Tuesday, October 19, 2010

143. Carnival Beauties: ISOLINA P. PALMA, 1926 Miss Tarlac

TOAST OF TARLAC. Isolina Palma, the 1st official Miss Tarlac competed in the search for the 1st Miss Miss Philippines of the 1926 Manila Carnival.

The first known Miss Tarlac to officially represent the province in the Manila Carnival was Isolina Palma, born 24 August 1905. She was the daughter of former Bacolor mayor Gregorio Palma with Genoveva Puno. A short while after the contest, she married Dr. Valeriano Calma, Ph.D., an agriculturist and agronomy professor from Bacolor, who earned his doctorate in the U.S.

They settled in Los Baños where, on the side, she ran a boarding house for U.P. students. The couple designed and built a house made of bamboo that became their home for over 40 years. They had 2 daughters, Elizabeth and Josephine . Isolina resided in Los Baños till her death on 25 April 1997.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


STAR OF THE CARNAVAL DE ILOILO. Her Majesty, Estrella II, wearing her crown of beauty and patriotism. Dated 1928.

To the province of Iloilo goes the distinction of producing the very first Queen of the Orient—Pura Villanueva—the accomplished Ilongga-Spanish mestiza who ruled and captivated the crowds of the 1908 Manila Carnival. In the succeeding editions of the Carnival, Iloilo belles regularly made their appearance on the Carnival stage in Luneta, to compete against other provincial muses for the title of ‘Queen of the Manila Carnival” and later, “Miss Philippines”.

Some Ilongga beauties who went to the national Miss Philippines pageant included Amparo Unson (the first Miss Iloilo) who vied for the title in 1926 and Julieta Lopez (Miss Iloilo 1927). Both, however, did not advance to the finals.

In 1928, the provincial government held its own Carnival, but the details of that event are lost to us. A queen, Estrella Villanueva II , nicknamed “Tiliang”, ruled the festivities of the ‘Carnaval de Iloilo’. We do not know if she was to have been the official Iloilo representative to the national Carnival, but in 1928, the event was scrapped due to financial, organizational and timing problems.

It would be another 22 years after Pura, for another Ilongga to bring home the crown for the province again. In 1930, the lovely Consuelo ‘Monina’ Acuña was crowned Miss Philippines.

141. Carnival Beauties: MARGARITA T. LACSON, 1926 Miss Negros Occidental

OCCIDENTAL TOURIST AT THE 1st MISS PHILIPPINES SEARCH. Margarita Lacson y Torres, the beauty bet of Occidental Negros, was the daughter of a Negrense Katipunero general who had a blood compact with Bonifacio. 1926 official photo.

There was much talk about the celebrated lineage of the first ever Miss Philippines of 1926, Anita Noble of Batangas. Descended from heroes on both sides of her family, Anita was a shoo-in for the crown, and when she emerged as the winner, newspapers had a heyday reporting her connections to Bonifacio and the Agoncillos.

But in that year’s search for Miss Philippines, another candidate had almost the same credentials, the daughter of a true-blue Katipunero originally from Iloilo, from: Margarita Torres Lacson, the 1926 Miss Negros Occidental.

Margarita was the daughter of Aniceto Ledesma Lacson (b.1857/d.1931) of Molo, Iloilo whose parents, Lucio Lacson and Clara Ledesma relocated to Negros when Aniceto was just a boy. Aniceto studied at Ateneo Municipal and had Jose P. Rizal, the future national hero, as a classmate.

As a Manila student, Aniceto had the opportunity to meet the Katipunan Supremo and founder, Andrés Bonifacio, with whom he had a secret blood compact, the only Negrense to do so. He subsequently became a general of the Philippine Revolution.

Margarita’s mother, Magdalena “Nena” Torres was the second wife of Aniceto. First wife Rosario Araneta, a member of the royal Kabungsuan family of Mindanao, bore him 11 children. With Magdalena, 10 more children were added to the large family. Margarita’s siblings included Resureccion, Leonila, Leoncia, Nicolas (married to Mayor of Manila Arsenio Lacson’s sister, Amparo), Juan, Lucio, Luis, Consuelo and Jose.

