Sunday, February 22, 2009

66. 1931, MARIA VS. ALICIA: The Right to Royalty

FACE-OFF: The battle royale for the queenship was contested by Maria Kalaw and Alicia de Santos, who, earlier in the year had reigned as the Queen of Mercy for the Anti-TB program of the government.

1931 will be remembered as one of the most competitive years for the candidates to the Fifth National Beauty Contest of the Manila Carnival. Maria Kalaw’s triumph was cleverly strategized by her supporters led by her own father, Teodoro, which caught her nearest rival, Alicia de Santos by surprise, giving no time for her sponsors to respond.

FILIPINAS MEETS U.S.A. Maria Kalaw in one of her school pageants wth her American beauty counterpart.

Of the 14 Miss Philippines candidates, Alicia de Santos, the candidate of La Opinion, and Maria Kalaw were the ones picked out by newspapers as having the biggest chances of winning the queenship. Based on material wealth, Alicia de Santos seemed to have the upper hand. She was the daughter of Jose Santos and Concepcion Cabarrus, both from affluent Manila families. She had two brothers, Alberto and Arturo. Alicia was also a relative--a cousin, to be exact--of the 1929 Queen, Pacita de los Reyes.

ANTI-TB QUEEN OF MERCY. Alicia de Santos as an advocacy queen for the Philippine anti-TB program.

Just like Maria, who had received several beauty citations in school, Alicia’s youthful mestiza beauty was also noticed early. As a student of Holy Ghost College, she was elected Queen of Mercy of the Anti-TB Society of the Philippines in 1929. This high profile event served as a campaign to raise funds for the eradication of tuberculosis—the no. 1 killer disease in the country. Her coronation was attended by the country’s Governor General Dwight Davis, well-known personalities of the American community and top Philippine officials led by Senate Pres. and Mrs. Sergio Osmeña and party. With her beauty in full bloom two years later, Alicia was ready to wear the crown of the country’s fifth Miss Philippines.

QUEEN OF MERCY, Alicia de Santos, at her high-profile coronation with her princesses, attended by high-ranking Philippine and U.S. government officials.

But it was clear that Teodoro Kalaw, had also become fascinated with the idea of having her daughter Maria, follow in her mother’s footsteps—a possibility that was also being pointed out by the national media. And so, he mapped out a gameplan to ensure the win of her daughter. To gather votes, he called on his Mason friends and their fraternal networks, asking them and their families to clip coupons, save and submit them for Maria. For days, he would stay in his office and telephone his connections, focusing his attention in getting his daughter elected.

Indeed, on the day of the final counting, Maria Kalaw and Alicia de Santos were ahead of the rest of the contestants. Newspapers had a heyday reporting the neck-and-neck battle between the two beauties: “ Maria Kalaw and Alicia de Santos Fight For Carnival Reign”, one headline ran. “Maria Kalaw or Alicia de Santos? Alicia de Santos or Maria Kalaw?” echoed what the whole of Manila was asking.

On February 4, the partial results were announced on a regular basis:

6 PM : Maria Kalaw = 21,200 votes, Alicia de Santos = 13, 200 votes.
9 PM : Maria Kalaw = 40,000 votes, Alicia de Santos = 22,000 votes

An hour and a half later, the lead had changed:
10:30 PM: Alicia de Santos = 53,100 votes, Maria Kalaw = 49,700 votes
11 PM: Alicia de Santos = 157,000 votes, Maria Kalaw = 151,000 votes
11:30 PM: Alicia de Santos = 618,000 votes, Maria Kalaw = 518,300 votes

With only 30 minutes left, Alicia seemed to enjoy an insurmountable lead. But fifteen minutes before the close of the voting, a group of men entered the hall to drop their stacks and stacks of coupons in favor of Maria Kalaw. A stream of votes for continued to pour for Maria such that at midnight, all her ballot boxes were stuffed to the brim. When the Carnival Director Arsenio Luz and his committee finished the tabulation by 1 a.m. , the results were immediately announced before a roaring crowd of 20,000 people. Miss Philippines of 1931 was Maria Kalaw, Maria I, Maria Primera.

The final tally was 2,516,300 votes for Maria, and 1,450,000 for Alicia. Maria’ lead was an unbelievable and unsurmountable 1 million votes. The official results were too much for the camp of Alicia to bear, who made accusations of ‘trickery”, referring to the Kalaws’ being townmates and close friends of Carnival Director Arsenio Luz.

