Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Remembering the Excitement of the First Nationwide Search for Miss Philippines in 1926

Long before Bb Pilipinas, Mutya ng Pilipinas and Miss Philippines Earth came into the picture, there was the first Miss Philippines Search. 

When it was launched in 1926, it so captured the imagination of the public & generated so much excitement & publicity that it actually caused the demise of the Manila Carnival Queen era but that's getting ahead of the story. 

   Miss Philippines 1953 during Phil Intl Expo
It was truly nationwide in scope with carefully- selected beauty delegates from Aparri to Jolo vying to be proclaimed as the winner of the inaugural search for the country's fairest.

It was originally meant to be an added attraction for the annual Manila Carnival with the sole purpose of increasing the number of visitors and generate more income for the organizers.

  Manila Carnival 1932
Photo by Viktor Mussik
REASON FOR BEING The first Manila Carnival was launched in February 1908 during the early American period up to the time before the Second World War. It was organized by the American colonial administration to celebrate harmonious US and Philippine relations and to showcase the commercial, industrial and agricultural progress of the Philippines. 

Many prominent  Filipinos and Americans volunteered their services as members & chairs of the various organizing committees. The Manila Carnival reflected the gaiety and the halcyon times during pre- World War II. 

 Manila Carnival 1932
Photo by Viktor Mussik
The highlight of the annual Manila Carnival season was the crowning of the Manila Carnival Queen. The popularity contest whose winners were decided by through the purchase of ballots  was exclusively for daughters of Manila's wealthiest & most socially prominent families.
  Carnival float 
A spectacular floral parade spotlighted the newly- crowned Carnival Queen, her court & their consorts together with all the lovely carnival beauties who were dressed in the most beautiful & most elaborate costumes. 

THE BIRTH OF MISS PHILIPPINES In 1926, the Philippine Carnival Association announced the creation of a parallel contest, a national beauty contest that would bring out the loveliest Filipinas from all over the country, from among whom the fairest from each region would be chosen and given the titles “Miss Luzon”, “Miss Visayas” and “Miss  Mindanao”. 

The loveliest of them all would be named as “Miss Philippines”—to be voted on by a panel of qualified judges noted for their social leadership and for their exposure to the finer things in life. Aside from beauty & understated elegance, the judging panel would also evaluate & rate the ladies for their social graces, breeding and intelligence. 

All provincial governors were then briefed on the guidelines & selection criteria so they could select the most qualified ladies to represent their respective provinces.  The inaugural nationwide search for the first Miss Philippines was launched with much fanfare and was met with resounding approval by provincial authorities. 

Overnight, municipalities and cities all over the country mounted their own preliminary searches that would culminate with the selection and crowning of a provincial bet for the national contest finals.  

 Bohol's bet for Miss Philippines 1926 
THIRTY- SIX BEAUTY DELEGATES With a record number of 37 highly- educated & well- bred beauty delegates from all over the country wearing sashes bearing the names of their provinces, the 1926 Miss Philippines Pageant would enter pageant history books as the first truly national quest for a queen. 

Our very own province of Bohol was represented by Ascencion Gaviola of Jagna. During the contest duration, Ascencion and the rest of the provincial candidates were accommodated at the houses of selected families. 

Year 1926 was the only time that two Filipina beauty queens reigned supreme during the Carnival. Although the Manila Carnival Queen had a Coronation Night and Miss Philippines had a Proclamation Night, the manner of selecting their winners were quite different. 

Unlike Manila Carnival Queen which relied on public balloting, the selection for Miss Philippines was done by a panel of judges.

The highly- anticipated Miss Philippines Pageant which generated a lot of excitement commenced with the parade of the beauty delegates who rode in flower-decorated cars. After passing through the major thoroughfares of Manila, the girls transferred to their own lighted “chariots”, each bearing the name of their respective provinces upon arrival at the Manila Grand Carnival Auditorium, Luneta Park. They were then wheeled around the auditorium to be viewed by the crowd and the judges who rendered their decision in a secret balloting.

The selection of the regional winners—Misses Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao—proved to be easy. But the choice for the plum Miss Philippines title ended in a tie between Miss Zamboanga (Carmen Fargas) and Miss Batangas (Anita Noble). Not even a second voting could break the tie. 

 The First Miss Philippines
Anita Agoncillo Noble
PRESIDENTIAL INTERCESSION As it was already past midnight, Madame Levy, one of the judges, suggested the postponement of the deliberation for another day. 

The race was so tight that President Manuel L. Quezon stepped in to offer some Solominic wisdom.  

Apprised of the situation, the President invited the contestants the next day at the Manila Hotel. 

