Beauty pageants are such a staple in the Philippines that it’s hard to remember how it all began. It just seems as if it’s always been there since the start of local history. However, all these grand pageants originated from something called the Manila Carnival Queens, which was an annual beauty pageant held during the American colonial period. Originally, this Carnival was organized by the US government to celebrate the good relationship between the United States and the Philippines, and also to display the progress of the country. Numerous young ladies were crowned as Carnival Queens from 1908 all the way to 1926. In 1926, the last Carnival Queen and the first ever Miss Philippines were crowned, signaling the start of a new age of beauty pageants.
Last May 30, the heritage and convention center Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar revived the Manila Carnival spirit through the first ever Lakambini ng Las Casas beauty pageant. The pageant’s goal was to find a Lakambini or an ambassador who could accurately represent the values of the heritage hotel. To further highlight the importance and splendor of the event, it was held in the majestic Hotel de Oriente, a reconstructed version of an old popular hotel in 18th-century Binondo.
“The Lakambini ng Las Casas aims to revive the glory and pride of the Manila Carnival Queens. The chosen queen from the pageant will be the Reyna Elena for the Grand Santacruzan,” said the Marketing Communications manager of Las Casas, Mr. Erwin Doña.
The day opened with “The Origin and Evolution of Filipino-Inspired Fashion,” a fashion exhibit of elegant ternos designed by some of the biggest names in the local fashion industry such as Francis Libiran, Renee Salud, Randy Ortiz, and Albert Andrada. After this came the pageant proper, where 18 beautiful Filipinas representing various municipalities and cities in Bataan competed for the title of Lakambini. After a rigorous screening, these ladies were down to the top 6 contenders. The last question was to discuss their stance on the usage of the Las Casas resort as “a medium for heritage restoration and unification”.
After the screening and input from the judges, Diana Velasco of Balanga won as the first Lakambini ng Las Casas 2017. Dianne April Pangilinan of Mariveles came in second as Reina Oriente, and Diana’s sister, Donna Velasco placed third as Reina Occidente.
The following day, May 31, there was a Santa Cruzan parade around the resort where the Lakambini Diana Velasco acted as the Reyna Elena with the other Lakambini contestants as her entourage.
With the subsequent events of Lakambini ng Las Casas and the Santa Cruzan parade, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar has shown that they can organize and create large-scale proceedings that bring back a wave of nostalgia and appreciation for the Filipino culture through a totally immersive experience.