MISS LUZON, MISSED BEAUTY. Photos of Alicia de Santos as Miss Luzon had already been shot and circulated, only to be withdrawn when she decided not to accept the title. This is the reason why very few of her pictures are available to collectors today.

Immediately, Alicia de Santos—the First Princess or Miss Luzon, resigned from her post. But photographs of her identifying her as Miss Luzon had already been printed and released to the public. Lina Araullo took over the vacant position, while Luisa Rodriguez was elevated to the rank of Miss Visayas. American mestiza Louise Stevens was named Miss Mindanao.

Years later, Maria reaffirmed that winning the title was a matter not of popularity but of strategy and effort. “Contests and elections are decided in favor of the better organization, the harder working group. Votes are garnered, they are not cast”.

And what of the controversial Alicia who left the Carnival in a huff? She did not exactly disappear from the limelight. She went on to marry Octavio Maloles Sr., a lawyer. And further to show that the de Santos family had no love lost for the organizers of the Manila Carnival, Alicia’s brother, Dr. Arturo de Santos, agreed to become the King Consort of the 1932 queen, Emma Zamora.

65. 1931, Miss Philippines of the Manila Carnival, MARIA VILLANUEVA KALAW

1931 QUEEN OF THE MANILA CARNIVAL. Maria Villanueva Kalaw will be remembered in the Carnival history as the daughter of the first Queen of the Orient of the Manila Carnival, the accomplished writer, feminist and businesswoman Pura Villanueva.

Maria Kalaw y Villanueva entered the Fifth National Beauty Contest of the 1931 Manila Carnival as a first second-generation candidate who received much press attention. After all, she was the daughter of the first Carnival queen (Pura Villanueva of Iloilo) and a Manila intellectual (Teodoro Kalaw of Batangas). When she won, she became the first second-generation Queen in Carnival history, in a last-minute, but well deserved victory.

MARIA AS A YOUNG WOMAN IN 1929. In her teens, Maria was already following in the footsteps of her mother, dabbling in writing for national magazines such as Graphic.

At the start, Maria had everything going for her. When her parents were approached by the Carnival organizers to discuss the possibility of their daughter Maria joining the contest, they gave their permission, surprising everyone, including Maria. After all, Pura had not supported her daughter’s candidacy in one beauty tilt sponsored by the Philippine Women’s College, because she was against the fund raising aspect of the contest. On the other hand, it was unthinkable for Teodoro, then director of the National Library, to indulge in vote solicitation for her daughter; he would rather write than socialize.

QUEEN MARIA I. In one of her official portraits as the Queen of the 1931 Manila Carnival.

Based on merits alone, Maria, too, was a stand-out. She was born on 14 February 1911 in Manila, the eldest in a brood of 4, that included brother Teddy and sisters Purita and Evelina. Maria’s first Carnival experience was in 1916, when she and her siblings joined—and won the Costume Contest, dressed as Oriental royalties. The children lived a charmed life in their San Marcelino home, where they were sent to the best schools and even traveled abroad with their parents. For her grade school, she attended St. Scholastica, then finished high school at the Philippine Women’s College.

QUEEN OF ARABY. Maria Kalaw came to her Coronation Night in an exotic Arabic costume and a gem-studded helmet-type crown that elicited mixed reactions from the press.

For college, she chose to take up philosophy and letters at the University of the Philippines. Like her father, she cultivated a love for journalism and literature, and some of her writings saw print in national magazines such as Graphic and The Literary Apprentice, the school’s premiere magazine. She was involved in almost every major school organization—as a vice president of the UP Women’s Club, member of the Student Council and the UP Writer’s Club.

REINA MARIA PRIMERA. Maria, in full coronation regalia. The U.P. beauty went to school as usual the day after she was elected Miss Philippines.

Of course, Maria’s beauty went unnoticed. She became the muse of the College of Law’s Bachelor Club and a regimental sponsor twice. A reporter from The Independent magazine wrote that “Maria’s beauty was dazzling, her friendliness in full bloom. Nobility is in her gestures and attitude..she seems born to be an Oriental empress”.

MARIA'S NIGHT OF TRIUMPH. An official studio portrait of Maria Kalaw as Miss Philippines 1931.

