Few Filipina women can boast of a smashing experience in their lives, more so if that lucky break would lead to a better future for fame and fortune. One such teenage lady of 19 years named Trinidad Roura De Leon and nicknamed Trining, met her destiny when she was crowned as the Oriental beauty queen of the Philippine Carnival in Manila in 1920.
Prelude: Her Youthful Years
Trining was born on October 4, 1900 in San Miguel town, Bulacan at a time when the Filipino-American War was still raging in the hinterlands and food was scarce. With another sibling, this did not deter her to be amply raised in opulent conditions by a rich family. Trining’s roots could be traced from personalities in upper echelon of our society. Her father was Senator Ceferino De Leon of the 1930s Constitutional Convention days. Her mother, Maria Trinidad Roura was a Spanish Mestiza; whose father, Don Juan Roura was a Spaniard from Lerida, Catalina, Spain who married Maria Sta. Maria of San Miguel, Bulacan.
Several Trining’s aunts and uncles were also famous in Philippine history. Her aunt Maria Juana Roura married Dr. Maximo Viola, a close friend of Jose Rizal, and; Maria Antonia Roura married Simon David. Her uncle Francisco Roura (great grandfather of the author) was a Captain of the 4th Company of San Miguel Battalion, Del Pilar Brigade during the Philippine Revolution. Later on, Francisco became Chief of Police and Councilor. After his wife died, Francisco remarried Ramona Constantino, a cousin of screen legend Carmen Rosales. Other Trining’s uncles Emilio, Tomas and Feliciano were all Katipuneros.
After Trining lost her mother when she was just 6 years old, she moved to Manila to begin her elementary studies at Assumption Convent. Then she transferred to St. Scholastica College where she was an interna. Students during the colonial days were mostly interned on full board and lodging, with limited access to public life. The high standard of education she received molded her to become fluent in Spanish and English, two basic languages required before one could attain prominence in high society.
Like in previous years, two Manila Carnival Queens representing the Occident and the Orient respectively were hailed. Trining was proclaimed Queen of the Orient during the Philippine Carnival of 1920 in Manila; while Virginia Harrison, daughter of Philippine Governor General Francis Burton Harrison and heiress Mary Crocker, was crowned Queen of the Occident .
Trining’s consort was Ralph Earnshaw, son of millionaire Don Manuel Earnshaw, whose brother became at one time the Mayor of Manila. After the Carnival, she met a young politico whose name was Gov. Manuel Acuna Roxas at the house of Teresita Salgado, one of her Carnival Princesses. Manuel Roxas was attending the Governor’s Convention in Manila at that time.
A year later, Trining and Manuel met again at the Grand Ball held on Washington Day at the Philippine Columbian. By then Manuel Roxas was already Governor of Capiz, after he topped the Bar Exams in 1913. Sparks flew and they clicked that night. When Senate President Manuel Quezon learned of the blossoming romance of the pair, he supported and approved of the match, sealing the whirlwind romance to its final outcome.
Manila Carnival Prize of 1920
The year 1920 was the beginning of a new era. The First World War just ended and the world was crawling back to its normalcy. The Americanization of the Philippines continued with the annual Carnival regularly scheduled in Manila, as well as in the provinces. It was dubbed as the confetti, flapper era – blasting the “Roaring 20’s.”
Americana brought to light the latest international trends in arts, fashion and culture to the Philippines. Art Deco became the rage in architecture and interior design. Jazz music played and Filipinos loved to dance utilizing the mass-produced RCA player phonograph. While English was taught in elementary schools, silent movies with English captions incredibly emancipated the local speaking tongue from Spanish! And not to be missed was the Manila Carnival, a regular event introduced in 1908 that combined the latest modern carnival rides with sports, parades, floats, balls, beauty contests, internationally-sponsored pavilions, and locally-hosted commercial-agricultural-industrial fairs.
The Manila Carnival was temporarily suspended in 1919 after World War I ended in 1918. While the world was preoccupied with the Versailles Peace Treaty in 1919, the Caloocan Lerma Mardi Gras and Carnival took its place (souvenir medal with bar shown on top). Still, the 1919 celebration was not recorded as an official national carnival.
