How Gemma Cruz-Araneta Shut Down Racists in 1964

She experienced racism when she won Miss international 1964.

Gemma Cruz-Araneta, 77, shared that she experienced discrimination when she was crowned Miss International 1964.

Gemma is the first Asian and the first Filipina international titleholder.

The Miss International 1964 pageant was held in Long Beach, California, U.S.A.

After winning, Gemma was twice insulted by other races because she was a Filipino.

The incidents happened while She was in America.

Gemma shared how foreigners asked her if Filipinos really lived in trees.

"In the U.S., the racist ideas were more subtle. They would ask,‘ Do you live in trees in the Philippines? ’" The former beauty queen said on the Flipping the Narrative podcast on July 10, 2021.

“I would say, 'Yes. But you know, we have escalators going down.”

Another alleged discrimination happened when she was with her mother, the renowned writer and journalist Carmen Guerrero Nakpil.

“Once, my mommy went to this corner pharmacy to pick some stuff. And then, the pictures of the candidates, the Top 5, had already come out on the front page of the Long Beach newspapers.

“My mommy heard a couple, ‘Oh, look at Miss Philippines. What a pretty girl. I wonder if she speaks English.’

“So, my mother said,‘ She does... and better than you! ’”

Discrimination Even in the Philippines

But Gemma is not the only one who has experienced discrimination in other countries.

Even among her fellow Filipinos, she also experienced insults.

Gemma even noted that she was insulted before she took part in the international pageant.

"I felt and I heard that a lot of people said, 'Oh, why are we going to send that, he's so black?'"


According to Gemma, she was darker when she was younger.

“If you look at my pictures in those days, I was much darker because in school, you have P.E. [Physical Education] under the sun, and things like that.

"So, I was much darker than I am now."

International Beauty winner, Gemma Teresa Guerrero Cruz (Araneta), 1964

Gemma said without hesitation, “We are racists. Whether there are beauty contests, I think Filipinos are racists.”

Gemma is a descendant of Jose Rizal. She is the great-grandson of Rizal's sister Doña Maria Mercado.

Gemma became a public figure after her pageant stint.

She was previously director of the National Museum during the Marcos administration. She is also a former member of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

She was appointed secretary of the Department of Tourism during the administration of former President Joseph Estrada.

She was also a book author and radio host. Gemma is currently a columnist in the daily broadsheet Manila Bulletin.

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This story originally appeared on Pep.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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