Margarita later became Mrs. William Gemperle, a Swiss businessman and a longtime resident of Manila.


MISS SILAY & MISS SAN ENRIQUE OF 1938 Beauties of the 1938 Negros Occidental Carnival & Exposition.

Negros had its own provincial version of the Carnival in 1928 with the launch of the Occ. Negros Carnival and Exposition. The "Sugar Queen of the Philippines" could very well afford to have its own fair, to showcase their affluence and prosperity brought about by its profitable sugar industry. As early as the Spanish times, Negros enjoyed a level of importance due to the huge economic investments infused on its sugar industry and towns like Victorias and Silay boomed, becoming more cosmopolitan and Hispanized as the years went by. This went on until the American Occupation, where its sugar produce was lapped up avidly by the U.S. market.

As such, the Negrenses' joie de vivre found outlets in festivals inspired by the Manila Carnival. The first Miss Negros Occidental had participated in the 1st National Beauty Contest of 1926, and from that moment on, the Negrenses have never ceased creating their own celebrations. In the 1928 provincial carnival, town muses graced the festivities and two of them are featured here: Miss Silay (La Musa of Guintabu-an) and Miss San Enrique, both unidentified in the photographs.

Today, the festival tradition continues in Negros, with the famous MassKara Festival of Bacolod, the Pintaflores Festival of San Carlos City and the Pasalamat Festival of La Carlota City.

Monday, October 4, 2010

139. Carnival Beauties: ROSARIO A. PICAZO, 1927 Miss Capiz

The province of Capiz made sure that their representative to the 1st National Beauty Contest would create a major impression in Manila, placing its bet on a lovely Capizeña with an impeccable pedigree.

The beautiful Rosario Acuña Picazo is the daughter of Rosario Villaruz Acuña with her second husband, Eugenio Picazo. Nena’s mother was married first to Gerardo Roxas, and one of their children, Manuel, would become the President of the Philippines ( 1948). Nena, thus, is her half-sister.

Nena’s Picazo siblings include Evaristo, Ines and Leopoldo. Competition was very tough that year, resulting in a tie that was only broken after seeking the advice of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon. The 1st Miss Philippines title went to Anita Noble of Batangas.


MARILAG NA BULAKENYA. Miss Malolos Josefa de Leon and Miss Hagonoy Carmen Tomacruz in their official photos as town muses of the 1927 Bulacan Provincial Fair.

One province that has consistently displayed its support for the national carnival is Bulacan. The province has taken part in the festivities since the inception of the fair in 1908, by way of town booths, product displays and the fielding of their beauty bet to the Carnival Queen search.

The progress of Bulacan was evident in its many pavilions put up for the pioneering 1908 Carnival, although its centerpiece Palacio de Bulakan earned mixed reviews. El Renacimiento reports: “(Bulacan Palace) has been economically improvised. Its presentation is disorderly. Made of nipa and bamboo, I shows the potentials of he industries of that province, the embryo of national industries. Hats, silks, bibelots, chairs, etc. make the pavilion an industrial, if not an art center..”

Bulacan made quite an impression in its 1924 participation, under the helm of Gov. Pio Valenzuela, who headed the Exhibicion de la Provincia de Bulacan. The town pavilions featured once again, their agricultural and commercial produce like the ‘agua minerales’ of Sibul Springs and Marilao.

In 1927, Bulacan once again held its own provincial fair, highlighted by the selection of town muses, two of which are featured on this page. Miss Malolos is Josefa Pantangco de Leon, a teacher at Bulacan High School, who went on to wed Aurelio Lularga Peña of Camiling, Tarlac. Miss Hagonoy, Carmen Tomacruz, comes from a political family from that town. The province-wide affair once again acclaimed the strides made by proud Bulakenyos in contributing to nation-building.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

137. Carnival Beauties: LORETO B. RELOVA, 1926 Miss Laguna

1926 MISS LAGUNA. The lovely Loreto Relova a noted town beauty, comes from a very large family from Pila, Laguna. She, too, had 10 children with Dr. Miguel Santos-Pascual. She competed in the very 1st search for Miss Philippines won by Anita Noble of Batangas.

