958, which helped organized the Manila Symphony Orchestra. For this pioneering achievement, Trinidad is often cited as the “Mother of the Symphony Movement in the Philippines”. Trinidad’s beloved Ben died in 1973, and, after a hip injury in 1979, she retreated to her stately garden residence, “Ang Gubat” (The Forest), surrounded by her loving family. A notable descendant today is Atty. Katrina Legarda.

(Many thanks to Mr. Greg Melendres of Houston and Mr. Ron Fernandez of Dallas--and a descendant of Trinidad Fernandez-Legarda for the additional information on Trinida's family background).


Lheajane Socrates said...

oh! she's from my hometown and very well known to some folks there.:)
what a cuyuno beauty:)

Alex D.R. Castro said...

..and a very accomplished lady at that!