Carmeling, as she was to be known all her life, was born in Manila on 2 July 1916 to Jose del Rosario and the former Carmelita de Leon, one of 9 children. Her paternal grandfather, Anacleto Sales del Rosario (b. 13 July 1860/d.1895) was the country’s leading chemist during the Spanish times and was known even to Jose P. Rizal. His pioneering work on nipa palm and its products won First Prize at the 1881 World’s Fair in Paris. Today, he is known as the Father of Philippine Laboratory Science.
Carmeling was a standout campus beauty of Centro Escolar de Señoritas where she spent her college years. An editor of La Vanguardia newspaper—and a close friend of her father—had been beseeching him to allow the paper to sponsor her candidacy in the search for the queen of the 1935 Manila Carnival. Carmeling’s parents did not really approve of such beauty shows, but after much persuasion, and perhaps thinking that her chances of winning were slim, her father relented. One stipulation of the agreement however was that should Carmeling win, she would have to quickly relinquish her title.
As luck would have it, 19 year old Carmeling was one of the top vote-getters of the 1935 Carnival, eventually garnering the Miss Mindanao crown, just 3 steps away from the eventual winner, socialite Conchita Sunico. But for her family, there was no real cause for rejoicing. Her victory had already been reported in national papers together with Catalina Zabala (Miss Luzon) and Julieta Abad (Miss Visayas, who had a Kapampangan escort from Tarlac, Jose Feliciano, later to be a Secretary of Agriculture under Pres. Diosdado Macapagal’s term), when she announced that she was giving up her title. Her conviction to stand by her decision in fulfillment of her father’s wish ruffled quite a few feathers among the carnival officials and participants who now believed her to be a nuisance candidate. Thus, 4th placer Celia Araullo was elevated to the court as Miss Mindanao.
But her short-lived carnival days were not without wonderful moments. That same year, she met Virgilio H. Rodriguez, son of sugar baron Don Godofredo Rodriguez and Doña Victoria Hizon of San Fernando. On 26 June 1935, Carmeling and Virgilio were married in spectacular rites at the Sto. Domingo Church, on 26 June 1935, a talk-of-the-town wedding that merited coverage in the Pampanga Social Register 1936, which chronicled Pampanga’s alta sociedad events. The couple settled in San Fernando, where Carmeling quickly learned to speak in Kapampangan. They had 5 children: Victoria, Godofredo, Gorgonia, Ana Marie and Jo Anne. Although in delicate health, 93 year old Carmeling, Pampanga’s adopted beauty, is settled in San Lorenzo Village, Makati today with an unmarried daughter.