Thursday, February 11, 2010


To celebrate the 300th anniversary of the settlement of Baguio by the Spaniards (1623-1923), the city government of Baguio organized the 1923 Baguio Carnival and Exposition, the first since the 1915 Benguet Carnival. The fair was scheduled from April 21 to 24, at Burnham Park, timed at the height of the lowland summer heat, to entice visitors to cool off their heels and enjoy the “wonderland city a mile above the sea; this city without noise, withour factories, without dust”, as Mayor E. J. Halsema proudly touted.

He added in his personal invitation: “Naught but peace will greet you; peace and the hospitality which is a tradition in this mountain capital. The cool fragrance of spicy pines; the beautiful fern-bordered roads; the frosty evenings tempered by the grateful glow of pine logs blazing in great fireplaces”.

The main feature of the exposition was the rare convergence of the mountain folks of Northern Luzon—“the most picturesque hill people in the world”: the Kalingas, the Ifugaos, the Benguets, the Apayaos, the Ilongotes and the Bontocs. Much like how they were displayed at the St. Louis World’s Fair, the hill people in their native dresses interpreted their daily lives in constructed villages showing their typical mountain homes. Tribal dances and games, pony races and the people’s feats of prowess with the bow and arrow were featured during the gala week.

The exposition also showcased their industries that were long known to Chinese traders before Ferdinand Magellan came. Displayed at the fair for everyone’s admiration were various agricultural produce, metalworks in gold and copper, and handicrafts like woven products from Easter School—“the work of Igorot boys and girls”.

Crowned Queen of the 1923 Baguio Carnival was the Ibaloi beauty, Martina Salming, of the prominent Cariño-Carantes clan. She was escorted by Dr. Hillary Klapp, a U.S. educated doctor of Igorot descent and a family friend of the Cariños. The coronation rites were held at a specially-constructed auditorium at Burnham Park.

The 1923 Baguio Carnival Committee was headed by Dr. T. C. Arvisu (President), Juan Gaerlan (Governor of Benguet, Director of Exposition) and Jose Castro (Director of Carnival). Named Directors were Col. E. F. Taggart (Ret.) and Lt. H. J. Edmands of the U.S. Army, A.V. Jacinto (Treasurer), H. Hayakawa (Japanese Community), C.A. On (Chinese Community), Jose Castro (Business Community), Ceferina Floresca (Filipino Community), V.V. Valle (Civic League), B.J. Bello (El Norte), T.C. Arvisu (Pres., Baguio Civic League), Fiscal E.D. Perez (General Counsel) and S. de Ungria (Auditor).

The City of Pines rolled out its red carpet to the throngs of visitors who made the 7 hour train journey from Manila to Damortis via the Manila Railroad. A pleasant 2 hour car ride on Naguilian Road finally led to the city—ready with ample accommodations, including half a dozen fine hotels (led by Hotel Pines and budget Mountain Hotel at 5 pesos a day), a spacious dormitory and a tent city with a 500 people capacity.

“You will leave our mountain city with regret, but with the glow of health on your cheeks”, Mayor Halsema promised. True enough, the 1923 Baguio Carnival & Exposition was a resounding success, a bolstering local tourism like never before and impressing the thousands of visitors who enjoyed “the carnival of merrymaking by day and by night”, to the hilt.

110. The 'Carnaval' Comes to Town: PETIT FAIRS & PROVINCIAL EXPOSITIONS

Provincial government officials and regional participants who came to the city were witnesses to the success of the grand Manila Carnival. Many came away convinced that the success of the national event could be replicated at the provincial level. Besides, there were already some forms of festivities like Garden Day, agriculturals fairs and traditional fiestas that could be collapsed into one big provincial carnival. Just like the national Carnival, holding a provincial fair could boost local tourism, generate income and provide a venue for lively entertainment. Indeed, the first local carnivals served as a prelude for the province’s participation to the Manila Carnival, including the selection of the provincial delegate to the Manila Carnival Queen/Miss Philippines pageant.

