Sunday, April 10, 2011

168. ESPERANZA ESCOLAR LIMJAP-OSMEÑA: From a Carnival Princess to the Country’s First Lady

FROM A FIRST PRINCESS TO A FIRST LADY. Esperanza Escolar Limjap, from the nationalist Limjap family, was in the royal court of the 1915 Carnival Queen. She eventually became the First Lady of the Philippines by becoming the 2nd wife of Pres. Sergio Osmena.

Seven years after the first Carnival of 1908, the national fair had established itself as a grand event of eminence, due not just to the spectacles, but also in part to the prominent, high-profile personalities who participated actively in the Carnival festivities. One of the most ardent supporters were members of the wealthy Filipino-Chinese Limjap family, led by the family patriarch, Mariano Limjap and his wife, Maria Escolar.

It is to be remembered that the very first Carnival Queen of 1908 was Leonarda Limjap, an elder daughter of the Limjap couple. She, however, had to abdicate her throne in favor of a family trip to Japan. Pura Villanueva stepped in to assume the queenship of the very 1st Carnival. Perhaps to make up for that inconvenience, the Limjaps gamely joined the winner’s royal court of honor in the next few years.

First to make her appearance as a princess of the 1915 Carnival Queen, Concepcion Medina, was 19 year old Esperanza Escolar Limjap. Born in 1896, Esperanza , aside from Leonarda, had two other sisters—Felisa and Paciencia, and two younger brothers, Jose and Francisco, who would both marry Carnival Queens. Jose or Perico was wed to Catalina Apacible (1923 Queen) while Francisco was the King Consort of the 1926 winner, Socorro Henson. The Limjap sisters were popular high society figures due to the status of their family, who were also held in esteem for their strong nationalist bent—Mariano was known to have lent his financial support for the Philippine Revolution.

Just five years after her Carnival stint, Esperanza would meet and marry Sen. Sergio Osmeña, a widower who had previously lost his first wife two years before, Estefania Chiong Veloso. Osmeña had been tirelessly working for Philippine independence ever since he launched his political career, becoming a Speaker of the House of the 1907 Philippine Assembly. The promised independence was delayed by the World War II and the Japanese Occupation. Upon the death of Pres. Manuel Luis Quezon, Osmeña ascended the presidency of the Philippine government-in-exile in the United States—making Esperanza the fourth First Lady of the land.

She remained in the Philippines, however, all throughout the dark days of the World War II. She was a First Lady for just two years, while rearing her children Victor, Ramon and Rosalina. Esperanza Limjap-Osmeña, the beautiful lady-in-waiting of the 1915 Carnival court who became a First Lady, died in 1978 at age 82 years old.

Monday, April 4, 2011

167. Carnival Beauties: JULITA MATIAS, 1927 Miss Nueva Ecija

CROWN JEWEL JULIE. Julita Matias, the 1927 Miss Nueva Ecija, the second from the province.

The first time Nueva Ecija fielded a representative to the Manila Carnival quest for Miss Philippines was in 1926, when the first official Miss Nueva Ecija was crowned. This sparked interest in the national carnival promoting the provincial government to hold its own petit carnivals.

In 1927, Nueva Ecija again named its second queen to compete in the 2nd National Beauty Contest. She was none other than 21 year old Juliana "Julita" Matias, born on 11 December 1904. After her carnival campaign (the title went to Tayabasin Luisa Marasigan), "Julie" married Manuel Serrano Maronilla Sr., with whom she had 7 children: Manuel Jr., Jose, Irene, Norberto, Julian, Ramon and Mary.


ORMOCANON QUEEN. The royal queen of the 1932 Ormoc Carnival, identified only as T. Torres. Dated 1932.

Ormoc, now a city of Leyte, got its name from 'ogmok', an old Visayan term for lowland or depressed plain. Its early economy is agriculture-based, with a well-developed sugarcane, rice and pineapple industry. Ormocanons also subsisted on aquaculture or fishing.

The people of Ormoc are predominantly Catholic with a visible Muslim minority. Like other Philippine towns and places, Ormoc celebrates its annual fiesta in honor of the patron saints Saint Peter and Saint Paul on June 28 and 29.

In 1932, the one and only known Ormoc Carnival was held, possibly to coincide with their fiesta celebration. Chosen as the royal queen was the lovely Trinidad Garces Torres.The future carnival beauty was born in Ormoc on 5 July 1905, to Nicolas Torres and Carlota Garces. The prominent Torres family were of Spanish-Filipino-Chinese descent and this mix of races showed best in Trinidad's refined and delicate beauty (Lucy Torres, congresswoman, showbiz personality and wife of actor Richard Gomez comes from this clan).

“Trining”, as she was fondly called by close friends and family members, studied at a local school, St. Peter’s Academy. For her college education, she was sent off to Cebu where she enrolled at the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion.

Tall, gentle and always with a ready smile, Trining was the perfect choice to reign as the Queen of the 1932 Ormoc Carnival. She not only captivated the local crowd, but also a military man--Col. Segundo de Guzman Vergara, AFP PC, whom she married right after the Carnival on 21 May 1932.

As a young wife, Trining became adept in the domestic arts: sewing, baking and cake decorating. Gifted with an artistic flair, she took up painting as a hobby. The Ormoc ancestral home which was just across the Ormoc tennis court, gave her the chance to learn tennis and she enjoyed it as her sport. The Vergaras had seven children: Fe, Esperanza (twins), Caridad, Rodolfo, Teresita. Nicolas and Ma. Corazon.

At the height of the second World War, Col. Vergara, who was engaged in guerrilla activities, was caught by the Japanese in Baguio City. Trining’s strong devotion to the Sacred Heart and her valiant spirit saw the family through in their most difficult times.

