One of the things that the Americans colonists were good at: Public Relations. Within 10 years of winning the islands of the Philippines from the Spanish, they started an annual Manila Carnival that was somewhat based on a typical American State Fair. It featured the best of Agriculture, Industry, and Business. It had rides and games and exhibitions. And of course, lots of competitions, including the selection of the Carnival Queen.
This was a big deal. Young ladies from all over the Islands came to compete for the crown. Tears were shed, hearts (and wallets) were broken.
But better you get that story from the brilliant website of Alex. R. Castro: Manila Carnivals, where you will be drawn in to a whole world that is now gone-with-the-wind. This site is huge and you can spend days reading the well researched articles and viewing rare photographs. You can almost smell the popcorn.
I came upon this site while doing research for The Yellow Bar. This is where I got the first idea of the character Auntie Pinky, and who she really was. My Pinky would make it to the Carnival, but not as a beauty queen; the real winner that year was Conchita Sunico, who is mentioned in the book, and is on the second photo on the left.
Today in the Philippines, beauty and talent contests are part of its culture. In fact, it borders on obsession- from the small barrio fiesta queens to the oh-so-important Miss Philippines pageant. (I have personally witnessed everything from Best Baby to Best Female Impersonator.) I wonder if it all started with the Manila Carnivals?
Thank you Alex (and Ms Sunico) for the inspiration!
Photos courtesy of Alex R. Castro.