Entering the national beauty competition, the 19 year-old coed was supported by The Tribune, Philippine Herald, Batikuling and the Philippine Free Press. The rest of the delegates included Lina Araullo, Lourdes Rodriguez, Louise Stevens, Pilar Alberto, Fe Alberto, Rita Panares, Pacita Reyes, Emilia Diago, Celia Acosta, Remedios Manlunas, Gloria Manlunas and Alicia de Santos. Winning depended on getting as many newspaper coupons as possible, published in all the leading dailies and publications of the day. The voting period lasted for 8 weeks, and the tabulation of votes began on 4 February 1941.

MARIA'S COURT OF HONOR. Lina Araullo (elevated to Miss Luzon) and Lourdes Rodriguez (Miss Visayas). Miss Mindanao was yet to be named because of the controversial resignation of Alicia de Santos.

Maria projected an attitude of casual detachment from the day she was named as an official candidate. She attended her classes at U.P. as usual. But then, she won in the most dramatic fashion after a see-saw battle with Alicia de Santos. Her father had been quietly mobilizing his Masonic fraternity brothers to collect and clip newspaper coupons. At the last minute, he had voters cast their ballots, overtaking de Santos, the erstwhile leader, and winning the crown for his daughter Maria with a lead of over a million votes. Alicia de Santos was relegated to 2nd place (Miss Luzon), followed by Lina Araullo (Miss Visayas) and Luisa Rodriguez (Miss Mindanao). With de Santos’s resignation, Araullo and Rodriguez were promoted, with Louise Stevens joining the entourage as Miss Mindanao.

AT HER MAJESTY'S SERVICE. Miss Luzon and Miss Visayas flank their beautiful queen, Maria Kalaw, ready to do her bidding in this photo postacrd.

Maria’s coronation theme was Hindu-Malayan, and for her special moment, she was escorted by her brother Teddy Kalaw, who came dressed as an Indian warrior prince. Maria looked exotic in her white silken gown that had bands of gold all around her skirt. Over her neckline was a gold-embroidered collar, trimmed with tassels. She wore 3 strands of pearls, an armlet of diamonds and a helmet-shaped crown with two dangling pendants and a sunburst gem. For her other appearances in the nightly balls, she wore Filipiniana creations made by the famed couturier, Pacita Longos.

The next day, the new Queen nonchalantly went back to school in her regular white uniform, taking pains to look no different from her classmates. Maria, it seemed, was clearly more into her studies than her fleeting duties as a Carnival royal. Sure enough, after her reign, she went back to school and earned a Barbour scholarship in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she finished her Master of Arts degree in 1933.

MARIA'S MATRIMONY. Maria Kalaw at her wedding to Dr. Jose Katigbak, a relative from Lipa, Batangas.

A year after her return, she married a fellow Lipeño, Dr. Jose (Pepito) Katigbak, who was also a relative. The Katigbaks came from a clan of political leaders in Lipa, Batangas. Maria and Jose raised four children: Marinela (Nela), Josefina (Pinkie), Purisima (Puri) and Norberto (+Butch). Maria, when not tending her family, was also active in socio-civic movements, like the Girl Scout of the Philippines. In 1948, she was drafted into the Central Committee and later became the national president for 8 years.

BORN TO A ROYAL BREED. Marinela, Josefina, Purisima and Norberto--children of Maria Kalaw and Jose Katigbak.

In 1961, running under the Liberal Party, Maria won a seat in the Senate, jumpstarting her political career. She broke new barriers by going to Beijing and joining a Vietnam Mission. In between her busy schedules, she earned a Ph.D and wrote his parents’ biographies: Few There were (like my Father) in 1974, and Legacy: The Life and Times of Pura Villanueva Kalaw.

SENADORA MARIA-KALAW KATIGBAK. A 1960s picture of the fomrer Miss Philippines-turned politician.

Failing to get re-elected, Maria went back to her writing and became a ‘Checkpoint’ columnist for Manila Times. In 1981, then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos named her as the Chairman of the Board of Review for Motion Pictures and Television and earned a reputation as a tough censor. After the untimely death of her only son Butch, Maria suffered from bouts of depression. Also a diabetic, Maria Kalaw-Katigbak was felled by a series of strokes on 10 December 1992. Her beloved husband, Pepito followed her two years after.


