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Gemma Cruz-Araneta,

a descendant of Rizal

is known to most Filipinos more as a beauty queen than as a living descendant of Jose Rizal. (Click the photo to view photos of Gemma Cruz-Araneta at Almuerzo con Gemma 2006.) Gemma is the grand-niece of Rizal through his sister Maria. In 1964 Gemma won the title Miss International in the beauty contest held at Long Beach, California. She is the first Filipina to represent her country in an international beauty pageant and the first Filipina to win the crown of Miss International. Those who know her family well were hardly surprised that Gemma donated her prize money of 10,000 USD to Boys Town and Girls Home, both oprhanages.

Gemma Teresa Guerrero Cruz-Araneta is the daughter of well-known journalist Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil by her first husband Capt. Ismael Arguelles Cruz who was the grandson of Maria Rizal through her son Mauricio. Ismael Cruz died during the war and his wife Carmen recounts in "The Benovelence", how she had watched her husband taken away by the Japanese and killed, and she wrote,

"...we had put our faith in the myth of the benevolent protector who did not materialize until fire, shelling from both sides had reduced Manila to the last circle of hell and its people to wide-eyed, shivering madmen. Those who had survived Japanese hate did not survive American love. Both were equally deadly, the latter more so because sought and longed for.”

In 1952 the widowed Carmen Guerrero married the architect Angel Nakpil, a nephew of Julio Nakpil who was aide de camp to Andres Bonifacio and was famous in his own right through his musical compositions, one of which is the Himno Nacional of 1896. It is interesting that Gemma is directly connected to the Rizal family and very indirectly to Bonifacio, because Angel Nakpil was a nephew of Julio Nakpil who married Gregoria de Jesus, Bonifacio's widow.

An even more indirect connection to important events in the Philippines is through Leon Ma. Guerrero (elder brother of her mother Carmen) .who was then prosecuting lawyer in the Marcos-Nalundasan case. In her biography, Carmen Nakpil wrote,

One morning, the doorbell rang and a dark, little woman in a terno was admitted. She and Mama spoke quietly in the shuttered sala for a while. When the visitor left, I asked Mama who it was. It was Mrs. Marcos, she said, the mother of Ferdinand E. Marcos. I pushed the subject. “What did she want?” “She said she had come to ask me, mother to mother, to speak to Leoni.” And tell him what? Mama did not reply and never said anything further. The press made the trial a national event. Leoni lost the case and Marcos went free.”

In 1968 when then President Ferdinand Marcos appointed Gemma Cruz Director of the National Museum. who was concurrently a member of the National Historical nstitute. After Martial Law was declared in 1972, Gemma and her husband, Antonio Araneta, and their children, Fatima and Leon, left for Mexico City where she lived until 1989. In Mexico, she worked as project chief of Centro de Estudios Economics y Sociales del Tercer Mundo (CEESTEM), advisory to then Mexican President Luis Echeverria. She also worked as Chief Program Assistant of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), supervising the Mexican government's programs with the UNDP

Gemma Cruz-Araneta was appointed Secretary of the Department of Tourism by President Joseph Estrada, a position she held from June 30 1998 to 20 January 2001. In 2003, She was elected director/trustee and president of Heritage Conservation Society of the Philippines (HCSP)and was re-elected in February 2006.
Like her mother, Gemma has distinguished herself too in writing. Shas six publications to her name: Makisig, the Little Hero of Mactan; Hanoi Diary; Beauty and Fashion for the Filipina (co-author), Sentimiento: Fiction and Nostalgia, Katha at Salamisim, El Galeon de Manila: un mar de historias (co-author); and, Stones of Faith.


To view the webpage of the living descendants of Soledad Rizal, the youngest sister of Jose Rizal, click on Soledad Rizal.