Cebu was the first province to follow the lead of Manila by holding its own Carnival in 1913, just 5 years after the national carnival unfolded. Reigning in that very first carnival was the Spanish-Filipina beauty, Enriqueta Aldanese, who, in 5 years time, would conquer Manila by winning the 1918 Manila Carnival Queen title. Cebu Carnivals were held with regularity from the 1920s to thru the 30s. The 1930 edition would be remembered for its grand pageantry that was said to rival that of the Manila event; it was also an emphatic statement about pride of place, for the reigning Miss Philippines then came from the Visayas.

There was a Lerma Carnival in 1919, but the origin of this Carnival is rather sketchy—it may have been a staged affair by Jose Nepomuceno, an early moviemaker (extant photos are marked “Vanity Pictures”) or a sponsored event by Lerma Emporium.

Up north, the provinces of Ilocos held their own provincial fairs that lasted from the ‘20s thru the post-war years. As early as 1921, there was an Ilocos Sur Carnival that was held in Vigan. It was held consecutively till 1925, and again in 1930. In 1935, a Gran Carnival y Feria de Ilocos was held from January 18-27 also in Vigan, where a tall “Tower of Progress” became the fair’s centerpiece. After the war, the Ilocos Norte Carnival & Industrial Fair was held on Jan. 1946. Three years later, the Ilocos Sur Carnival and Exposition was put up in January, dedicated to Pres. Elpidio Quirino. Aparri, Abra and Cagayan also organized their own provincial carnival which mimicked the Manila edition right down to its themes. The Petit Carnival in Aparri held in 1939 was memorable because it featured little girls as carnival royalties.

Undoubtedly, the most exotic would be the carnivals held in the Mountain Province—there were two known editions: the 1915 Benguet Carnival and the 1923 Baguio Carnival and Exposition. In both stagings, lovely Ibaloi queens ruled the affair, crowned in their ethnic finery.

In Central Luzon, Bulacan and Tarlac both had their own fairs in 1927. But Tarlac towns like Concepcion and Camiling separately held mini-carnivals too. Pangasinan had three official carnivals in 1919, 1926 and 1928 while Nueva Ecija had two, one in 1926 and in 1927.

An Angeles Carnival was held in 1925, and the next year, an even bigger Pampanga Carnival was mounted to choose the lovely bet to the national Carnival Queen tilt. But the biggest carnival ever staged in the Kapampangan region was the 1933 Pampanga Carnival and Exposition hosted by San Fernando, organized under the directorship of Justice Jose Gutierrez-David. All the municipalities of the province converged in the capital town, setting up fancy booths that displayed the agricultural, commercial and industrial products of the town. The carnival generated a lot of media mileage on national dailies and magazines.

Other provinces in Luzon that celebrated their own Carnivals included Laguna (1924), Batangas (1928) and Albay (1935).

In the South, provincial and town carnivals were held in Mindoro (1926, 1936), Iloilo (1928), Negros Occidental (1929), Capiz (1929), Surigao (1929) and Ormoc (1932) and Bacolod (1939). Even Mindanao provinces took a cue from the colorful carnivals of Luzon and Visayas by mounting their own versions. There was even a Jolo Carnival, but the most spectacular was the 1938 Davao Carnival and Exposition that also had its own auditorium where evening shows were held, featuring folk dancing, balls and military parades.

As was to be expected, when interest in the Manila Carnival started to wane, so did the popularity of provincial fairs. The last big national event that aimed to revive the heady days of the Carnival was the Philippine International Fair of 1953, which attracted international attention. The initial momentum, however, was not sustained and thereafter, provincial fairs and expositions never regained their former glory. By the 1960s, they had become virtually extinct.