By the 1930s the Manila Carnival had evolved from just being a celebration of the cordial relations between America and the Philippines to a spectacular showcase of a country’s progress under the guidance of its colonizer. It had become like an American country fair—but on a much larger scale, featuring product and agricultural exhibits, sideshows and parades. It was also used to reinvigorate domestic and international tourism, a public relation event for the Philippines in need of drumbeating for its limitless investment possibilities.

In 1930, for example, the Philippines enjoyed a bumper crop harvest in rice, coconut, sugar, copra and abaca, and was hardly affected by the Great Depression gripping America. The country’s produce were snapped up by the U.S. market and the increased exports helped maintain the youthful Philippine economy. Though economically, it lagged behind its Asian neighbors, the standard of living and the quality of labor was much higher, with government revenue used more efficiently to benefit the Filipinos people.

It was under this optimistic scenario that the 1931 Manila Carnival unfolded, certainly, the most covered Carnival event in recent years, what with the added drama provided by the Miss Philippines quest, in the Fifth National Beauty Contest.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

63. 1930, THE BATHING SUIT CONTROVERSY III: Thoughts & Aftermath

What about the four winners who did get to wear their bathing suits during that fateful final selection? Miss Philippines-elect Consuelo Acuña said, “I didn’t put on the required bathing suit, but wore an attire modified for the form. I won’t say my opinion about the bathing suit lest I offend my companions”.

Miss Luzon, Estrella Alvarez had a more difficult time: “I resisted wearing a bathing suit for as long as I could, then gave in when a respected member of the jury requested it as ‘urgent’. But I didn’t wear the ‘maillot’, but an old-fashioned type, with a folded skirt, and I didn’t remove my shoes and stockings. This case of the bathing suit has brought me a lot of trouble. A brother of mine has sent a telegram to the effect that he and my brothers and sisters would disown me as a member of our family if it is true that I presented myself in such a scandalous manner!”.


Miss Visayas, Luz Villaluna was more open-minded: “I am of advanced ideas and I believe in the progress and evolution of woman. Because of this, my friends call me a good sport. But what would you have me say? At that moment when, on the exigencies of the judges I had to wear a bathing suit, I started to dry like a child—I don’t know why! It was an emotion that came from the innermost self”.


The one with the most liberal attitude seemed to have been U.P. collegian Rosario Ruiz Zorilla, Miss Mindanao. “Campoamor, the Spanish writer, wisely said: ‘All depends on the color of the glass on looks through’. It is natural that people would invoke Philippine traditions in rejecting this novelty. Under the circumstances, however, I believe there is nothing wrong for it is all in the aesthetic sense. The sight of a nude sculpture or painting evokes an emotion of pure artistry”. It is interesting to note that Zorilla had no qualms about putting on a bathing suit; as a candidate of The Herald, she was photographed wearing one in the university pool.


Violeta Lopez came out of the contest and the furor of the bathing suit incident, a wiser, if not a more practical woman. To show that she bore no hard feelings, she and her father hosted a party for about 30 media people at the close of the Carnival season at Refugio Restaurant. She told the press, “I have never had a more enjoyable stay in Manila than this time, and all because I spent a great part of my time with the newspapermen of the city. They are truly the most amiable and hospitable people in the world”.

The Tribune, in an article entitled, “She Refuses to Wear a Bathing Suit and Loses A Crown”, was profuse with praise for its candidate: “Miss Violeta Lopez has shown by this exceptional act that she is still the daughter of these Sunkist Isles, the pride of a nation’s heart, strong in the inviolate modesty of maidenhood. All hail to Queen Violeta Lopez! Long may she reign and long may her act be cited as revealing that spirit of a true Filipino womanhood!”.

Eventually, Violeta Lopez would be elected queen of the grand Carnival in Jaro, Iloilo, which rivaled the pageantry of the national Carnival, as eyewitness reports noted. She would also put the bathing suit controversy behind her, returning to the Manila Carnival two years later, where this time, she would win the Miss Mindanao title in the court of the 1932 queen, Emma Zamora.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


HIS POOL PARTY STARTED IT ALL. Councilor Antonio Torres of Manila hosted a pool party in which the finalists for the 1930 Miss Philippines crown were asked to wear swimsuits--and it was in his home that the controversy began.

