Tuesday, September 27, 2011

191. Carnival Beauties, PILAR BLANCO, Candidate, 1934 Miss Philippines

PILLAR OF BEAUTY. Pilar Blanco, a classical pianist from Cebu, was a popular candidate to the 1934 Manila Carnival quest for Miss Philippines. Her daughter is also a concert pianist of repute, Ingrid Sala-Santamaria. Ca. 1934.

Pilar Blanco was a budding classical pianist from Cebu when she started attracting the attention of local beauty aficionados. She was one of the first graduates of Sister Baptista Battig, a German Benedictine nun who came to Manila in 1908 to teach music. The good sister rented out pianos in makeshift classrooms and taught Filipino students Western music and techniques.

Among Pilar’s co-students were Marcela Agoncillo, Pacita Zaragoza, Blanca Castillo and Imelda Katigbak; the latter two became concert artists. Pilar herself was an ardent and accomplished pupil of Sr. Battig. Eventually, Sr. Battig would eventually set up a regular music department in a Singalong school that would be known as St. Scholastica’s College.

When it was time to nominate a candidate for the queenship of the 1934 Manila Carnival, Pilar’s name was submitted by the newspaper, “The Social Fountain”, which avidly supported her. Hopes were high for the Cebuana who not only possessed mestiza good looks but also an exceptional musical gift. But competition was stiff that year; the crown went to a Chinese-Filipina from Marilao, Clarita Tan Kiang, a student of the University of the Philippines.

Pilar, however, had other things planned, one of which was to marry her handsome beau, Salvador E. Sala, an educator. Even with a family to care for, Pilar continued her passion for the piano, by setting up a music school in her native Cebu. She named it the Battig Piano School, in honor of her mentor, and when her daughter Ingrid came of age, she became her first tutor. Ingrid Sala-Santamaria would pursue her advanced music studies at the world-famous Juilliard School and become a concert pianist of note.

The flowering of the golden age of music in Cebu is credited to the relentless promotion of Pilar Blanco-Sala and her family. It was she who established the Cebu Youth Symphony Orchestra (CYSO), later to be known as the Peace Philharmonic of the Philippines. The Sala children honored their parents with the creation of Salvador and Pilar Sala Foundation, Inc. (SPSFI) in Cebu on 10 October 1998, a non-governmental organization that implements social projects in the field of education and music.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

190. CATALINA MORENO ZAVALA: A Family's Recollection of Miss Luzon 1935

Catalina Zavala Moreno was born on November 11, 1916 to Luz Vasquez Villena and Aquilino Zavala, both residents of Tondo, Manila. She was the eldest of 5 siblings, 3 girls and 2 boys. She spent her childhood and early adult life in Tondo, went to primary school in Sta. Catalina College and attended the University of the Philippines for a course in Home Economics.

Catalina, or Nena, as she was fondly called, was a beautiful child, and often elicited admiring glances and comments when she accompanied her mother on various outings. She was known as "muneca" (Spanish for 'doll') because of her fair skin, brown hair and beautiful brown eyes and long curly lashes. Nena grew up to be a tall, willowy and winsome beauty and many suitors were after her during her years in the University. It was during these years that she was asked to vie for the title of carnival queen, that era's version of our beauty pageant.

As history records, Nena won the title of Miss Luzon during the 1935 carnival. Photos of the coronation night show her to be a lovely, slender and graceful young woman, poised and confident, yet still sheltered and innocent, on the cusp of womanhood at age 19.

She was swept off her feet by young, dashing and handsome Hector de Santos Moreno, youngest scion of the respected de Santos-Moreno clan, just arrived from a four year course in Heidelberg, Germany. He was the grandson of Marcelino de Santos (treasurer of the Katipunan, associate of Jose Rizal),who has a street in Divisoria named after him, and youngest son of Pacita Ongsiako de Santos and Roberto Gutierrez Moreno (then Fiscal of San Pedro, Laguna).

Hector fell in love with Nena and persuaded her to elope with him in the summer of 1936. They were married in Baguio on April 14, 1936 and took up residence in the Moreno mansion on Juan Luna Street in Tondo, Manila -- then one of the more respectable residential areas in old Manila. Hector and Nena's early married life was spent in this house, along with the young families of Hector's siblings: Ada Moreno de Leon, Nitang Moreno Lopez, Mario Moreno and Elsa Zamora, and Choling Moreno and Enrique Villanueva. In later years the siblings left Juan Luna to take up residence in other parts of Manila, but Hector and Nena remained there along with Ada and Sancho de Leon.