The first Miss Laguna--Loreto “Etong” Relova was born on 24 February 1907 in, Pila, Laguna, the daughter of Regino Diaz Relova, a Katipunero colonel of the Magdalo faction and Teodula Oca Bartolome. The Relovas were a large and well-known family in the province—Loreta had ten siblings (Delfin, Rosario, Federico, Jose, Maria, Socorro, Roberto, Juan, Regino Miguel and Gonzalo)-- and for one of their fair daughters to be named Miss Laguna, was indeed a big honor. Her beauty was apparent at an early age—at 15, Etong was chosen to be Rosa Mistica in the annual Flores de Mayo of her town.

A first cousin, Supreme Court Associate Justice Lorenzo Rivera Relova mused about the Relova sisters—“si Charing ay sosyal, si Coring ay sosyal, si Etong hindi sosyal pero naging Miss Laguna”. As people close to her recall, Etong preferred staying at home, in the company of the tenants’ children who worked their Laguna farms. When gentlemen callers came visiting, she would stay in the bathroom, pretending to be busy. Her father had to have the trees surrounding their house cut down for fear that her admirers would climb them, since she refused to entertain them.

While her sisters and cousins went to school either at St. Scholastica or Philippine Women’s University, the young Loreto became an interna at the Holy Ghost College ran by German nuns from 1923-27. It was while she was a student there that the Governor of Laguna, Feliciano Arambulo Gomez, handpicked her to be the first Miss Laguna for the Miss Philippines search of the Manila Carnival.

Hopes were high for Etong to capture the Carnival crown, which, only four years before, had been won by a Pagsanjan beauty, Virginia Llamas—a first for Laguna. It was an exciting time for a 19 year old girl to come to the big city and meet other lovely girls from all over the country. As candidates, they toured different provinces and islands as part of their activities. Loreto did not win, but certainly relished her experience. Besides, much more wonderful things were happening in her life.

That same year, in May, while the beauty queen was coming out of the historic Pila Church, Dr. Miguel Santos-Pascual saw her from atop the veranda of Etong’s uncle, Ruperto Diaz Relova. Dr. Pascual was 10 years her senior, and already an established surgeon-physician of repute. He had finished his medical course at U.S.T and had gone to the United States and Paris, France for special studies.

It was love at first sight for the smitten doctor, and drove from Malabon to Pila to begin his courtship of Loreto. Dr. Pascual’s mother had to rent a house in Los Baños so that her son could be nearer his object of pursuit. On 7 September 1927, Loreto and Miguel tied the knot and their union resulted in 10 children (Miguel II, Raul Justino, Renato, Ma. Teresita, Dolly, Loreto II, Chit, Rene, Ed and Eduarda). It was a blissful married life, marred only by a fire in 1962 that razed their house to the ground and her Carnival photos and mementos. But Etong possessed such a sharp memory that she could easily identify relatives, determine their connection and name the provinces where they hailed from.

Their union sadly came to an end with Dr. Pascual’s passing on 7 July, 1967. Widowed at 60, Etong led a simple life surrounded by her children and grandchildren. She also became an ardent devotee of the Blessed Virgin. A routine hip operation in 1994 went awry when, after being given anaesthesia, she lapsed into a coma that would last for two long years. Loreto passed away peacefully on 3 June 1996. Had she survived her operation, she would have lived for the rest of her life in the United States where her children have all settled. Her memory continues to live on in the hearts of her family, as well as in the minds of Laguna oldtimers who, once upon a time in 1926, cheered their fair daughter as as she took centerstage to vie in the country’s biggest beauty concourse, all for Laguna’s pride and honor.

(I am indebted to Lou Relova, daughter of Loreto Relova, for her mother’s biographical sketch. My sincerest thanks! )