April 17, 2007

Sampaloc and Pageantry by: Wendell Capili

During the late 1960s to the 1970s, people in Sampaloc were generally obsessed with billiards, boxing, basketball, and beauty pageants. During fiestas and summer breaks, the streets in our area were inaccessible to vehicular traffic to give way to these special events. More incredibly, these events became perfect opportunities for coaches, talent scouts, and managers to shape stars of every skill and magnitude for the big time. For instance, many National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP), and Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players began their illustrious careers as participants in inter-barangay basketball leagues all over Sampaloc. Throughout my grade school, high school, and early college days at UST, I saw the rise of Bogs Adornado, Danny Florencio, Ed Cordero, Edmund Yee, Frankie Natividad, Bong Hawkins (who eventually moved to Perpetual Help college in his college years), Pido Jarencio, Bobby Jose, Rabbi Tomacruz, and Ej Feihl in Sampaloc's gyms and city streets.

Years before he became a national icon and world-class champion, Efren "Bata" Reyes used to frequent the billiards hall at the corner of Dapitan and Navarra—a stone’s throw away from the window of UST high school library.

Many boxers, including former world boxing champion Rolando Navarette (the "Bad Boy from Dadiangas"), trained rigorously for their amateur bouts in a rusty old gym along Paquita, an alley off Morayta and Far Eastern University.

But perhaps, Sampaloc's biggest contribution to Philippine popular culture is the proliferation of beauty connoisseurs, beauty contestants, and beauty pageants in the district. Sampaloc was home to many of the country's nationally and internationally acclaimed beauty queens, models, designers, hair and make-up stylists, and talent managers. Many talent scouts discovered potential candidates for national beauty pageants in locations around the city’s schools and universities. Soon, the talent scout and his/her cohorts took turns in transforming the new find. In this connection, nothing beats the story of Tita Beth (Elizabeth Sales), one of our neighbors in Sampaloc and a good friend of my parents. Just like my family, Tita Beth’s immediate family members are long-time Sampaloc residents.

When I was about three years old, Tita Beth was pushed by fashion designer Danny Acuna to join Ferdie Villar's annual Miss Republic of the Philippines (Miss RP) contest, a late 1960s-early 1970s local preliminary to the Miss World Pageant in London. Tita Beth was very reluctant to join the pageant because her family was very conservative. She was also an active student leader at the UST College of Commerce. She wasn’t really into beauty contests.

But Acuna was persistent. Against the wishes of many family members and friends, Tita Beth was groomed and trained hurriedly at Acuna's atelier at the corner of Governor Forbes and Espana. Tita Beth decided to give in for the sake of experience. Being the well-bred woman that she is, Tita Beth easily made the final cut for the 1969 Miss RP contest.

During the Miss RP finals, Tita Beth bested heavy favorites like University of the Philippines student Vida Valentina Doria (1971 Bb. Pilipinas Universe and Miss Photogenic at the 1971 Miss Universe Pageant in Miami Beach), Pacita Eduarda Guevara (1974 Bb. Pilipinas Maja and Maja Internacional runner-up in Spain) and Marilou Destreza (1969 Mutya ng Pilipinas runner-up). My Tita Beth, a pageant neophyte, was proclaimed runner-up to eventual winner Feliza Teresa Nuevo Miro.

After the pageant, Tita Beth became a celebrity of sorts in Sampaloc and elsewhere. She modeled for a few designers and was invited as a sagala for countless santacruzans all over the country. Despite her social commitments, Tita Beth completed her commerce degree at UST. Eventually, she married Antique-born and Ateneo-bred lawyer Exequiel Javier.

Years later, Tita Beth's brother-in-law Evelio, then governor of Antique province, was assassinated. Tita Beth became very active in street demonstrations against widespread government oppression and neglect. Atty. Javier was pushed to take the place of Evelio and was subsequently elected as a governor (once) and as a congressman (four times). Many believed that Atty. Javier's impressive track record as a farmer, corporate lawyer, political leader, and lawmaker was enhanced further by Tita Beth's commitment and dedication as an amazing wife and mother. She was always behind her family. On top of these, Tita Beth has a distinguished career as a banker. Truly, Tita Beth's narrative is an amazing Sampaloc success story.