One interesting footnote about this imposing structure built on approximately 20,000 square meters of land is that an exact replica of the house was built in Gagalangin, a few minutes away from Juan Luna, by the same architect. This second mansion housed the de Santos siblings.

Hector and Nena Moreno stayed in Juan Luna until 1950, when they moved to Horseshoe Drive with their 5 children. Two more children were born after the move to Quezon City, and Hector and Nena lived here until their last days.

Nena quickly involved herself in the neighborhood association, and as president worked at organizing the neighborhood along with the other residents' wives. She also threw herself in Jayceerette activities in full support of her husband's membership in this organization, participating in most of the fundraising activities of the group. She was a full-time mother except for when she ran the restaurant Talk of the Town at Manila Doctor’s Hospital and when she ran the family's 300-hectare hacienda in Nueva Ecija. Apart from these commitments, Nena was basically a housewife, devoted to the care and upbringing of her (now) 7 children; Roberto, Hector, Maria Paz, Jose Luis, Maria Isabel, Miguel and Maria Luz.

In her later years, Nena devoted her days to parish prayer meetings and related activities and to the care of her husband. She was always the focal point in family gatherings, and her children and grandchildren cherish the memory of many happy, noisy and fun-filled family events in Horseshoe Drive. Nena was always caring, supportive and loving to all the members of her family. Her incomparable sense of humour, her incisive witticisms and words of advice, her wisdom and generosity made her the perfect mother, the perfect lola, the perfect wife, and these are the traits she will always be remembered for. She passed away at the age of 81 on May 13, 1998, and Hector followed 3 years later on May 14, 2001. She was a beauty all throughout her life, doted on by her husband, loved by all.

(This contributed piece was made possible through the efforts of Andrea Tantoco (Catalina's granddaughter) and Maria Luz (Jackie) and Maria Paz (Tootsie) Moreno who wrote this biographical sketch based on their recollections of their parents, Catalina and Hector Sr. Many thanks!).

Monday, September 19, 2011

189. Carnival Memento: 1936 MANILA BOHOL BOOTH BROCHURE

The Commonwealth Carnivals were the last to be celebrated in the country. The 1936 edition was mounted at the usual venue, Luneta, riding on the crest of national enthusiasm, brought about by America’s promise of independence after a 10-year transition period.

Provincial participation continued at the Carnival, and the Province of Bohol was a consistent and active member of the 1936 fair held from 15 February to 1 March 1936. The slant of the Carnival was the same as in the previous year, with emphasis on the Philippines’ commercial and industrial progress.

Bohol staged an art deco booth, featuring representative samples of its products. This complimentary brochure served as a guide to the province, to attract prospective investors and tourists alike.

From the write-up, we see that Bohol’s agricultural produce included palay, corn, sugar, abaca, cogon and tobacco, in that order. A census of the province’s animal stock was also featured, complete with a tally of the number of carabaos, cows, horses, pigs, goats and sheep found in the region.

Putting its best foot forward, Bohol also boasted of its new services and infrastructures, including its two airports and the telephone system connecting the island to the rest of the Philippines and the world. The looming war in the would put a halt not only to the national fair but also the great Philippine dream.

On 17 May 1942, just 6 years after the Carnival, Bohol would be invaded by the Japanese by way of Tagbilaran. Three very difficult years where to follow, until the return of the Americans to Bohol on 11 April 1945. A year later, Bohol became a part of the independent Republic of the Philippines.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

188. Carnival Beauties: MARIA PALOMA OSMEÑA, Candidate, 1934 Miss Philippines

PRESIDENTIAL DAUGHTER , Maria Paloma Osmena, Candidate, 1934 Miss Philippines.

In 1934, the participation of one candidate to the annual Miss Philippines search of the Manila Carnival elicited a lot of interest and media following. Maria Paloma Osmeña after all, was the daughter of Sergio Suico Osmeña (1878-1961), governor of Cebu and Speaker-elect of the 1907 Philippine National Assembly. He would go on to become a Vice President of Manuel L. Quezon in 1935, and eventually become the 4th president of the Philippines (1944-46) after Quezon’s death.