The success of these provincial events, however short-lived, owes much to the participation and support of thousands of people who came to infuse the karnabals with a strong sense of community spirit and solidarity-- the town officials, organizing committee members, brass bands and showmen, military officers, school personnel, town muses, students, tourists, visitors-- carnival revelers all. This is an achievement in itself, one that the provincial carnival fairs of yore will always be remembered for.

109. Carnival Mascot: THE RED DEVIL

Fancy dress costumes and parties were known as early as the 15th centuryt in Italy, where the first masquerade balls were all the rage. These became so popular that similar events were opened to the public, in festivities marked with dances performed in attractive costumes.

Nearby countries adapted these masked balls, but it was the 18th century Victorians who expanded and elaborated the concept of fancy costume parties. The favorite costumes of the day were Harlequins, Jesters, Tarts and Vicars—and the Red Devil.

Red is the color most often associated with the Devil as it is the color of the fires of Hell, and is associated with lust, passion and excess. The Devil is also a symbol for a wild, uncontrollable spirit, chaos and the opposite of socially acceptable behavior, which aptly described the mood and ambiance of the Carnival. Hence, the Red Devil was adapted as one of the mascots of the Manila Carnivals, and the image of the grinning, be-winged red creature was extensively used in merchandising and promotions of the event. Revelers dressed as the Red Devils were seen on parades, or featured atop carrozas, thus perpetuating the mascot’s image.

The Red Devil also made its appearance on Carnival medals, but the skew towards industrial and agricultural progress forced the Organizers to review the Carnival icons; the Red Devil (as well as the Billiken) was eventually replaced with more positive allegorical characters of progress e.g. women holding the rich harvest of the land, idealized Filipinas before expansive rice fields.

108. Carnival Mascot: BILLIKEN

“I am the God of Happiness,
I simply make you smile..
I prove that life’s wroth living
And that everything’s worthwhile
I am the God of Happiness,
My name is Billiken”

In the early part of the 20th century, a Missouri art teacher, Florence Pretz, designed an elfin image with pointed ears, an impish smile and a conehead topped with a stub of hair. She had conceived this charm doll based on a dream, legend say, and in 1908, she acquired a patent for it and the manufacturers who produced the figures gave it a name—Billiken.

The world soon started its love affair with the Billiken. The mysterious chinky-eyed imp was imbued with a new persona—“the God of Things as they Ought To Be”. The Billiken was looked at as a giver of good luck and also as a ”sure cure for the Blues, that Solemn Feeling, the Grouch, the Hoodoo Germ, Hard-Luck Melancholia, the Down and Out Bacillus”.

It was for this reason that the first Manila Carnival of 1908 adopted the Billiken as its mascot. It had also been picked as the mascot of the 1909 Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, and its likeness was carved by Eskimos in precious ivory.

The Carnival Billiken made its appearance in local newspaper editorial cartoons, a sort of a welcome official to Carnival visitors. There were also dressed-up Billiken mascots who joined the parades and fascinated the young and old alike. Surprisingly, the Billiken was not reproduced on Carnival medals—unlike the other carnival –the Red Devil.

True to its nature, the Billiken was depicted as a happy figure, always with a wide lucky grin and open arms for all. “As long as I smile at you”, a Billiken poem reminds, “bad luck can’t harm you. Grin and begin to win!”.

Indeed, the Billiken blessed the very first Carnival with great luck—after all the earnings and expenses were totaled, there was a sizable profit of P13,391.30 left. This, aside from countless orders for local products exhibited by the provinces in their booths (Laguna received P15,000 worth of orders from one foreigner alone). Equally valuable was the international goodwill generated by the national event. Well done for “the smiling god of good fortune, the original divinity of optimism”—the Billiken!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

107. DRESSING ROYALTY: Couture & Costumes fit for a Queen

As paragons of Filipina pulchritude, the Queens of the Manila Carnival were also looked at as icons of fashions, and the royal crownings and parades gave their fans the special chance to assess their queens’ sartorial sense. The costumes and fashions of the candidates mirrored the prevailing tastes and social mores of the times, but a few dared to cross the bounds of conventions with creative stylings of our national formal wear.