It seems prodigious that there were many other beauty delegates who lived and/or studied in Sampaloc. In fact, many of these women were University of Santo Tomas students: Guia Balmori (1938 Miss Philippines), Teresita Sanchez (1952 Miss Philippines Universe), Cristina Pacheco (1953 Miss Philippines Universe), Bessie Ocampo-Buencamino (1954 Miss Philippines Universe and Miss Universe semifinalist), Isabel Rodriguez (1956 Miss Philippines Universe), Pilar Arciaga (1961 Miss Philippines International), Cynthia Ugalde (Miss Philippines International 1961), Alice Crisostomo (Mutya ng Pilipinas Asia 1970 and Miss Asia runner-up), Carolyn Masibay (1971 Mutya ng Pilipinas Asia and Miss Asia runner-up), Armi Barbara Crespo (1972 Bb. Pilipinas Universe and Miss Universe semifinalist), Anette Liwanag (1975 Bb. Pilipinas Maja and Maja Internacional runner-up), Evangeline Evangelista (1976 Mutya ng Pilipinas Tourism), Maritoni Judith Daya (1988 Bb. Pilipinas Tourism), Jeanne Therese Hilario (1989 Bb. Pilipinas Maja, Maja Internacional runner-up, BS Chemical Engineering magna cum laude and national board exams topnotcher), Gem Padilla (1990 Bb. Pilipinas Universe), Jennifer Pingree (1990 Bb. Pilipinas International), Milarose Javelosa (1990 Bb. Pilipinas Tourism and medical doctor), Mutya Laxa (1990 Bb. Pilipinas runner-up, 1990 Mutya ng Pilipinas Asia, 1992 Miss Asia-Pacific runner-up), Antoinette Ballesteros (1990 Mutya ng Pilipinas World), Gemith Gemparo (1991 Mutya ng Pilipinas World, 1992 Model of the World and commercial airline pilot), Alma Concepcion (1994 Bb. Pilipinas International and Miss International finalist), Gladys Duenas (1994 Bb. Pilipinas International and Miss International finalist), Miriam Quiambao (1999 Bb. Pilipinas Universe, Miss Universe runner-up and television presenter), Michelle Cueva Reyes (2000 Bb. Pilipinas runner-up, 2001 Miss Tourism International, 2002 Miss Tourism World and pediatric nurse), Frances Margaret Arezza (2002 Mutya ng Pilipinas Tourism), Justine Gabionza (2002 Miss Philippines-Air and 2006 Miss Tourism Queen International), Jhezarie Javier (2003 Bb. Pilipinas International and 2005 Miss ASEAN), and Precious Lara Quigaman (2005 Bb. Pilipinas International and Miss International).

Other beauty queens from Sampaloc included Jennifer Cortes (1978 Bb. Pilipinas Universe), Maria Isabel Lopez (1982 Bb. Pilipinas Universe), Corazon Tierro (1984 Bb. Pilipinas runner-up), Anthea Robles (1988 Bb. Pilipinas International), and Karen Agustin (2002 Bb. Pilipinas Universe).

Fashion designers and stylists who either lived, studied, or began their careers in Sampaloc included Danny Acuna, Sonia Aquino, Carlos Burgos, Alex Carbonell, Steve de Leon, Rudy Diego, Jun Encarnacion, Grace Lagman, Jay Lozada, Tanya Mendoza, Fernando Marasigan, Leslie Ocampo, Freddie Reyes, Ricky Reyes, Renee Salud, and Violet. At some point in their lives, these individuals discovered, managed, and/or mentored nationally and internationally acclaimed athletes, beauty queens, film stars, and models.

These days, fewer students and graduates from reputable schools can be persuaded to join beauty pageants. These contests seemed to have lost their vitality and touch in many parts of the country. Beauty pageants are no longer regarded highly because many people maintain that these contests commodify women. Pundits declare that beauty pageants served their purpose from the 1900s (when pre-World War II carnival queens were selected annually) to the 1960s and the early 1970s (when Gemma Cruz, Gloria Diaz, Aurora Pijuan, and Margarita Moran bagged international titles). By the 1970s and the 1980s, Filipino women have many other options.

But not in Sampaloc. There will always be billiards, boxing, basketball, and most especially, beauty connoisseurs, beauty contestants, and beauty pageants in my side of the city. The persistent blurring of high and low cultures all over the district will always be difficult to explain or account for.

Visit Wedell Capili's blog at: http://todaimitaka.blogspot.com

Technorati Tags:, , ,


Anonymous said...

you forgot to mention evangeline pascual (miss rp world and 1st runner up ms world 1973), jesse alice dixson (bb pilipinas internationl and semifinalist miss international 1986), jeanette fernando (bb pilipinas tourism), charlene gonzales (bb universe & ms universe semi-finalist 1994), joanne santos (bb pilipinas universe 1995 & ms tourism international 1996), racquel uy (ms tourism international 1999), jp abinuman (ms global queen international 2001?)

wendell said...

thanks for reminding me. i was in and out of the country these past few years. my memory fails me every now and then. thanks for your comments!