Explanatory statements were issued by people involved in the controversy. Antonio Torres, the host of the party had an open letter published in La Vanguardia, in which he said that the party was a social affair, “such as I have celebrated in my swimming tank a number of times, pictures of which parties have been published in the local papers”. He further insinuated that Miss Lopez had not been invited by him to the party. Violeta Lopez counterclaimed that she was asked to go by Rosita Jose, a member of the Carnival Committee, an invitation approved by no less than Carnival Director Arsenio Luz.

Two judges, too, offered their versions of the story. Mrs. Marina Yulo de Vargas testified that “I have not seen Miss Violeta Lopez in a bathing suit nor did she convert her chemise into a bathing suit to take part in the contest on the last day of the selection”. On the other hand, Manuel Yriarte testified that “I have not seen Miss Violeta Lopez for whom I gave my vote as one of those selected”.

Far from clarifying the issue, the statement of Yriarte only served to bolster public opinion that Miss Lopez had indeed been eliminated because of her refusal to don a swimsuit. If she was one of the judges' choice, why was she not in the winners' circle?

OUSTED BUT NOT OUT. Violeta Lopez, candidate of the newspaper "The Tribune", in the eye of the swimsuit storm.

It was then that all five judges (the other three were Secretary of Commerce Filemon Perez, artist Fernando Amorsolo, Arch. Carlos Barretto) issued an official statement that outlined the final selection process:

  1. A series of elimination rounds was used to determine the 1930 Miss Philippines. In the 1st round of voting, 8 passed: Consuelo Acuña, Estrella Alvarez, Rosario Ruiz Zorilla, Luz Villaluna, Violeta Lopez, Corazon Campos, Lourdes Aunario and Nieves Benito.
  2. On Presentation Night, a 2nd round elimination round reduced the eight to four: Acuña, Alvarez, Zorilla and Villaluna. Villaluna and Lopez had tied for the last finalist slot and it was judge Amorsolo who broke the deadlock. Lopez was thus eliminated.
  3. At the home of Mr. Torres, the 4 finalists were invited so the judges can determine their final placements. Acuña got the votes of 4 of the 6 judges. After choosing her as Miss Philippines, the judges voted on Miss Luzon, Miss Visayas and Miss Mindanao and the results were unanimous: Alvarez, Villaluna and Zorilla, in that order.

This official statement clarified Yriarte’s earlier pronouncement that he voted for Miss Lopez on the Presentation Night, which was a prelude to the final judging.

THANK YOU, GIRLS. Lourdes Aunario (El Debate), Lilia Lopez (Atalaya) and Corazon Campos (Philippine Collegian) were among the finalists eliminated during the judges' final deliberation. Campos and Aunario, though out of the running, were invited to the pool party.

But then another question arose: why did 6 candidates show up at the party, instead of 4? Corazon Campos and Lourdes Aunario kept their invitations which they showed to the press. The invitation expressedly had this reminder: “Please do not forget to take with you a bathing suit. You do not need to come elegantly dressed..”. To muddle up the issue further, how come Lopez came and not Aunario? (Aunario had declined the invitation, and that, as earlier mentioned, Lopez came because of Rosita Jose’s invitation).

61. 1930, THE BATHING SUIT CONTROVERSY I: Wear It or Lose It

GALVESTON GIRLS. Beauties from around the world assemble at Galveston, Texas for the International Contest of Beauty and Pulchritude. The Philippines was said to have been invited to field a delegate.

A major uproar in the 1930 Manila Carnival was the so-called ‘bathing suit incident’, a behind-the-contest drama that threatened to cast a shadow on the results of the Miss Philippines search. The controversy lingered even after the contest was over, fanned by newspapers who published different versions of the incident. But the basic account was the same—the six Miss Philippines finalists were invited to a party in the house of Antonio Torres, president of the municipal board of Manila.

STATESIDE BEAUTIES MEET GLOBAL BEAUTIES. Contestants from Europe compteted against state queens from America in this early pageant.

In the said affair, the panel of judges required the finalists to wear swimsuits and those who did not conform to this requirement automatically lost by default. The Philippine Carnival Association had apparently received an invitation from a contest organizer based in Galveston, Texas to field a delegate to the International Contest of Beauty and Pulchritude which had a mandatory swimsuit competition.

MODESTY ASIDE. The mandatory swimsuit segment of the competition triggered the controversy that arose in the 1930 Miss Philippines search. In the eye of the storm was Miss Violeta Lopez, who refused to wear a swimsuit--and was thus, as her supporters claim, eliminated from the royal race.

