Sunday, June 01, 2008

Bayanihan dancer recalls night with Paul Newman

By Tina Santos
First Posted 01:19am (Mla time) 07/04/2007

MANILA, Philippines – “I felt like I was floating on a cloud the entire evening,” said Veronica “Veth” Elizabeth Atega-Nable [my first cousin - mojo ]of Paco, Manila, describing how she felt on the night she was crowned Miss Fil-Am Queen of the former Subic Naval Base on the fourth of July, 46 years ago.

With the honor came a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet—and hold hands—with famous Hollywood actor Paul Newman who was her escort.

“I was tongue-tied for a moment,” Nable said, recalling the first time she came face-to-face with Newman whom she described as “very warm and friendly” and “has the lightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. I felt like I was the luckiest girl on earth,” she added.

Nable, who won the title at the age of 23, said the chance in a lifetime came as a complete surprise to her.

She recalled that she was enjoying her summer vacation in Agusan del Norte when she got a call from Manila informing her that Rear Adm. Charles Duncan, then Subic base commander, and members of the 1962 Fil-Am Fiesta Committee had chosen her to be the queen of the Fil-Am fiesta to be held inside the American base.

“It was completely unexpected because I had not made any effort nor dreamt of succeeding popular movie star Gloria Romero, the title holder in the previous year,” said Nable, who is now 68.

“I was very excited and flattered they chose me, especially when I was told that Mr. Newman would be my escort.”

She later learned that the Agusan governor had submitted her name to the committee. Before that, she represented Region 10 in a nationwide search for Miss Philippines.

“And in Bayanihan perfomances, I didn’t know that they were observing me,” she added. Nable was a member of the original batch of the Bayanihan Dance Group, the country’s national folk dance company.


“It was a perfect evening,” she said, adding that she was wearing a white beaded terno with a long cape and elbow-length gloves made by Pitoy Moreno. “There was Paul Newman beside me, a crown on my head, my colleagues at Bayanihan and famous local and Hollywood celebrities like Shirley MacLaine entertaining my court.”

Her court included movie stars Amalia Fuentes, Lourdes Medel and Adorable Liwanag.

But the parade that preceded the coronation night was equally thrilling, Nable said.

“A handsome Navy officer, who ‘won’ his escort duties in a raffle, stood beside me in the Queen’s float, holding an umbrella over me. It rained but it did not dampen the gaiety of the kilometer-long parade,” she recalled.

She said her stint as Miss Fil-Am Queen paved the way for other opportunities for her, including modeling stints and being on the cover of several magazines.

After her reign, Nable again focused on one of the things she loved doing most: Dancing.

She joined the Bayanihan at 19, while taking up nutrition at the Philippine Women’s University on Taft Avenue, Manila, which organized the dance troupe.

“I was recruited to form the first Bayanihan Dance Group,” she said. Nable added that being a member of the Bayanihan “fulfilled my love for dancing and allowed us to show our countrymen and the world the beauty of our dances.”

The Bayanihan, whose members have been touring the world as cultural emissaries for the Philippines, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this October.

“Life after Bayanihan revolved around marriage and family, another beautiful and fulfilling experience,” said the girl who gave it all up to marry Horacio Nable. “I stopped being active in the Bayanihan when I got married. But I have not stopped dancing yet.”

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