Monday, December 5, 2011

194. Carnival Beauties: CARMEN R. FERNANDEZ, 1926 Miss Palawan

THE LI'L SIS ALSO RISES. Carmen Rodriguez Fernandez, the 1926 Miss Palawan, was the younger daughter of Trinidad Fernandez, who, two years earlier, reigned as the 1924 Queen of the Manila Carnival.

Two years after Trinidad Fernandez won the Manila Carnival crown in 1924, her younger sister, Carmen, made her own bid for the first Miss Philippines title in 1926. Born on 1 April 1907 to parents Clemente Fernandez and Vicenta Rodriguez, Carmen grew up in Cuyo, along with her 13 siblings.

Hoping to replicate her sister’s victory, Carmen—as Miss Palawan 1926--went to Manila to compete against 20-plus other girls, a formidable line-up that included rich society belles, accomplished collegians, fair-haired daughters of patriots, mesmerizing mestizas and exotic mountain belles. The crown, however, eluded Carmen, which ended on the head of the beauteous Batangueña, Anita Noble.

Six years after her Carnival experience, she met and married a handsome 1923 West Point graduate, Santiago Garcia Guevara in 1930. They moved to the United States in 1938 but returned to the Philippines before World War II where Santiago was assigned in Orani, Bataan as a member of the Philippine Scouts, and as Topographical Officer of the U.S. Army Survey Troops. He would later join and survive the Bataan Death March.

After the War, Carmen and her family—which now included 3 children—returned to the U.S. in 1949. As Santiago was stationed in different parts of the country, the family got to live in the states of Georgia, California, Texas and Maryland. They permanently settled in Washington D.C. in 1953, after Santiago’s retirement. The Guevaras next moved into the Watergate Building along Virginia Avenue, where Carmen immediately made herself at home in her new neighborhood.

She became an active member of the parishes of St. Thomas and St. Anne’s, and also supported the St. Stephen’s choir. Carmen was elected as president of the Philippine-American Women’s Association in the District of Columbia, tirelessly raising funds for the group’s charities and cultural events.

Widowed in 1996, Carmen was honored by her adopted country wirth a ceremonial resolution given by the District of Columbia to honor and congratulate her on her 100th birthday on 6 February 2007, a befitting tribute to a woman whose inner beauty shone much brighter in her golden years.

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