In the 1908 Manila Carnival, the Oriental Queen awed the Carnival audience by coming to her presentation night dressed in a reconfigured baro’t saya. Pura Villanueva’s mother, the highly skilled Emilia Garcia, sewed the unique creation herself, completely removing the panuelo from the ensemble. Fashioned from piña and fine sinamay gauze, the baro’t saya was then meticulously hand-embroidered by Emilia. A clever touch was the use of a Japanese fan as a fashion accessory, a symbol of the queen’s Oriental domain. When Pura showed up for the first time in this outfit, the reception was nothing short of spectacular, and newspaper accounts were one in saying the native wear became her.

On the other hand, the next year’s winner, Julia Agcaoili made a complete turn-around by wearing a Western-inspired dress, an Empire-cut gown that was immensely popular in European countries, but the use of Filipina costumes made their return in the next editions of the Carnival, starting with the 1912 winner, Paz Marquez.

The regional winners wore their titles with pride, most especially the Mindanao muses. As early as 1912, the reynas of Mindanaw came to their coronations garbed as exotic Sultanas and Zoraydas in form fitting outfits matched by their court. Only a few Misses Mindanao winners (1931-1935) continued to adhere to this dressing tradition until the idea was abandoned altogether.

As mentioned earlier, the Coronation motifs were almost always thematic (e.g. 1915-Roman, 1922-Grecian, 1923-Russian, 1925-Egyptian, 1926-Hindu-Arabic, 1930-Siamese). There are pictures of the 1931 winners in Muslim dresses, but these may have been just for one pageant presentation. In 1929, the event had a Sea Fantasy theme complete with a Poseidon character. Pacita delos Reyes wore a Graeco-Roman inspired gown with thousands of seed pearls dangling in front, true to her being a “pearl of the Orient Seas”. All these elaborate costumings were to give way to more traditional dresses in subsequent Carnival outings.

In 1926 and 1927, when minority candidates from the North and South came to compete in Manila, they made clear to the crowds their provinces of origin by coming in regional ethnic costumes.The 1927 Miss Mountain Province, Juliet Linney and Miss Baguio Beatrice Sanup came in Igorot costumes, made of indigenous woven fabric. Scott Rasul (1926 Miss Sulu), Bala Amai Miring (1926 Miss Lanao), Manuki Makarimbang (1927 Miss Lanao) wore colorful malongs.

The 1927 Miss Mindanao winner, Nora Maulana of Sulu, stood out during the Coronation Night, resplendent in a Muslim costume and looking very much like a Mindanao princess. While the rest of the winners had flowing serpentina trains, she had a shimmering printed skirt that ended at her ankles. Her other official pictures show her in batik tops with rich with patterns traced in sequins and beads and Muslim-style skirts, with a manton draped over her shoulders.

The 1930s showed the emergence of Philippine haute couture from the atelier of the most eminent designer of the time, Dña Pacita Longos. She revolutionized the terno by removing the tapiz which facilitated mobility of the wearer. For the 1931 Queen, Maria Kalaw, she designed a modern, yet beautiful burnt orange and black terno that wowed the crowds gathered at her presentation at the Carnival Auditorium.

After 1935, fancy costumes were dispensed with altogether, with ladies preferring to don more modernized versions of the terno—some modified in one streamlined piece, others with peplums, fluffed up with petticoats, and embellished with appliqués, ruffles, lace and embroidery.

By 1939, the long, unwieldy train had disappeared altogether with more volume added to the skirt’s silhouette. But sadly, even the sight of fashionable Queens dressed to the nines on their royal thrones and carrozas could save the day for the Manila Carnivals, which, plagued by lackluster support and fundings, were no more by the turn of a new, but turbulent decade.

