MANILA, Philippines—At the end of the day or, to be more precise, at the end of the red carpet, everything about Monday’s much-awaited annual fashion event that heralded President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) was cultural.
While VIPs in richer, more mature democracies are expected to appear businesslike in smart-tailored ensembles to listen to a report of their leaders’ accomplishments and road map for the future, not a few of the politicians and their spouses and guests who trooped to the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on Monday, instead of blending in, again made sure they stood out for various reasons in their respective ideas of floor-sweeping and elaborate Filipiniana wear.
The red carpet in the north and south wings had been rolled, camera phones were on standby and members of the media—both old and new—were waiting behind the velvet rope. And, in keeping with tradition and expectations, many of this year’s batch of Instagram-ready fashion plates did not disappoint.
Leading the pack were such usual suspects as Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, Senators Loren Legarda and Pia Cayetano, Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano, Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and young congressional spouses Assunta de Rossi-Ledesma, Cindy Ejercito, Stella Quimbo and Tootsie Angara.
As in years past, the terno proved to be the attire of choice by the majority of the ladies.
Cayetano, wife of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, wore an old rose number by Taguig designer Onin Pagsisihan. The terno featured a pleated bodice that segued into a tailored skirt fashioned from huge, geometric pieces of the same fabric.
Gomez again chose go-to-guy Randy Ortiz who designed a dove gray terno, which combined silk cocoon and piña cloth and embellished with classic callado embroidery. The serpentine-shaped skirt with front and back godets was intricately embellished with flat and semi-embossed lace cutwork and embroidery.
Angara, wife of junior Sen. Sonny Angara, also opted for Ortiz’s gun-metal gray terno made of silk gazar. In lieu of embroidery, the designer came up with overlapped ruched tulle details on the gown’s bodice for a modern twist. Black lace that peeked out of Angara’s neckline and back provided a hint of romance.
Quimbo, wife of Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, affirmed her reputation as a fashion maverick in Jun Escario’s cream-and-gray ensemble consisting of a corset with a stylized and detachable panuelo. Thanks to a tulle-like petticoat underneath, the panuelo jutted out from its wearer’s back and shoulders like a starched capelet.
Quimbo then paired it with a long ash gray maxi skirt with white floral appliqués. She capped off the look with a kelly green YSL clutch and matching pair of Lupe Saenz heels, a Marikina brand she herself designs and manufactures.
Socialite Mons Romulo, daughter of former Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, also reworked the terno in Dennis Lustico’s polka-dotted pink terno with black Chantilly lace detail that doubled as a panuelo.
Neophyte Sen. Nancy Binay also asked Ortiz to design her a two-piece tiffany blue terno with a bodice fashioned from tiers of silk cocoon strips and a serpentine-shaped skirt with intricate embroidery.
Makati Rep. Abby Binay, the senator’s younger sister, wore an off-white piña terno with a visible gray lace appliqué underneath by Ivarluski Aseron. The designer also designed a jusi terno with pleated details for controversial actress Heart Evangelista, girlfriend of Sen. Francis Escudero.
Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares made her debut in a white chiffon terno by Rajo Laurel. With a partly draped upper bodice, the terno had a sabrina neckline and embellished with hand-beaded topaz crystals and gold Murano glass beads.
Former Rep. Risa Hontiveros went classic in Joel Acebuche’s purple terno with T’nalak accents combined with lace on the gown’s butterfly sleeves. The color was her personal choice, she said, as it stands for women’s reproductive health (RH).
Legarda maximized the opportunity to advance her advocacy promoting hand-woven textiles by the country’s indigenous people by wearing what she coined “fashionalism”—fashion and nationalism. The ensemble consisted of a clingy, off-shoulder jersey top in black paired with a Bagobo skirt in shades of red and black and accented with layers of tinkling T’boli brass bells.
Either they failed to read the memo, or Ledesma and (Pia) Cayetano deliberately ignored the dress code by both opting for black numbers that looked anything but Filipiniana.
Cayetano again didn’t venture beyond her comfort zone by opting for designer Mia Orquico, who did a “Great Gatsby”-inspired number with a transparent nude-lined lace bodice and tiered tulle skirt. The only color she sported was a small pin on her chest in the form of a purple ribbon.
Like Hontiveros, Cayetano, one of the principal authors of the RH law, actively supports women’s and children’s causes.
Ledesma, wife of Negros Occidental Rep. Jules Ledesma, slipped into a gun-metal gray gown made of a mesh material by Cheryl Vicente. Apart from its stylized crumpled sleeves, the somber number was accented by rope-like appliqués and black stones on the waist and lower bodice.
Ejercito, wife of newly elected Sen. JV Ejercito, remained loyal to Paul Cabral in a champagne terno with partly draped bodice and pleated skirt. Bling in the form of a Y-shaped crystal embellishment drew the eyes to the bodice.
‘Color of justice’
Not a few journalists had to do a double-take upon seeing Sereno, who wore what she described as “the color of justice”—a purple embroidered and semi-beaded piña terno with a floor-sweeping train by designer Charito Alunan.
Newly elected Sen. Cynthia Villar, not exactly known as a photographer’s dream, also glowed in an asymmetrical draped terno in mocha and skin-toned French tulle. As accent, designer Noli Hans added an orange chiffon detail on the bodice.
Several Sona first-timers also made heads turn. Lawyer Kaye Revil, wife of Masbate Gov. Vince Revil, showed her height and slim build to her advantage by donning disparate pieces like a rust-colored Jim Thompson silk maxi skirt paired with an embroidered and cropped ecru barong by Manila Embroidery.
To add some color and bling to the ensemble, she pinned a shiny brooch adorned with multicolored feathers and a slim scarf on her left chest. Like Legarda, Revil did away with a designer and followed her instincts.
One of the red carpet’s freshest faces was starlet-turned-politician Charee Pineda. The first-time councilor from Valenzuela City glowed in Rajo Laurel’s canary yellow terno with ruched and beaded details on the bustline.
After all these years, fashionista and former Sen. Nikki Coseteng hasn’t lost her touch. In an Indian-inspired outfit she claimed to have fashioned from printed emerald green and teal silk fabrics, Coseteng still managed to grab the attention of photographers.