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Meet the First Beauty Queens of Manila

Trace the origins of today's beauty pageants.
Meet the First Beauty Queens of Manila
IMAGE Family archives of Engracia Laconico-Zara, care of her granddaughter Grace Zara-Velasco
Trace the origins of today's beauty pageants.

The Philippines has a long history of beauty pageants. Way before the big four beauty pageant titlesMiss Universe, Miss World, Miss International, and Miss Earth—Filipinos celebrated beauty through the following titles and competitions:

CARNIVAL QUEEN

PHOTO BY Family archives of Engracia Laconico-Zara, care of her granddaughter Grace Zara-Velasco

The first official beauty pageant in the Philippines was a program under the Manila Carnival. In 1908, during the American occupation, the Carnival was staged as a celebration of U.S. and Philippines' relations. The annual festival was said to be one of the biggest events in the Orient and through the years, its main event became the coronation of the Carnival Queen.

PHOTO BY Family archives of Engracia Laconico-Zara, care of her granddaughter Grace Zara-Velasco

In the beginning, pageant contestants came from aristocratic families of Manila, but in later years, the pageant accepted entries from all over the country. The beautiful, well-educated, and well-heeled young ladies would compete to be crowned Carnival Queen through a favorable ballot system that used money votes or magazine coupons.

For the first Carnival, Leonarda Limjap had initially been crowned as the first official Queen. She later resigned due to conflict with her family's vacation to Japan. Thus Pura Villanueva was named the first Carnival Queen.

MISS PHILIPPINES

PHOTO BY Family archives of Engracia Laconico-Zara, care of her granddaughter Grace Zara-Velasco

In 1926, the Manila Carnival introduced The 1st National Beauty Contest. The introduction of the new competition ended the coveted Carnival Queen title, with the competition using the title Miss Philippines instead. To represent the Philippine islands, contestants came from all over the country with the sub-titles Miss Luzon, Miss Visayas, and Miss Mindanao.

PHOTO BY Family archives of Engracia Laconico-Zara, care of her granddaughter Grace Zara-Velasco

Anita Noble of Lemery, Batangas was crowned the first Miss Philippines with Carmen Fargas, Rosario Genato, Aurora Reyes, and Bala Amai Miring as Miss Pearl of the Orient Seas, Miss Luzon, Miss Visayas, and Miss Mindanao respectively. The Manila Carnival and its pageants lasted until 1939, producing a total of 29 queenssome have even become significant figures in history.

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MISS AVIATION

Launched in the 1950s, Miss Aviation is a pageant centered on tourism and travel. The beauty contest's most notable winners were Lotis Key and Jojie Felix Velarde. After years of absence, the contest was relaunched in 2015 under the direction of Morena Carla Cabrera Quimpo. "Miss Aviation is expected to not only to be the face of the industry but also to play an active role in promoting our industry, tourism spots, and encourage the youth to join our ranks," Morena said in a Manila Standard interview.

The pageant's contestants are "young women chosen from different aviation and tourism sectors, from avionics technicians to flight cabin crew, to flight dispatchers, aeronautical engineers, and aviation students," she added.

MISS CALTEX

In addition to being the first Miss Aviation, Jojie Felix Velarde was also the first Miss Caltex. Launched in 1961, the oil sponsored pageant put importance on beauty and brains. Some of the pageant's winners were Miss Caltex 1962 Mila Amunategui Abad, Miss Caltex 1963 Elsa Velez Payumo, Miss Caltex 1966 Cecilia Borja Chiongbian, Miss Caltex 1969 Amy Gustilo Lopez, and Miss Caltex 1970 Naida Benedicto Angping. Though they didn't earn the title, the competition had legendary participants such as Amparito Llamas, mother of fashion designer Monique Lhuillier and Maria Victoria Pamintuan.

MISS REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

1971 Miss Republic of the Philippines coronation night with superstar Nora Aunor (center) as guest performer. Minerva Minnie Cagatao won the title that year.

A precursor to Miss World Philippines, the Miss Republic of the Philippines or Miss RP was first held in 1969. The pageant's winner was sent as the official contestant for Miss World, with Liza Miro as the first to be crowned. The pageant's representatives were used as official Miss World delegates until 1976.

MISS MAGNOLIA

Miss Magnolia 1979 at the first Imbayah Festival in Banaue.

In 1974, the food and beverage brand owned by San Miguel Corporation sponsored Miss Magnolia. More of a brand ambassador search than a pageant, Miss Magnolia was prestigious since it drew young women from top high schools and colleges. The pageant's first winner was Vivian Avila. As the winner, Vivian appeared in Magnolia's print ads and television spots. Sadly, the pageant only lasted until 1980, six years after it was first staged.

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*This story originally appeared on Townandcountry.phMinor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.

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