Victory of the Allies during World War I was marked at the Manila Carnival in 1920, resuming its operations with different names. As shown on the picture on the first page of this article, the facade of the gate at the entrance of the carnival grounds showed distinctly the name “1920 / Philippine Carnival.” And like in previous years, the official and souvenir medals with beautifully colored enamels, produced by The Whitehead & Hoag Company of Newark, New Jersey, U.S.A., were marked “Philippine Carnival.” However, all prize medals struck by C. Zamora in Manila bore “Victory Carnival and Exposition.” And to highlight said event, an illustrated monthly review magazine was published with a banner “The Philippine Oriental Exposition / Exponent of / Manila International Exposition” as shown below.
Today’s “American Idol,” which is seen regularly on television, took its cue from the Manila Carnival beauty contest. While the song festival gets its winners from the final tally of how many send their votes thru telephone or cellular phone text messaging, the olden days required clipping a coupon from the daily newspapers and writing down the name of the contestant before sending it by mail. The Manila Carnival beauty contest commenced every December of the previous year, and lasted two months until the end of January the following year. All Manila Carnival events occur in early February of every year before World War II.
The Political Landscape After 1920
Trinidad and Manuel Roxas were married on April 14, 1921, less than a year later from the time they got engaged. A quiet ceremony was held at a privately-built family chapel in Sibul Springs in Bulacan, a frequent tourist destination during the American Era. The Principal Sponsors were Senate President Manuel Quezon and Teresita Salgado. After the wedding, the couple went home and stayed in Capiz where they were warmly welcomed.
Indeed their marriage proved to be a blessing in disguise. The following year was national elections, and Gov. Manuel Roxas ran for Congress. He was elected as the Congressman representing the Province of Capiz. After the new Congress elected their respective leaders, Manuel Roxas was voted as Speaker of the House of Representatives, which Roxas held for 11 years thereafter. Therefore, the couple had to move back to Manila.
In 1934, Manuel Roxas became an active member of the Constitutional Convention. When Gen. Douglas McArthur served as Military Adviser to the Commonwealth President, Manuel Roxas was appointed one of the McArthur’s Aides. In the Philippine Army, he rose to the rank of Brigadier General. When the Second World War broke out, hel saw action in Bataan, Corregidor and Mindanao. His military record during the three years of Japanese Occupation included underground work, after he refused to leave the country for a safer haven abroad. This left Trining living most of the time in Bulacan.
When Congress resumed operation after the Great War, Manuel Roxas rose to become Senate President. In a tightly contested 1945 Presidential Elections, he won dramatically against reelectionist Sergio Osmeña. He assumed the presidency and was inducted on May 28, 1946. This was an incredible feat at that time, because America finally turned over Philippine Independence a couple of months later. That event also proclaimed Trining as the first Manila Carnival Queen to become the very first “First Lady” of the Republic of the Philippines. She was also beside the President at the July 4, 1946 Independence Day turnover ceremonies.
The matrimonial union with Manuel Roxas had produced two children, Rosario or “Ruby” and Gerardito or “Gerry.” Ruby was married to Vicente Roxas (no relation) and had a son named Manuel. While Gerry who became a Senator was married to Judy Araneta and had three children: Gerardo Jr. or “Dinggoy” became a Congressman and died a bachelor in 1993; Maria Lourdes was married to Agusto Ojeda; and Mar, the youngest, became Senator and is married to ABSCBN Broadcaster Korina Sanchez. Right photo shows Ruby, Gerry and Trining, behind seated President Manuel Roxas.
Rare photo of four Philippine First Ladies at left, showing from left to right: Trinidad Roxas in floral terno, (anonymous person), Leonila Garcia, Eva Macapagal, and Imelda Marcos.
Unfortunately, their stay at Malacañang Palace was cut short when President Manuel Roxas suffered a fatal heart attack while visiting Clark Air Base in 1948. After that tragic event, Trining sought solace thru prayers, family and friends and would remain in solitary confinement for the remaining years of her life.
At a robust age of 94 years old, Trining died on June 20, 1995 under the care of loved ones, truly a magnificent life worth emulating and full of meaning. Her nobility had finally been established from lineage, more than four generations on both sides of the family.
Photos and memorabilia are from the collection of the author Michael Roura De Leon
Photos and memorabilia are from the collection of the author Michael Roura De Leon
Source: Bayanihan Collectors Club Newsletter, May 2012