In the center of the storm was Iloilo belle Violeta Lopez, a strong contender for the title and a candidate of The Tribune, who eventually dashed all hopes of winning when she flatly refused to wear a swim suit. For this act, she was both praised and twitted, and a flurry of claims and counterclaims were hurled from both sides—Violeta’s relatives and supporters and the officials and judges of the Carnival association.

One of the strongest statements of support came from the Catholic Women’s League headed by Mrs. Leonarda Limjap de Ubaldo, who, one can recall was the original 1908 queen-elect who gave up her crown. “In these days of the breakdown of this womanly virtue of modesty, your example will be both an inspiration to all and an incentive to ideals helpful to our nation”.

Nicasio “Nick” Osmeña,
head of the Proclamation Night and the eldest son of President Sergio Osmeña, thought that there was much ado about nothing. “Stories praising Miss Lopez to the skies for refusing to put on a bathing suit are all but applesauce”, he said in a Herald interview, “Beside, she was already out of the running before the party (at Mr. Torres’ house)”. This prompted a cousin of Violeta, Luis J. Lopez to accost Nicasio at the Cine Ideal lobby where reports said he “attacked Nick, cutting his lips”, an incident that Osmeña denied.

Of the statement of Nick Osmeña, Miss Lopez retorted: “I do not know how Mr. Osmeña can pretend to have known what transpired in that party, when he was not even present”. She added that it was not true that she had wanted to wear a bathing suit but could not because she did not have one—she refused to put on one, period. “I never suspected that my refusal to wear a bathing suit would be so capitalized on by the newspapers…and now the facts are being twisted”.



Estrella was a student of Philippine Women’s College and the candidate of the newspaper, Intelligencer. She comes was from Laoag, Ilocos Norte. She was described as being “more mestiza” than Monina. Years after the Carnival, her kidnapping was reported in the papers.



She was Centro Escolar de Señoritas’ reigning Queen of Charity Fair. Luz was described in a Graphic write up as, “most typically Filipina in looks…is one of those women to whom photographs never do justice’.



A candidate of the Herald and a student in the College of Law at the University of the Philippines. She did not finish her studies as she married her consort the following year—Rosendo M. Chanco, an advertising executive. Musically inclined, she plays the piano and the violin. There is an intelligent quietness about her, she talks evenly and she was described as " being the best-read among the beauties".


Friday, February 6, 2009

59. 1930, Miss Philippines of the Manila Carnival, CONSUELO ZALDARRIAGA ACUNA

1930 MISS PHILIPPINES. The pride of Iloilo, Consuelo Acuna ("Monina") y Zaldarriaga, comes from a family of beauty titlists. Her official portrait shows her in a crown inspired by the Philippine flag and its emblems.

The 1930 Manila Carnival began on an auspicious note—a new decade of Flapper modernism in which Filipinos began to adapt more and more, the American way, especially in fashion. The selection of this year’s queen was marred by the controversial “bathing suit incident”, in which supposedly, the finalists were forced to wear bathing suits and parade before the judges, which created quite a furor among the girls, their families, school heads and other moral guardians.

PRETTY LITTLE ONE. Monina was one of the more popular winners of the Miss Philippines search, in a year marred with controversy.

The eventual winner, 17 year old Ilongga beauty Consuelo Acuña y Zaldarriaga-- was unruffled over these allegations. After all, she had always been know for her even-temper, diplomacy and sweet disposition. Consuelo was nicknamed “Monina”—meaning “pretty, little one”, the youngest daughter of Antonio Aldeguer Acuña and Lutgarda Aldeguer Zaldarriaga, who were first cousins. Indeed, as a baby, Monina was doted on by her two elder brothers (Jose, Carlos) and three sisters (Isabel, Gloria, Luisa), moreso when she grew up as a high school beauty of Holy Ghost College.

ARAB QUEEN. Dressed like an Arabic royalty, Monina went about her duties unflustered by the brouhaha brought aboiut by the bathing suit incident.

When the Philippine Carnival Association opened the search for the 1930 Miss Philippines, the task of selecting delegates to the national contest reverted back to the newspapers, as this proved to be the most lucrative way of raising funds. Consuelo was eagerly courted by newspapers willing to sponsor her candidacy —La Vanguardia, Taliba and La Defensa. One other change was the naming of the second, third and fourth placers as Miss Luzon, Miss Visayas and Miss Mindanao, irregardless of their province of origin.