Maria’s mother, Estefania Chiong Veloso, had 9 other children with Sergio: Nicasio, Vicente, Edilberto, Milagros, Emilio, Jesus, Teodoro, Jose, Sergio Jr. Maria’s brothers were involved at some point in Carnival activities like Nicasio or Nick and Emilio, who provided escorting duties to some of the Carnival royalties. Maria’s father would marry a second time to Esperanza Limjap, herself a former Manila Carnival princess.

Maria’s candidacy was supported by a leading newspaper. The competition that year was stiff, with the UP collegian candidate, Clarita Tan Kiang prevailing over the rest of the candidates that also included Lucy Pamintuan, Luz Sarmiento, Pilar Blanco, Pura Luna, Consuelo Villamor and Angelina Diy. Still, her Carnival experience was something she would not forget.

Ten years after, she met and married an accomplished classical pianist in New York on October 1944, James Milne Charnley. Charnley often accompanied opera singers like Bidu Sayao, a Metropolitan Opera House soprano and one of Brazil’s most famous artists. They settled in New York, New York.

When Pres. Diosdado Macapagal changed the date of Philippine Independence to June 12, children of past presidents—including Maria Osmeña-Charnley, were present at the historic signing of the act on 4 August 1964. With her were Gerry Roxas, Carmen Melencio-Aguinaldo, Manuel Quezon Jr. and Tomas Quirino.

Maria and James regularly shuttled back and forth from the U.S. to the Philippines. James also got to accompany local Philippine divas like Nelia Manalo Concordia whenever they gave recitals. After her husband’s death, Maria settled back home in the Philippines and lived to be in her 90s. She reposes at the family mausoleum in Cebu.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

187. Carnival Beauties: CATALINA "Katy" DE LA CRUZ, Candidate, 1924 Queen of the Manila Carnival

KATY DE LA CRUZ AT AGE 12. The future 'bodabil' superstar, not yet a teen, but already looking like a sophisticated vamp. She was already an established name in the local vaudeville circuit, performing in top-rated movie houses, when she was nominated as one of the Manila candidates for the 1924 Manila Carnival Queen search. Ca. 1919.

In 1924, a city search was conducted to select the Manila candidate to that year’s Queen of the Manila Carnival quest. A 17 year old petite and talented beauty nearly caused an upset by placing a strong second to the eventual winner Lolita Paterno. She was none other than Catalina de la Cruz, who, as Katy de la Cruz, would go on to greater fame on the world stage as a jazz and torch singer, honed by years of vaudeville experience in the Philippines.

She was born in Intramuros on 13 February 1907, although her roots are in Bulacan. Her father was a concierge at the Ayuntamiento Bldg., earning 30 pesos a week. At age 7, the streetsmart Catalina would go to the ferias around Intramuros and would steal the scene by singing songs while swiveling her hips to the delight of the crowd. People would throw her coins which she used to augment the meager family income.

An American theater owner, Harry Brown , spotted the tyke and arranged to have her sing during intermissions while the movie reels were being rewound for playing at his cine houses. Thus, Katy de la Cruz’s career was launched, at a salary of 1 peso a week. Her father’s objection, however, forced her to go back to school, which she would not finish anyway. The family relented and young Katy was back on track of a new and exciting career.

At 10, she performed at the Savoy, later renamed Clover Theater. At 13, she made the rounds of popular movie houses: Cine Rizal, Cine Amor, Cine Gloria, Lux, Palace, Rivoli. Her raspy, gravelly voice became her trademark, which she learned from slurring the lyrics heard from scratchy Victrola records.

At age 21, to the consternation of her family, Katy eloped with Jose Yoingco, a pianist. Despite parental protests, they stayed together till Jose’s death in 1955. By then, ‘bodabil’ was at its peak and Katy found herself a leading vaudeville star, rivaled only by Diana Toy. Her chorus girls included Patsy, Chichay and Chuchi.