After her husband’s retirement from military service, the family settled in Cebu City where Trining took an active part in the Sto Rosario Parish as a Catholic Womens’ League officer. At the age of 52, she was called back home by the Lord on 19 July 1957.
She lived long enough to writer her memoirs which were published and given away to relatives and friends who came to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Today, local residents are proud of what Ormoc has become--an independent component city, not subject to regulations from the Leyte provincial government. In fact, Ormoc today is the acknowledged economic, educational, cultural, commercial and transportation hub of western Leyte, notwithstanding the killer typhoon that flooded the city and took more than 6,000 lives in November 1991.

(Many thanks to Ma. Corazon Vergara Mendoza, daughter of Mrs. Trinidad Torres-Vergara for the biographical sketch of her mother. Additional info provided by Mr. Louie Nacorda, after contacting his cousin, Jullie Martinez Torres, Lucy Torres' mother).

165. TANGHALAN NG PILIPINAS: A Philippine Showcase at the 1912 Primera Exposicion Filipinas

(translated from ‘Sariling Tala ng Renacimiento Filipino’, February 12 issue)

The farming industry and probably, in the future, mining, is the source and wellspring of wealth of Ilocos Norte.I The woven products of Paoay are charming and durable. Praiseworthy too are the blankets and towels that they make. The natives take advantage of the abundant bamboo and rattan that grows there; they are made into chairs, salakots, beds and many more. The wood cut from the mountains of Solana, Piddig, Vintar and other towns are made into clothes cabinets (aparadors), tables, beds, hampers, hats and other items of note. The leaves of the ‘sarakat’ (a palm variety) plant are woven into sleeping mats and table runners in Banggi. We also noted that they make beautiful salakots of fine finish. There are knives with very good blades.

Palay is also one precious commodity valued by the province; the natives have more than sufficient supply, and the surplus is brought to nearby provinces—what more if there was a better water irrigation system.

Those, however, are not just the province’s riches; there are also its cotton threads, and in the earth’s belly comes valuable ores and minerals like magnesium, asbestos, yeso (gypsum), almagre (red ochre), coal and many more. It is hoped that these ores would bring a never-ending fountain of richness for Ilocos Norte.

The pleasing arrangement of the objects on display and the artful, visually-appealing product presentations are what make the Pangasinan exhibit impressive even to those with discriminating taste. At the door, the visitor gets the distinct impression of entering an expansive palace.

That’s because Pangasinan is the province that leads in palay harvest nationwide—and the husk (ubay) of the palay was used to decorate the interior of the booth, all the way to the center stage. Adding more appeal is a mandala of palay that serves as a centerpiece. Surrounding this mandala are spaces that contains the names of the wide rice variety of the province.

The interior columns inside the palace-like palay pavilion are wrapped with coconuts.

In the captioned picture placed in the center of the booth, we read of Pangasinan’s harvest tally for a year: 15 million pesos worth of palay, 2 million and 400 thousand pesos' worth of tobacco, 1 million and 800 thousand worth of coconut and hundreds of thousands’ worth of “pawid” (nipa roofing sheets), monggo and sugar which constitutes about 24 million pesos in value.

One should not also miss the sombreros from Calasiao: there were many of these on display made by a few women.

Pangasinan won a prizes for ‘the most artistic booth’.


Moroland’s showcase is full to the brim with valuable objects. There are large conches filled with corn grains or pearls, and there are many Moro attires, rattan chairs, wooden tables, hat racks and utensils made of brass, chalk ware, beautiful mats, whips, fish nets and many, many more.

On one side, one can view a variety of sharp spears, gleaming krises and blades; also here are hand-made ‘lantakas’ (cannons) and other Moro battle gear.

It is important to know that these are in great demand in Europe and America where they are bought for good prices, including rubber, almaciga wood, kala (tortoiseshell) or karey, sugarcane, palay, abaca, monggo, camote (yams), linga (sesame), peanuts, dapo (orchids), corn, tobacco, coffee, assorted stoneware and many more. The provinces of Moroland also have wooden produce like gibo, balakbakan, narig (all hardwood trees), lumbayaw (a rice variety), lawan, kalantas (lumber trees), yellow narra and many more.

The cynosure of many visitors’s eye is a small house where resides Datu Diki-Diki. This Moro has a height of just 2 feet, 10 inches and weighs 30 pounds at 37 years of age.

This showcase was given a prize for it’s “biggest number of quality goods”.

The showcase is decorated with abaca, which rivals the best abaca in the land. Samar, other than abaca, also produces palay, kalibiib, earth ore, vegetables like ube, gabi, squash , araro (arrowroot), and other harvests.

The natives are fond of making luxurious mats, salakot and tampipi (woven storage chests). They also weave piña fabrics. From the forests of Samar, one can get long and sturdy rattan. There are about 23 kinds of wood that can be used in the making of very durable wooden items. There are also many varieties of shell from the sea. We also saw a few mineral produce like black coal from the earth.

A live snake about 30 feet long, with a circumference as wide as a man’s thigh was kept in a cage—the object of the crowd’s fascination. Samar was awarded a prize for 3rd class provinces.

Ambos Camarines (Southern Camarines) won’t be left behind with its display of unique treasures. This province also produces abaca, palay, corn, sugar cane, coconuts and many more. Like the others, it also turns out good and sturdy rattan seats and polished sombreros that are of very good finish.

Wood of varying durability and long, thick rattan can be found in the forests and mountains of Camarines.

The more valuable display of this province are its mineral ores that are a source of paracale and tumbaga (low class gold). In the shores of some of its towns, one can also find many paka and all sorts of shellfish.