KAHIRUP'S BET. Monina was fully supported by the most prominent social club from the Visayas--the Kahirup Club--pouring in their financial resources to ensure her victory.

Adding support was the powerful Kahirup Club, a social club that counted moneyed Visayan elites among its members. Consuelo’s name was consistently on the judges’ list, although there were several other rivals just as beautiful and accomplished like Corazon Campos, Estrella Alvarez, Luz Aunario and fellow Visayan Luz Villaluna and Violeta Lopez. To make the 1930 Miss Philippines search more exciting, it was announced that the winner would represent the country to an international beauty contest in Galveston, Texas.

ILONGGA'S SECOND QUEEN. Monina was the 2nd beauty from Iloilo to win the Carnival Queen crown. Twenty two years earlier, Pura Villanueva of Molo reigned as the first queen.

The panel of judges that included Mrs. Marina Yulo Vargas (wife of Jorge Vargas), Manuel Yriarte (National Museum Director), painters Fernando Amorsolo and Fabian de la Rosa convened several times to determine the winners. It was in the home of Manila Municipal Council president Manuel Torres that the final judging took place—and where the finalists were asked to don the controversial swim suits. Refusal to do so meant instant elimination, and this was how, talks spread, that favorite Violeta Lopez, got booted out of the winners’ circle.

OUT OF HER COSTUME..and into one of her native ball gowns. Monina cut a regal figure despite her very young age.

In the end, it was Monina—described by the papers as “so cute and childish”—who romped away with the 1930 Miss Philippines title, ahead of Estrella Alvarez (Miss Luzon), Luz Villaluna (Miss Visayas) and Rosario Ruiz Zorilla (Miss Mindanao) . Never mind if she was only 17, a year shy of the required age qualification, a technicality that the judges and the other contestants didn’t seem to mind.

MONINA AND EMILIO. Monina's escort was the young Emilio Osmena, son of politico Sergio Osmena.

Monina’s fabulous Coronation Night adopted an Arabian motif, dazzling in brilliance and attended by tens of thousands of carnival fans. A pageant play was presented, relating the story of a sultan who would relinquish his throne to his only daughter after picking out the worthiest prince to rule with her. Royals from around the world applied, but the princess chose a prince of her own race, a role essayed by Monina’s King Consort, Emilio Osmeña, a son of Sergio Osmeña.

A ROYAL GATHERING. Coronation night for Monina and her three princesses.

Monina breezed through her reign, participating in the traditional floral parade that once saw her car being mobbed by an enthusiastic crowd. She remained unruffled while her family watched in shock from the grandstand. Her smile never left her despite the long hours of obligatory socializing and partying. Some of the high points of her reign included attending the petit carnival of Iloilo which was touted in the papers as “the homecoming of the Visayan Miss Philippines”. She also served as the welcome official in the victorious return from Europe of Filipina opera diva, Jovita Fuentes.

MONINA AT THE FLORAL PARADE. Monina was presented before an adoring crowd in the traditional floral car parade.

With the Carnival days over, Monina donned her college uniform once again and went back to school. In 1939, she married Herman German in a private wedding, a relationship that ended just a year later. She never remarried after that, even if she was pursued by suitors that once included a French foreign correspondent. Monina’s direct relatives carried on the tradition of beauty in the family: cousins Chita Zaldarriaga and Carmen Tuason were both former Miss Philippines of 1937 and 1958 respectively, while niece Maricar Zaldarriaga was the 1971 Miss Young Philippines. But no doubt, it was the beautiful Consuelo Acuña, Miss Philippines of the 1930 Manila Carnival, who started it all.


“Sixteen Glorious Days of Fun! New Attraction! New Shows! New Rides! New Thrills! New Features!”. Thus bannered the headline of a double spread advertisement for the launch of the 1930 Manila Carnival. Scheduled from February 15 to March 2, the event promised to be “the most complete Oriental Exposition in which the progress of China, Japan and the Philippines along commercial and industrial lines will be given the prominence they deserve.”

Indeed, the insular and provincial participations were planned to be bigger than ever. And so were the attractions which were different in every way. “It will feature spectacular exhibitions that are sensational and thrilling”, the print ad boasted. “The nightly balls in the Auditorum, to be held in a most gorgeous setting, dazzling in brilliancy and splendor, will be a mecca for fun seekers!”.