She was still in her teens, when, in 1924, she was nominated to be one of the candidates for Manila’s representative to that year’s search for the Queen of the Manila Carnival. After all, she was quite a looker, and she was described thus by an American fan: “..5 footer, 105 buxom pounds…dark olive skin…hell’s ember eyes”…

Married women then could join the contest and she found herself in friendly competition with such familiar personalities like Vitang Escobar Cowper, protege of John C. Cowper, dean of Philippine variety show. For awhile, it looked like Vitang, a singer-dancer, would be the most serious threat to Katy’s candidacy—she actually led her in the first counting, but Katy overtook her in the 2nd counting. In the final tally, however, votes for the more affluent Lolita Paterno came pouring in—“golpe de Paterno” was how the surge of Paterno votes, over 12 million in all, was described by media men covering the event. Katy wound up in second place with over 11 million votes. Pacita Serra, Marcelina Lerma and Vitang Cowper completed the top 5.

In the national finals, Trinidad Fernandez of Palawan emerged as the 1924 Queen of the Manila Carnival from among contestants like Benita Reyes (Pampanga), Maring Barreto (Zambales) , Victoria Lopez (Iloilo) , Leonor Reyes (Bulacan), Corazon Ruth de Veyra (Leyte), Angela Martinez (Cavite), Amelia Paras (Marinduque), Victoria Ledesma (Negros Occidental) and Consuelo Lazo (Batangas).

But Katy couldn’t possibly care: her career was on an upswing. She found an adoring American audience who took to her and her songs like “Planting Rice”, “Balut”, “St. Louis Blues” and “One of These Days”. She sang at the Elks Club, the University Club, the Army-Navy Club. Her international stints included performances in Honolulu and San Francisco where she was described as a “combination of Sophie Tucker and Carmen Miranda”. She also captivated Las Vegas in 1961, as well as Melbourne, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore.

In between all these, Katy made movies and even won a Famas supporting actress award for her role in the 1953 movie, “Inspiration”. She retired in San Francisco with her four children. One daughter, Angie, teamed up with Nikki Ross and, as “Wing Duo” also made a mark in comedy-musicals in the 60s.

In 1989, the Cultural Center of the Philippines honored “Mommy Kate” with the staging of the musical “Katy”, based on her life. Maya Valdez portrayed her in the successful musical revue. She retired in the 1990s and passed away in California on 10 November 2004 at age 97. True, Katy de la Cruz was not fated to win the Queen of the Manila Carnival crown, but she earned a more enduring and iconic title—the Queen of Philippine Vaudeville.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


THE 1927 DULAG CARNIVAL. Celebrating the beauty of Leytenas, under the American Regime.

1927 was the first and only time that a Miss Leyte was named to compete in the Manila Carnival search for Miss Philippines; the winner was Amelia Zialcita Romualdez, a cousin of Imelda Romualdez (Marcos). Her participation inspired municipalities to hold their own carnivals and elect their own royalties, even at a local level only.

One such town that held its own carnival festivities that same year was Dulag, a large and progressive coastal town of Leyte fronting the Leyte Gulf, just 36 kilometers from the provincial capital, Tacloban. Dulag was an important commercial hub in its heyday; ships from all over would dock at its port carrying merchants who traded their products for Philippine abaca, copra, tobacco, rice and wine with the natives. At one time, the shores ofDulag were lined with large warehouses filled with goods that were imported to foreign countries.

As a toast to its prosperity, the municipality organized its very own Dulag Carnival of 1927. Queen Teofila I and her retinue of princesses and escorts were elected to serve as the carnival royalties, as preserved in this rare photo. The details of the event as well as the background of the queen-elect have all but been lost to oblivion. But the 1927 Dulag Carnival must have been a grand and pompous event, complete with the Philippine-American trappings and trimmings of a royal coronation.

Ruined by the last World War, Dulag would rise again and earned the distinction as a “Liberation Town”. Many veterans still claim that it was in Dulag that Gen. Douglas MacArthur first landed upon his promised return—and not in Palo, Leyte as historians believed.

Monday, September 5, 2011

185. Carnival Beauties: PACITA PATERNO MADRIGAL, Candidate, 1934 MIss Philippines

PAGEANTRY, POLITICS AND PACITA. The 15 year old Pacita as a high schooler of Philippine Women's College (now University). She went on to become a Senator in 1955, only the 2nd woman to achieve that feat--and an election topnotcher at that! Ca. 1930.