Monday, February 8, 2010

106. Showcasing Progress: CARNIVAL BOOTHS & PAVILIONS

While the carrozas of the carnival were providing attraction to the crowds that trooped to the streets of Manila, the Carnival kiosks, booths and pavilions were luring thousands of local and international buyers with their array of commercial, industrial and agricultural produce, presented in appealing, and often spectacular ways.

“This makes it possible for the representatives of the Foreign markets to come into close contact with the producing possibilities of the different sections of the Philippine Islands”, an article in the Philippine Magazine reported in 1909, “In this way, it will be possible for the Producer to learn just what class of goods the Foreign market is interested in, and for the Foreign market to discover just what the producing possibilities of the Islands are”.

These commercial booths—as opposed to the booths of the insular government bureaus which were served as self-promotion for their public welfare work-- became even more important as the Carnivals downplayed the elements of merrymaking and emphasized the economic values to be gained from the commercial exhibitions. “The industrial benefit to result from this feature alone can hardly be overestimated,” the Philippine Magazine continued, “as it is a well-known fact that one of the greatest weaknesses of the industrial situation in the Islands is the misdirection of effort, which, if properly directed, would add millions to the annual possibilities of production”.

Thus provinces vied for attention through their gaily- decorated booths, ‘eye candies” to all who passed and stopped by. In the very 1st carnival for example, the Laguna provincial booth was singled out as “the envy of all”, what with its attractive and comprehensive presentation of its most notable products: coconuts, bananas, pipinos, mineral water from Los Baños and even pindang na usa. There was even a guest book for the signatures of visitors.

The “Palacio de Bulakan”, on the other hand, was made of nipa and bamboo, but the presentation of products—hats, silks, handkerchiefs, chairs—was disorderly. In this “palace”, the finest products of its major towns were displayed: Baliwag had its hats of uway, San Miguel de Mayumo had silleria de bejuco, while Malolos showcased its wine products and chinelas. Kalumpit’s attractions included mats, slippers and bibelots—of which many were sold.

A regular Carnival participant, Bulacan expanded its product display in 1924 by including quarried products like building stones from Meycauayan and cement mixes from Sta. Maria. It also boosted its industrial products with the inclusion of ‘alcohol, vinagre, sombreros de caña, tejodos de piña, jusi y de seda’ and a harvest of fruits like ‘platanos, melons, chicos, ates, cruelas y famosas mangas’.

In 1912, Pampanga amazed the Carnival crowds with a prize-winning booth that featured Mount Arayat, a landmark of the province.

Not to be outdone were the booths set up by large business establishments of the country. In 1908, La Fortuna put up a booth that had a Goddess of Plenty figure sculpted by Romualdo de Jesus, showing the deity holding a cornucopia of sweets and pastries. The shoe store El Adelantado del Siglo, and the hat store, Silanganan shared a booth that had the Wheel of Progress, with the sun, moon and 7 stars. There were pillars on both sides of the door and all the signages were in Pilipino.

But even with such good intentions, the media had a heyday picking on the booths and their commercial exhibits. In trying to show the best of the Islands, our worst side was also unwittingly revealed. El Renacimiento, a leading newspaper of the time, ruefully observed:

“In all the palaces, pavilions in miniature and the cockpit coliseum, the cult of vice is shown in all its splendor.
Bar, canteen: beer is the queen.
This City has no capitol, only a headquarters.
Music is forever playing. Ears are deafened.

Oh, the Filipino!”

105. Fantasmagoria on Wheels: CARNIVAL FLOATS, III

San Miguel Beer reproduced its building led by a man made of beer cans on the float. Real beer flowed out of the castle, drank by real men. An America, Charlie Heffting rode in front with a large Dutch stein to catch the beer.

Kuenzle and Streiff showed the Swiss Alps with fat cows on pine tree-lined pasture.

