Thursday, September 18, 2014

THE PHILIPPINES AT THE PACIFIC FESTIVAL (Philippines Free Press, October 17, 1959)

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by Dalisay Bocobo-Balunsat
San Francisco, California
Philippines Free Press, October 17, 1959

THE second Pacific Festival was celebrated in San Francisco, California, from September 18 to 27.  Even Mother Nature was in a festive mood, for there was plenty of sunshine during the festivities.  There were fireworks from Japan, pageants from the different Pacific countries, a gigantic parade with TV and Hollywood movie stars, and open-air art festival, a travel show at Brooks Hall, nightly dances, a Book-and-Author luncheon with Vincent Price, William Lederer and General Wedemeyer as speakers, an open house tendered by the International Airport, and the First Fleet, and displays at the big department stores and at the public library and its branches.

"The Philippines was most cooperative," Mayor George Christopher of San Francisco told this writer.  "And as mayor of this city, I am thanking the Filipino people in behalf of San Francisco residents."

Philippine participation consisted of a colorful pageant (directed by Philippine Travel and Information Office manager Cita Trinidad) on September 24, which was Philippine Day; Philippine dances during the nightly variety shows at Brooks Hall Auditorium; an impressive Philippine Booth and a large display of Philippine products at the Brooks Hall Travel and Trade Show; and a dinner given jointly by the Philippine Travel and Information Office and the Caballeros de Dimasalang at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in honor of Susan Roces, our Miss Philippines.

The Philippines was also featured by big downtown department stores.  Macy's sponsored a one-man exhibit of Philippine paintings done on velvet by Felix Gonzales.  At Macy's, too, was a breath-taking window display of Philippine white butterfly orchids created by Podesta Baldocchi, America's best florist.  Gumps, a famed interior-decoration shop, featured abaca coasters and Philippine linen napkins; and Livingston's exhibited a four-paneled room divider made of Philippine mahogany (narra) and Capiz shells.

The Philippine Day show was considered the best of the national presentations, for it was "impressive without being pompous" and "colorful without being gaudy."

The beautiful 18-year-old movie star Susan Roces was crowned "Miss Philippines" at Union Square by the First Lady of San Francisco, Mrs. George Christopher.  Susan wore an all-white, figure-hugging sheath terno encrusted with mother-of-pearl.  her crown was Elizabethan in style, made of rhinestones.  Her principal consort was Jimmy Hampton, Jr., and she was surrounded by six other escorts:  Bobby, Scotty and George Ross, Eddie Crame, Ray Pedro and Raymond Triplitt.  Little Tony Hampton was the crown bearer.  This was the second time Susan represented the Philippines at the festival (she was also last year's Miss Philippines).  This time, though, Susan had a steady date.  He was Dr. Jesus Sonora, her father, who came all the way from Cincinnati's St. Francis Hospital to see his celebrity-daughter, whom he had not seen for quite a spell.  A proud escort indeed was he.  At the Dimasalang dinner in her honor, Susan made a nice speech in Tagalog, as well as during the Philippine Day program at Union Square.  "The Philippine fiesta was highlighted by a captivating fashion show of stylish contemporary ternos, balintawaks and Mari Claras modeled by beautious Pinays led by Mrs. John Samit (Rosa del Rosario, former Philippine movie queen), who was making her first public appearance since she married and settled down in San Francisco to make a home for her husband and daughter.  She looked as glamorous as ever, in a tight-fitting red-colored mestiza dress studded with shiny shells and black embroidery made by Carolina's of Manila.

The versatility of Philippine fabrics was displayed by three Fil-American models, a hand-embroidered pina dress (American-cut) worn by Victoria Miller of Batangas; embroidered ramie blouse with a straight skirt worn by Rubi Fegley of San Juan, Rizal, and a cocktail sheath in velvet with Maria Clara sleeves (designed by the model herself) worn by Francia Amechazurra-Christie of Capiz.  Other outstanding models were Tessie Francisco-Hampton, who modeled a Flamingo-influenced jusi terno; Caridad Concepcion-Vallangca, who wore a sophisticated black gown created by her designer-brother, Andy Concepcion; Lorraine Stagner-Sullivan (youngest sister of Rosa del Rosario) who modeled a cocktail balintawak; Fe Hill of Baguio, who showed a dazzling blue party terno; and Elizabeth Lorenzana, a Stanford student, who presented a short blue saya.

Popular Booth 

The 13th Annual San Francisco Art Festival was held at the Civic Center Park.  Among the art works was a Philippine painting called "Rice Stacks," depicting a Filipino farmer with his carabao in the fields.  People paid a dollar each to see the booths of Pacific countries like the Philippines, Korea, Japan and India.  Exotic food was served at the Pacific Rendezvous.  The Philippine booth, in a color scheme of black and orange, with bamboo furniture, Philippine decor and color slide,s was adjudged the most attractive national booth for it "was artistic in its simplicity."

We felt elated when visitors crowded the Philippine Industries Section (managed by Commercial Attache' Jose de los Reyes) to see the Philippine products.  It is no exaggeration to say that our unique Philippine handicrafts stole the show!  And they sold like hotcakes!  The best-sellers were Philippine dolls, hand-made handbags, abaca slippers, Osmena pearls, buntal hats, shell brooches, coconut knick-knacks, and Igorot wood carvings -- at $20 each!

During the grand ball that climaxed the festival, Susan Roces had a long stagline, but she danced mostly with her father.  Her participation in the celebration was filmed lby a newsreel camera man (Amaury Agra) sent by Sampaguita Pictures.  Susn whispered to us that night that she would sneak out and "see the sights" of this magic city with her father.  "I never really had a chance to see San Francisco during my first visit here last year," she said.  "That will be the first thing I'll do when this is all over.  Relax and look around.  But I am happy to be here!  I hope that, in representing the Philippines, I have fulfilled my wish.  And my wish is that every Filipino here in America will never forget the Mother Country."

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