In the 1934 quest for Miss Philippines, one lovely candidate turned heads not only for her illustrious pedigree and family wealth but also for her academic brilliance that would served her well in the future. Pacita Madrigal y Paterno would go on to greater heights by entering politics and topping the senatorial elections of 1955 under the Magsaysay Administration.

Maria Paz or Pacita was one of the 7 children of the influential senator and millionaire, Don Vicente Madrigal y Lopez of Albay with Susana Paterno y Ramos of Laguna. Born in 1915 in the San Miguel district of Manila, she grew up together with her siblings Macaria, Josefina, Antonio, Jose, Consuelo Alejandra, and Maria Luisa.

Pacita studied at the Philippine Women’s College. At age 15, she became a leading candidate for the title of "Princess of Education", a contest conducted on the occasion of the San Juan de Letran's Tercentenary activities, her father's alma mater. She graduated as high school valedictorian in three years; was medalist at the Sorbonne University, Paris and graduated magna cum laude in business administration at the University of Santo Tomas. She also went to 2 finishing schools: the Collège Féminin de Bouffemont at Seine, Paris, and at the Powers School in New York.

At age 19, Pacita was sponsored by Dee Tees, a leading publication of the Commonwealth years, to be their candidate to the annual Miss Philippines Beauty Contest of that year’s Manila Carnival. Competition was stiff—there was the Spanish mestiza Pilar Blanco, Maria Osmena, Marcelina Cuenca (former Miss Manila) and the 2 Kapampangan belles, Lucy Pamintuan and Luz Sarmiento to contend with. And there was the Chinese mestiza beauty from UP, Clarita Tan Kiang, who eventually won the crown.

But Pacita had other things in mind than being just an icon of beauty. She was soon abroad to further enrich her education. She was in New York when World War II broke out on 8 December 1941. Determined to maker herself useful, Pacita took up Red Cross work and also volunteered at the Walter Reed Hospital.

After the war, she married Herman Warns, a Manila Gas Corporation executive and proceeded to establish her ballet school. But in 1953, she gave up her school to head the Women for Magsaysay Movement, and her interest in politics began. With Magsaysay’s victory, she assumed the position as Social Welfare Administrator.

Two years later, she decided to run for the Philippine Senate. Pacita, at age 40, became the first woman to ever top the senatorial elections. According to Time Magazine, she did so with the most number of votes ever garnered by a senatorial candidate up to that time (2,544,716 in all). She was just the second woman after Geronima Pecson, to be elected to the Senate.

As cabinet member when she was SWA administrator, she was involved in some 40 committees, councils, commissions, boards and institutes—from the Council of State, Community Development Council, Slum Clearance Committee, Community Chest to the Philippine National Red Cross, Pan Pacific Women’s Association, and Philippine Committee of United Nations Appeal for Children.

After the death of Herman Warns, the widowed Pacita married lawyer Gonzalo Gonzales in 1956. She was defeated for re-election in 1961 after accusations arose about her misappropriation of public funds in 1956. Had her credibility not been damaged by the charges, she could have posed as a serious threat to Carlos P. Garcia’s presidential candidacy in 1961. The Manila Carnival beauty who could have been the world’s first female head of state, died at the age of 93 on 12 September 2008.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


After a one year lull, the country went agog when the Philippine Carnival Association announced the resumption of the Manila Carnival in 1929. There was so much ado about that year’s edition, marked with major changes in the selection of Miss Philippines. This time, schools were tapped and encouraged to send their beauty delegates, and select colleges from all over the Philippines like the Manila College of Pharmacy, Centro Escolar de Señoritas, the University of the Philippines, Cebu Colleges, Sta. Rosa College and Filipino Academy chose their own bets.

The winner who emerged was the statuesque UP collegian, Pacita de los Reyes, a a brainy law student who had four princesses in her court (previously, the queen was attended by a Miss Luzon, Miss Visayas and Miss Mindanao).

Never has there been a Miss Philippines as busy as Pacita, who had to attend five royal pageants throughout the 16 day festivities. The programs were often thematic and at her Coronation Night alone, she appeared as ‘Pearl of the Orient Seas’. She also had a change of escorts at her every appearance.

Her university honored her with a U.P. Night and for some students, participation in the dances was mandatory, credited to their Physical Education course. This explains why the entertainment and musical interludes were lavish and varied; the entire university, it seemed, turned up in full support of their Queen, as these photos show.