He stipulated that they be dressed in simple baro’t saya and wear no make-up, and that another judge be added to break the deadlock. 

The judging continued the next day—the girls were judged how they ate lunch!

THE FIRST MISS PHILIPPINES IS...The stringent process finally yielded results with the breaking of the tie. Thus, by this process,  Anita Agoncillo Noble, 20 year old Miss Batangas from Lemery was chosen as the winner of the first nationwide search for Miss Philippines.  Anita comes from a distinguished family of patriots and revolutionists.

PEARL OF THE ORIENT But so tight was the competition that the Carnival officials decided to create another title for Zamboanga’s Carmen Fargas. She was named as “Miss Pearl of the Orient Seas”. 
 Miss Pearl of the Orient Seas


QUEENS FROM THE REGIONS. The rules decreed that the regional winners should authentically come from the provinces of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao much like the Continental Queens of Beauty in Miss World. 

Named as Miss Luzon was Miss Manila Rosario Genato, Miss Visayas was Miss Samar Aurora Reyes & Miss Lanao Bala Amai Miring was named Miss Mindanao. 

 Miss Philippines Regional Queens of Beauty
 For the Best Deals, Visit Lazada HERE 
So successful & popular was the first  Miss Philippines Search that the pageant unwittingly eclipsed & upstaged the Manila Carnival Queen selection which led organizers to decide that it would be the last time that the title of Manila Carnival Queen will be given and subsequently, only the title of Miss Philippines will be awarded to winners of succeeding years. 

THE END OF AN ERA The end of of the Manila Carnival in 1939 marked the end of an era in Philippine history even as the dark clouds of a world war hovered all over the country.

MEET THE CANDIDATES The beautiful and accomplished members of the Class of 1926 who would always be known as the first batch of candidates in a nationwide search for Miss Philippines will be remembered with fondness and pride.

The 36 following ladies who participated in the inaugural search for Miss Philippines were Miss Agusan: Leonila Reyes. Miss Albay: Miss Baguio: Cristina Victoria, Miss Bataan: Rosa Reyes, Miss Batangas: Anita Noble, Miss Bohol: Ascension Gaviola, Miss Bukidnon: Isabel Melendez, Miss Bulacan: Leonor  Tantoco Reyes, Miss Camarines Sur: Andrea Baduria, Miss Capiz: Rosario Picazo, Miss Cebu:, Miss Davao: Lucille Maxey

Miss Ilocos Norte:, Miss Ilocos Sur: Rosario Cadiz, Miss Iloilo: Aida Kilayko, Miss Isabela: Ernestina Pardel Nieto, Miss Laguna: Loreto Relova, Miss Lanao: Bala Amai Miring, Miss La Union: Manuela Ortega, Miss Leyte: Aurora Reyes, Miss Manila: Rosario Genato, Miss Marinduque: Rosario Cayetano, Miss Masbate: Elia Sanchez, Miss Misamis: Amparo Nery

Miss Negros Occidental: Margarita Lacson, Miss Nueva Ecija: Miss Nueva Vizcaya: Martha Maddela, Miss Palawan: Carmen Fernandez, Miss Pampanga: Rosario Hernandez Panganiban, Miss Pangasinan: Corazon Sison, Miss Rizal: Remedios Santos, Miss Romblon:, Miss Sulu: Scott Rasul, Miss Surigao: Sol Soriano, Miss Tarlac: Isolina Palma, Miss Tayabas: Nita San Agustin And Miss Zamboanga: Carmen Fargas.

Luzon had 23 regional delegates, the Visayas had six representatives and Mindanao sent eight candidates

PAGEANTS THEN & NOW Looking back, pageants then were more exclusive to the upper crust in society. Girls from affluent & influential families almost always had the upper hand. Aside from the financial resources, they also had the innate grace and elegance, enrolled in exclusive schools and had unquestionable family backgrounds and reputations. 

Just like politics, beauty pageants in the past were not as democratized as today and only the well-born and the daughters of the elite competed or were chosen to be contestants.

Today, social background & logistical support take a backseat to the girls' readiness & preparation and that means a rigid training regimen that can rival those of athletes. Of course, beauty camp affiliations do matter also.

Ninety years have passed since the first Miss Philippines Pageant was launched . More than an affirmation of the nation's fixation and fascination with beauty queens, these pageants are actually a celebration of beauty and how we love and adore our women.


Special Thanks to blogger alex r. castro  

Extra Special Blog Feature

Part 1: The Tragic Story of Amparo Munoz

  no fairy tale ending SPAIN CONQUERED THE PHILIPPINES AGAIN. Whenever discussions and debates center on who is considered as the m...