The Fabulous First Ladies, 1897-2001
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - March 15, 2013 - 12:00am

“They are the paradigm of beauty, strength and character of the Filipino Woman,” is how Funfare’s “beauty expert” Felix Manuel describes the Philippine First Ladies from 1897 to 2001, and I’m sure we all agree with him.

Three of these fabulous ladies were former beauty queens, noted Felix. Let’s find out who.

1. Hilaria del Rosario Aguinaldo (1897-1901) — She was the first wife of the country’s first president, General Emilio Aguinaldo. During her husband’s term, she established the Hijas de la Revolución (Daughters of the Revolution) that later became Asociación de la Cruz Roja (Red Cross Association) and raised funds for medicine and other supplies, and helped attend to the sick soldiers during this turbulent time in the country. At that time, the term First Lady was not used. It was a long time before the Philippines had another First Lady because of the country was annexed to the United States. 

2. Aurora Antonia Molina Aragón Quezon (1935-1944) â€” A native of Baler, she was a staunch campaigner for women’s right to vote which was granted in 1937. During Manuel Quezon’s second term of office, the Philippines was invaded by the Japanese. The Quezons sought refuge in Corregidor and later moved to New York where the ailing president died of tuberculosis in 1944. Aurora eventually returned to the Philippines and became the first chairperson of The Philippine National Red Cross. In April 1949, she was killed in an ambush on her way to Baler. The Province of Aurora was named after her.

3. Pacencia Hidalgo Valencia Laurel (During the Japanese Occupation, 1943-1945) — Jose P. Laurel was the country’s president during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines. His First Lady devoted herself to socio-civic activities that benefited the needy.

4. Esperanza Escolar Limjap Osmeña (1915 Manila Carnival Princess, 1944-1946) â€” In 1915, she was named Princess of the Manila Carnival, with Concepcion Medina as top winner. The stunning Esperanza was a popular society figure along with her other beautiful sisters. She became the second wife of then Sen. Sergio Osmeña who became a widower two years before marrying Esperanza.

5. Trinidad Roura de Leon Roxas (1920 Manila Carnival Queen, 1946-1948) â€” The daughter of Sen. Ceferino de Leon, Trinidad was the most popular girl during the 1920 Manila Carnival where she was eventually crowned as Queen of the Orient. An American beauty, Virginia Harrison, was crowned Queen of the Occident. Trinidad later met then Capiz Gov. Manuel Roxas who would eventually become President in 1946. As First Lady, Trinidad was preoccupied with the socio-civic activities of The White Cross and Girl Scouts of the Philippines.

6. Victoria Syquia Quirino (1948-1953) â€” As the eldest daughter of Pres. Elpidio Quirino, a widower when he assumed office, Victoria was considered the country’s First Lady. Her mother and three siblings were killed during the Liberation of Manila in 1945. Dubbed as the “Teenage First Lady,” then 17-year-old Victoria easily adapted to the whirlwind life with her bubbly personality. Even after her Malacañang stint, she became active in various activities that benefited the people who lived in poverty.

7. Luz Banzon Magsaysay (1953-1957) — The Balanga, Bataan, native was the wife of Ramon Magsaysay, the Philippine President who died in a plane crash in 1957. During her term as First Lady, Luz served as honorary chairwoman of The Philippine Red Cross and devoted her time to various socio-civic activities.

8. Leonila Dimataga Garcia (1957-1961) â€” When Carlos P. Garcia assumed office in 1957, Leonila became the eighth Philippine First Lady. The Cebuana charmer was actively involved in her husband’s “Filipino First Policy.” A Pharmacist, she also became active in various cultural and socio-civic activities.

9. Dr. Evangelina Macaraeg Macapagal (1961-1965) â€” When Diosdado Macapagal became president, the lovely doctor devoted time to promoting health education among the poor. She established many health and education centers that were accessible to the needy. She also promoted the use of the patadyong, Maria Clara and terno during special events to highlight our culture.

10. Imelda Remedios Visitacion Trinidad Romualdez Marcos (1949 Rose of Tacloban and 1953 Muse of Manila, 1965-1986) â€” The country’s First Lady for 21 years is the most internationally recognized First Lady in the world. Her beauty is unparalleled and her charm infectious. From the time she was a beauty queen in her native Leyte and up to now, she never fails to captivate people. After becoming First Lady when Ferdinand Marcos was elected in 1965, Imelda has assumed various government posts and up to now, at 83, she is still serving the people. As an advocate of “the true, the good and the beautiful,” Madame Imelda’s contribution to the Filipino arts and culture is well-documented.

11. Amelita “Ming” Jara Martinez Ramos (1992-1998) â€” She became First Lady when Fidel Ramos was elected president in 1992. The very “low key” First Lady loves to play the piano and involved herself in various environmental advocacies, especially the rehabilitation of the Pasig River.

12. Dr. Luisa “Loi” Hernandez Pimentel Ejercito (1998-2001) â€” During Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s term as president, Loi devoted her time to various health projects. The Thomasian physician specialized in the field of Psychiatry. In 1989, she helped establish the “Erap Para Sa Mahirap” Foundation with a primary goal of providing scholarship opportunities to the underprivileged but deserving students all over the country. She later became a senator, authoring hundreds of bills and resolutions.

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

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