Paul Ancheta said...

My earliest childhood memories are centered around living in the quaint, narrow Sisa Street in the late sixties, before my family moved on to Diliman, Quezon City.

Long before EDSA became the billboard hub of the metropolis, there were Espana Street and Quezon Boulevard. The neon ads on these roads were always a delight to behold. Call it a bright billboard pageantry in Sampaloc!

Anonymous said...

thanks to your blog...i was searching through the web for the UST chem eng graduate who became a winner of bb. pilipinas, and eventually became the wife of my professor...well, i forgot her name, and thanks to your post, i remembered her again...it's ma'm jeanne therese hilario-andres...

Jeanne Therese Andres said...

i am astounded to find that people still actually remember me, details and all. i suppose i've grown so accustomed to my quiet life out of the limelight that it still strikes me as profoundly incredible to find my name on people's lists and blogs in THIS century, or to discover that people have been trying to recall my name by searching on the web (thanks, anonymous; pity you didn't leave your name so i could send your regards to my hubby). so i thank you, jose wendell capili, for including me in your well-written article. i'm honoured, indeed. it doesn't pain me at all to admit that i'm a fan. did i ever get to meet you, i wonder? i wanted ever so badly to try to get on the "V" staff since my freshman year, but my pautakan trainors in eng'g threatened me with high treason and excommunication! :D sometimes, though, i wish i had tried out despite the consequences. could i have made the cut? i suppose i'll never know. but i vicariously lived out my "V" dreams through my brother, and i guess that should be enough for me. i'm sorry, i ramble, i digress... thanks again for your terrific article.

wendell said...

nette nette!

we have so many past and present CYA friends and connections: terry savage, your late uncle kuya roel plata (i wept too when he passed away--i used to see him often at the old kamia residence hall canteen tambayan of CYA), mylene and connie sanin are good friends of my brother jun capili (you were in our house once with connie and your other USTHS friends), toby estrella, zoom domingo, jared vicencio. i met your mom many times during UST varsitarian and ABreunions (her UST varsitarian contemporary was UP vice president and creative writing professor cristina pantoja hidalgo). i was in the selection committee that selected your brother john to be part of the varsitarian. your bb. pilipinas batchmate marichelle lising cruz (---she was bb. pilipinas tourism and you were part of her wedding entourage---we call her sweetheart) is the sister in law of a close friend. she married hotelier and TOYM awardee patrick gregorio, another good friend. you even sang IKAW LAMANG during our college reunion (your mom dragged you along). and you even presented URIAN AWARDS trophies once!!

great to hear from you. keep in touch.

wendell c.

Anonymous said...

hi Wedell,

Just wondering if by any chance would you know where i can get any of Marilou destreza Films/ commercial/pictures even? as i have read previously on your sight there was a mention of the Laxamana's. Are you familiar with the family.

thanks heaps, looking forward to ur reply

Anonymous said...

hello wendell,
my mom passing away march 2007, i googled her name. and i got to your blog. i was touched knowing that my mom is embedded in philippine history. just a small correction though it is not teresa nuevo it is teresita nuesa.

Anonymous said...

hey wendell, would you have any idea of whatever happened to Danny Acuna fashions? my mom and sister used to have dresses/ternos made by him. I used to remember his shop being near UST. thanks.

The Latest Features & Headlines
Don't ever miss a post and be on top of the latest features and headlines:
Get All That Nostalgia Manila Goodness! Get a Nostalgia Manila Email Subscription today and enjoy all the benefits of this wondeful service. Today, if subscribers want to read / view / watch syndicated online content, they typically have to go to where the content is hosted, or know how to subscribe to the feed and consume the content within an aggregator or reader (e.g. MyYahoo!, FeedDemon, ect.). With a Nostalgia Manila Email Subscription, you will receive all that Nostalgia Manila goodness straight to your inbox, similar to an e-newsletter. This is delivered to you in easy-to-read, plain text or HTML email containing the latest Nostalgia Manila posts. What are you waiting for? Sign Up for a Nostalgia Manila Email Subscription today!

Let everyone know you have Nostalgia Fever!
Nostalgia Fever is quite a contagious thing, and the best way to spread it is to add this cute chicklet to your site. It's real easy! All you have to do is copy and paste the HTML code below (make sure you copy the entire code), add it to your own page, and you're done! Show your love for Nostalgia Manila and spread Nostalgia Fever today!