Why, is it more masa-sensitive to be hiding mansions and ill-gotten properties than to wear a glam terno?” a fashionista kibitzer asked, in reaction to a legislator’s comment that a dress-to-the-hilt event like President Aquino’s State of the Nation (Sona) address was irrelevant and insensitive to the times.
The fashionista contrarian has a point—is hiding a politician’s indecent wealth any better than flaunting one’s fashion vanity? The fashionista’s argument is, we should be directing our rage at hidden, staggering wealth, more than at women’s or men’s once-a-year fashion statement in the Batasan.
In truth, however, this year’s Sona at Batasan last Monday didn’t really get a surfeit of over-the-top gowns. Most were the traditional ternos that weren’t really about to break style records. Gone was the design combat of fashion designers who made their muses among the lawmakers or their spouses wear bold innovations. (In a way, Kaye Tinga, in her out-of-the-mold Pepito Albert, was missed.)
To be sure, Lucy Torres was radiant as ever in a dove gray Randy Ortiz, her stance perfect not only for the Batasan red carpet, but even for a Hollywood-glam red carpet.
Sen. Loren Legarda, as expected, held on to our cultural identity in fashion. It was obvious that her ensemble was well-thought-out, and that she was out to turn the Sona into an occasion to promote the artistry of Mindanao’s indigenous people. Legarda wore a skirt called ginayan that was woven using the Bagobo abaca ikat weaving technique. It was given to her by master weaver Ines Pandian of the Bagobo Tagabawa community at the foothills of Mt. Apo.
The skirt was made using dyed abaca fibers. For accent, she wore a T’boli brass belt from a community in Lake Sebu. The double row of brass belts, she stressed, was intended to attract more spirits to guide the wearer.
Pretty Tootsy Angara, as usual, wore a clean line, another Randy Ortiz.
Even from across the galleries, Sylvia Herras Lopez’s pink terno stood out. It was a Ramon Valera reworked by young designer Maureen Disini. At the cocktails, one noticed how she carried it regally.
Another color mastery was by Cary Santiago for Kris Aquino—a deep red that stood out. Kris’ blown-out hair gave her a very soft yet seductive look.
Julia Abad’s minimalist tailored taste was evident again—she wore a white Maria Clara and snug black skirt. It helped that she has the ultra-slim figure for it.
It was obvious that Paul Cabral is the preferred designer of today’s political set. We like the way he sculpted a trim, sleek terno in silk for three bosom friends—same style but different pattern accents and deep jewel tones: amethyst for Marides Almendras (wife of Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras), dark sapphire for Tet Naguiat (wife of Pagcor head Bong Naguiat), and deep turquoise for Margie Mercado (wife of close presidential friend Romy Mercado).
Cabral’s design made the terno relevant for today’s relatively young women—nothing unwieldy or hard to move in.
However, I will remember this Sona not so much for style-watching as for, again, these legislators who mobbed President Aquino at cocktails. I’ve been told that even in past Sonas, they really milled around the Chief Executive (“Their chance to make bulong,” a cynic said.) In this case, however, I noticed it was the women jostling for a photo op, although I spotted Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquaio also inching his way behind Aquino.
I remember what I heard—that sometimes the Presidential Security Group’s job is tougher in a well-heeled setting, among A-List people who are rather hard to contain or stare down, than in a mass gathering.
This Sona, I believe, also had the tightest security—for vehicles, at least. Regardless of their stickers, vehicles went through one gate at a snail’s pace. The queue was long and the waiting considerable, unlike last year.
The one hour-and-45-minute Sona held the assembly in attention throughout. We spotted Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile standing up only to presumably go to the men’s room.
The food was prepared by The Plaza—the fourth successive year Millie Reyes and daughter Karla have been doing it. The Plaza has been providing catering services to the Sona since President Cory’s administration, and there was a break after that.
Like last year, the food was a hit—sumptuous but handy. The menu: shrimp cocktail, Crab Claws Calypso, vegetable sticks, assorted sushi and sashimi, Fish Fingers with Gutsy Garlic, Chicken Kievettes, pork barbecue in skewers, phyllo with curried chicken, penne arrabiata pasta with creamy shiitake.
The beeline was always to the pan de sal with The Plaza Premium Baked Ham and The Plaza Premium Roast Corned Beef. Honestly, it’s what I look forward to after the Sona.
The dessert buffet: lemon meringue, Decadent Chocolate Cake, white chocolate cheesecake, profiteroles, tiramisu, pandan kutchinta, cheese pichi-pichi, bibingkang malagkit. Thelma Sioson San Juan