How did Miss International 1964 Gemma Cruz-Araneta react to racist slur “Do you live on trees?”

by Bernie V. Franco
Jul 23, 2021
First-ever Pinay Miss International Gemma Cruz-Araneta shares how she was discriminated in the U.S. when she won the international crown. Find out her witty response when asked if Filipinos like her live on trees.
PHOTO/S: YouTube / Facebook

Ibinahagi ni Gemma Cruz-Araneta, 77, na nakaranas siya noon ng diskriminasyon nang kinoronahan siya bilang Miss International 1964.

Si Gemma ang kauna-unahang Asian at kauna-unahang Filipina international titleholder.

Ginanap ang Miss International 1964 pageant sa Long Beach, California, U.S.A.

Matapos manalo, may dalawang pagkakataong inalipusta si Gemma ng ibang lahi dahil siya ay isang Pilipino.

Pareho raw itong nangyari habang siya ay nasa Amerika.

Unang ibinahagi ni Gemma nang tanungin siya ng mga banyaga kung totoong nakatira ang mga Pilipino sa puno.

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

Ito naman daw ang isinagot niya: “I would say, 'Yeah. But you know, we have escalators going down.’”

Ang isa pa raw insidente ay kasama niya ang kanyang ina, ang kilalang writer at journalist na si Carmen Guerrero Nakpil.

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Kuwento ni Gemma, “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

Pero hindi lang daw sa ibang bansa nakaranas ng diskriminasyon si Gemma.

Maging sa kapwa niya Pilipino ay nakaranas din siya ng panlalait.

Tanda pa raw ni Gemma na inalipusta siya noon bago siya sumabak sa international pageant.

“I felt and I heard that a lot of people said, ‘Ay, bakit naman ‘yan papadala natin, ang itim-itim niya?’”

Ayon kay Gemma, mas maitim kasi siya noong kabataan niya.

“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.

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“So, I was much darker than I am now.”

Walang kagatol-gatol na sabi ni Gemma, “We are racists. Whether or not there are beauty contests, I think Filipinos are racists.”

Ninuno ni Gemma ang national hero na si Jose Rizal. Apo siya sa tuhod ng kapatid ni Rizal na si Doña Maria Mercado.

Naging public figure si Gemma matapos ang kanyang pageant stint.

Dati siyang director ng National Museum noong Marcos administration.

Naging member din siya ng National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Itinalaga siyang kalihim ng Department of Tourism noong administrasyon ni dating Pangulong Joseph Estrada.

Naging book author din siya at radio host.

Kasalukuyan siyang columnist sa daily broadsheet na Manila Bulletin.

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First-ever Pinay Miss International Gemma Cruz-Araneta shares how she was discriminated in the U.S. when she won the international crown. Find out her witty response when asked if Filipinos like her live on trees.
PHOTO/S: YouTube / Facebook
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