The Carnival was promoted as a respite from business drudgery. “To work all year round is but one of the many railleries of life…now to give you a respite from all business worries, the 1930 Carnival will be held in a manner never before attempted on the local field”. For the first time, the carnival grounds took the form of a circle around a tower of glaring lights.

Like a page from the Arabian Nights, the general motif for the Auditorium was Arabic. Its lighting effects was suggestive of the mystic enchantments of the East, inspiring the splendor and pomp of the Orient. The architecture brought into the people’s realm “shadows of the fantastic East, memories of slowly moving caravans and object reminiscent of the temples of the sheiks”.

True to its promise, the Manila Carnival Association brought to the Philippines, novel and exotic rides direct from the amusement centers of Europe. “Quite a tough job, this”, Carnival Director Arsenio Luz admitted, “hunting for the best talents all over the world for the entertainment of the people of the Philippines”.


From Shanghai, Eddie Fernandez, with his big American vaudeville troupe, were contracted to delight carnival goers. Eddie Tait, the Olympic Stadium “ballyhoo man”, was also asked to put up 8 shows every year, every ride completely new and different. Cultural presentations from India and Shanghai were also planned. Re-enactment of historical battles were to be provided by the United States. Athletic competitions with bigger prizes will also be part of the Carnival highlights.

As early as December, publications have also been announcing their own search for a representative to the Miss Philippines 1930 quest, our country’s fourth since 1927. Readers then could nominate a candidate of their choice by submitting her picture to the publication, so long as a.) She is at least 16 years old or not older than 25 years, b.) Single, without stage or any cinema experience and with good reputation in the community. A leading magazine, Graphic, started its preliminary screening on 4 January 1930. The criteria used for the judges’ decision were beauty of face, perfection of form and accomplishment.

Prizes for Miss Philippines was Php2,000. The regional winners go home with Php1,000 each. The rules further emphasized that “the selection for Miss Philippines is a real beauty contest, not a popularity contest. The humblest girl from the most secluded barrio has as big a chance to win the honor as the daughter of the richest hacendero”.

“Outbarnum Barnum!”, was the Carnival Director’s battlecry, in an effort to make the 1930 Carnival bigger and better than ever. With its ‘galaxy of new features”, it proved to be one of the grandest Carnival ever, remembered not just for its thrills, but also for the controversy stirred by the national search for Miss Philippines.


SUPREME COURT 1929. Queen Pacita is surrounded by her princesses--all campus beauties-- in this rare photo montage.

An innovation in the 1929 Miss Philippines, as briefly mentioned earlier, was the temporary scrapping of the regional winners who made up Miss Philippines’ royal entourage—Misses Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Instead, 4 princesses (damas) were elected to form the 1929 court of beauty, each of equal rank, and each bearing the title of their schools, instead of their province of origin.


Princess ISABELITA DE LOS REYES, St. Theresa’s College

Pacita’s closest rival was a very pretty mestiza with a distinguished lineage—Isabelita de los Reyes. She was one of the daughters of Don Isabelo de los Reyes, “Father of Philippine Socialism” and founder of the Philippine Independent Church (Aglipay Church). Isabelita’s mother, Don Isabelo’s second wife, was a pure Spaniard from Madrid. At the homestretch, however, Isabelita withdrew from the contest due to the expressed disapproval of certain nuns from her school, leaving Pacita to win in a lopsided victory.

As it turned out, this objection was only true for the Miss Philippines title. The nuns feared that if Isabelita won, her studies would suffer. Isabelita amassed enough votes to be a runner-up, a position that had lesser obligations. Isabelita thus consented to be one of 4 maids of honor. In later years, Isabelita married Jose Barredo, the first Mr. Philippines and a noted tenor.


Princess BEATRICE VILLANUEVA, Sta. Rosa College


Princess ILUMINADA PEREZ, Centro Escolar De Señoritas

In the search of the fairest Escolarina to vie for the 1927 Miss Philippines title, two names stood out—Luisa Marasigan and Iluminada Perez of Batangas. Luisa eventually pipped Iluminada as the official school bet, but two years later, Iluminada carried the hopes of her college in the Third National Beauty Contest. She figured well and was elected as one of the princesses of the 1929 Miss Philippines.


Princess DOLORES SANTAMARIA, Manila College of Pharmacy