Long before Melanie Marquez, Mutya Crisostomo Laxa, Marilen Espino, Maricel Morales, Abbygale Arenas, Carla Gay Balingit, Gemma Gatdula, Rochelle Ong, Nicolette Henson, and even Charlene Gonzales, whose mother is a Pamintuan, and Evangeline Pascual (married to a Lapid), Kapampangans already claimed that their women were the fairest in the land.
This bragging right has taken the form of a book: “Aro Katimyas Da! A Memory Album of Titled Kapampangan Beauties 1908-2012,” written by advertising executive Alex R. Castro.
The book, published last summer, will be formally launched on July 27 at Holy Angel University, whose Center for Kapampangan Studies is a co-publisher.
The book chronicles the lives and times of the early Kapampangan beauty queens whose reputation for beauty and breeding had set a standard for the young Filipinas of an emerging nation.
Castro says the country’s fascination with beauty pageants began at the turn of the century, when the American colonial government introduced the annual Manila Carnival in 1908.
“At first there were two shared titles, Queen of the Orient for Filipinas and Queen of the Occident for Americans,” Castro says. “Then there were three winners of equal rank, Miss Luzon, Miss Visayas and Miss Mindanao, until there was only one, the Carnival Queen.”
In 1926, barely five years after the first Miss America was chosen, Filipinos came up with the first Miss Philippines, at a time when the Manila Carnival was still choosing its Carnival Queen (the two eventually merged).
Then the Philippines Free Press magazine came up with its own Reina de la Belleza, not to mention the proliferation of town fiesta queens, campus muses, club muses, company muses, and even Miss Rizal Day and Miss Garden Day, which turned beauty pageants into a national pastime for girls the way cockfighting is for boys.
Two Kapampangans, Socorro Henson of Angeles and Guia Balmori of Bacolor, were proclaimed 1926 Carnival Queen and 1938 Miss Philippines, respectively.
Winning crowns of equal prominence were Carmen del Rosario of San Fernando (1935 Miss Mindanao); Cleofe Balingit of Macabebe (1936 Miss Mindanao); and Elisa Manalo of Bacolor (Miss Luzon 1937).
The Philippines Free Press beauty competition was won by Rosario Panganiban of Macabebe in 1925.
Kapampangans in Tarlac also figured prominently in early national pageants, including Isolina Palma (Manila Carnival 1926); Luz Besa (Manila Carnival 1927); and Maria Cristina Galang (Miss Philippines 1953). A major park in Tarlac City bears Galang’s name.
The Manila Carnival had its own version in the province, the Pampanga Carnival, held in 1926 and 1933. The event showcased not only the towns’ best products but also their prettiest girls. This province-wide beauty competition evolved into the annual Miss Pampanga and today’s Mutya ning Kapampangan.
From 1992 to 2002, Kapampangan beauties enjoyed a 10-year winning streak in all the major beauty pageants in the Philippines, prompting then Sen. Tessie Aquino Oreta to quip that Pampanga was “not just a land of heroes but also of beauties.”
The book will be launched on July 27, 5 p.m., at the Academic Hall, St. Joseph Building, Holy Angel University, Angeles City.