Sunday, May 8, 2011


ZAMBOANGUENA HERMOSA. Her Royal Highness Margarita Macrohon, queen of the 1934 Petit Carnival of Zamboanga.

The election of the Queen of the 1934 Petit Carnival of Zamboanga started in the second quarter of 1933, and by September 1933, the first canvassing of votes for the candidates was already undertaken. The five leading candidates were Remedios Caballero (510 votes), Marietta Hamoy (450 votes), Margarita Macrohon (310 votes), J. Torres (280 votes) and J. Marin (120 votes).

On October 28, the 9th counting showed a change in leadership with Margarita Macrohon on top with a whopping 8000 votes, followed by newcomer Susie Galle, Marietta Hamoy, Adela Johnston, Ella Varian and Remedios Caballero at the tail-end.

More concrete plans were also drawned up by the Carnival committee and exposed to the public by November. Local residents, however, raised eyebrows at the idea of a cabaret-style pavilion as one of the attractions of the petit carnival. Inter-school dance and costume contests were also planned, using the Manila program as the model.

The final tabulation to determine the 1934 Zamboanga Carnival Queen was done six days before Christmas. Margarita Macrohon was the runaway winner with 47, 470 votes. Her elected princesses were Remedios Caballero (2nd, with 23,810 votes) and Susie Galle (a close 3rd, with 21,810 votes).

Margarita Macrohon was already a popular young woman of Zamboanga society when she became queen. She had participated in the 1929 fiesta of the city’s patron Virgen del Pilar, crowning the “Princesa Floral” of the fiesta. She also joined the the Declamation Contest, a talent that ran in her family (brother Jun was a champion orator of Ateneo de Zamboanga).

In the Fancy Ball dance contests, Tetuan Elementary School placed first with their “Clown Dance” (under Maria Rodriguez), while the City School came in second with “Fairies Dance” (under Mary Hampton). In 3rd place was the contingent from Sta. Maria Elementary School with their “Russian Dance”.

When the fabulous Carnival of 1934 ended, the organizers realized a net profit of PhP 3.77 for their business venture—not exactly a great profit, but Zamboanga certainly had fun. And that was all that mattered.


Ever since local mestiza girl Carmen Fargas put Zamboanga province in the national beauty map by winning “Miss Pearl of the Orient Seas” at the first ever Miss Philippines quest of 1926, the city was never the same again. Zamboangueños became determined to duplicate the festive mood of Manila by staging their own petit carnivals.

Zamboangueños were already celebrating Rizal Day, Garden Day and the city fiestas with spectacular results since the 1920s, and the petit carnivals were another welcome additions to their fondness for social revelry. Two petit carnivals—one in 1930 and the last in 1934-- stood out for the lavishness of the staging and the competitiveness of the candidates in the beauty search.

Antonio C. Orendain, author of “Zamboanga Hermosa”, had vivid recollections about these most-awaited events of the city:

“The Carnivals were exciting. The Red Rovers sponsored most of them… The (beauty) contest was the Carnival fund raiser in those days and sympathizers sold ballots for their candidates. Family prestige and personal popularity counted for victory more than beauty—physical, intellectual, moral. When the candidates were on an even keel in their attributes, the contest was feverishly exciting.

IN THE DAYS OF MILK & HONEY, Zamboanga residents celebrated their fiestas lavishly and indulged even more luxuriously in fairs and carnivals with beauty queen to boot. In the petit carnival of 1930, the beauteous Rosie Shinn reigned as the queen with the debonair Pab Sebastian as her consort. Completing her court was the lovely Luisa Fernandez and Josefina Fermin.
In one such contest did Conchita Albrecht of Maluso lose to Rosie Shinn of Zamboanga City. Both mestizas were ravishing beauties and the contest was talked about for years later. The coronation pageants were fanciful, ranging from Egyptian, Arabic or Moorish spectacles to metaphoric fantasies. From the time Carmen Fargas won the title of ‘Pearl of the Southern Seas’ in a national beauty contest in Manila, the metaphor was popularly adopted."

Carnival organizers engaged the services of the best decorators in the province. Ramon Ramirez, for instance, a town artist who embroidered garments for santos, decorated chapels for fiestas and taught folk dances for veladas, was commissioned to direct most of the pageantry of the petit carnivals. In Tetuan, Badong Azacarraga, had the final say in the artistic directions for the district festivities, while a certain Pinky did all the work in the Visayan center of San Jose.

In that romantic era, the winning queens were exalted and extolled, often depicted as pearls and, as such, had thrones designed like cockleshells. Symbolic representations were the fad and there was even a year when dancers danced out of a giant pot to pay tribute to the Carnival sovereign.