La Perla had pillars of biscuits and stars showing the three regions of the Philippines. The band of musicians had biscuits pasted on their uniforms.

Watson Soda had a large siphon, with soda water bubbling out of it.

Walk-Over Shoes showed the sign of satisfaction, with elegant columns supporting it.

John Gibson Sawmill Co. had a fine dressing table made of rough-hewn logs, a fine interpretation of its theme: “From Forest to Finished Products”. It garnered First prize in the commercial float category.

El Renacimiento had a Perseus cutting off the head of Medusa, referring to the victory of the Sun Hero over the tempests.” This float came in 2nd in the “Most Artistic” category.

Curiously, the parade ended with a carromata, which had a friar and a lady talking to each other inside. In all, 40 floats participated in the program, seen by 25,000 people, that ended at 11 p.m.
The parade spectacle would be repeated in the next editions of the Carnival. At the specially named Magallanes Carnival of 1921, the 2nd parade was dedicated to the navigator, Ferdinand Magellan. The Magallanes Commission even made the parade more elaborate wit the production of 2 pageants that depicted Philippine and Spanish life in the 16th century. To entice participants, the Carnival Association offered 20 magnificent prizes for the most artistic floats, most original float, most humorous floats and the best historical float.

As more and more cars became available in our Islands, the Carnivals of the late 1920to the 30s popularized the Floral Parade. Automobiles bearing the Carnival muses were decorated profusely with flowers in the Old World and American tradition. As the vehicles traveled the parade route, the people who lined up the streets were encouraged to throw flowers at the Carnival beauties; in turn, the ladies threw back flowers at the excited crowd.

Carrozas and floats continued to be part of the great Carnival tradition till the very last, but the later conceptions could not quite match the grandeur and splendor of those made during the early editions of the Carnival, particularly the very first.

104. Fantasmagoria on Wheels: CARNIVAL FLOATS, II

The Bureau of Education was classic, elegant. The Arts and Science were shown. The Customs float had a pink and gold color motif.

The Philippine Constabulary float was presided by a Queen of Peace, seated beneath a Roman Arch.

The Meralco had a large float. Lightning was held in the hands of a man, who was followed by a crowd representing all nations. It featured lots of special effects, including lightning that zigzagged all over the float. Beneath a huge globe of electric light sat the Queen of Electricity.

The Elks Club had large flowers, pink and yellow. On the front side was the head of “Alce”.

Sprungli & Co. had a bear drinking the Swiss milk, “Oso”.

Walter E. Olsen & Co. was represented with two grand floats. The first showed Jose Rizal cigars with the bust of the national hero presented as a centerpiece, flanked by two handsome urns. A maiden held aloft a banner proclaiming the "King of Cigars".

The Egyptian Cigarette float came next, with two Egyptian Sphinxes up front. Behind, a group of Nubian black beauties relax with their cigarettes in a harem tent, flanked by crescent moons and stars. This float was adjudged the “Most Artistic”.

Hike Shoes showed a globe, with a huge shoe on top of it, by McGrath. The float merited quite a lot of attention.

McCullough and Company showed the Queen of the Arts, and was seen as one of the most beautiful, what with a bevy of beauties “in graceful attitudes”, atop the float.

W. H. Anderson & Co. showed barrels of Green Barrel cement. There was a massive effect on top of short pillars.

Clarke had a small portable shop of sweets, with small white children filling themselves with them.

Castle Bros. Wolf & Sons had the symbolic horn of plenty, spilling out an assortment of imported goods like pickles and meats, arranged artistically while a Filipina beauty stood in the foreground.

Germinal Cigar Company had “dainty maidens on tiptoe flingin to the breeze the banner announcing the name of the firm, with a little mite standing in the foreground, smiling and waving to the public.”

La Rosa Cigarette Factory carried its emblem, a giant rose just about to bloom, with 3 little maidens coming out of the flower, a most pleasing scene.