A YEAR or so ago, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago threatened to file a law prohibiting politicians and their guests from preening like peacocks on the red carpet every time President Aquino makes his annual State of the Nation (Sona) address.
The feisty lawmaker was aghast at the way the annual event had degenerated into a fashion show-cum-circus over the years. She proposed the idea of requiring guests, especially women, to come in uniforms to avoid drawing attention to themselves.
If such a law comes to pass, expect attendance to the annual event to be halved. And even if the President manages to attract enough warm bodies to the Batasang Pambansa’s plenary hall, the audience’s composition would likely be different.
With no venue to strut their stuff, only those intent on hearing what the President has to say would go out of their way to brave the traffic and spend close to two hours glued to their seats as he rattles off his accomplishments and roadmap for the future.
The number of journalists covering the event would likely be less as well, and the thrust of their coverage different. Entertainment and lifestyle stories, if they get filed at all, would likely be less colorful and consigned to the inside pages.
Unlikely to happen
But unless the Philippines becomes like China during Mao Zedong’s time, when everyone regardless of gender and station in life wore black pants and shirts with mandarin collars, such a scenario is unlikely to happen.
In a democracy, individualism and its wayward twin called ostentation would always rule in the end.
And just as you can’t legislate propriety, you can never impose style and good taste regardless of the size of a woman’s bank account and her access to life’s finer things. Just look at Sen. Nancy Binay.
Before images of Sona 2014 completely fade into obscurity and make it to the history books, here now is my personal list of some the best looks on the red carpet.
The wife of Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo again made heads turn in Jun Escario’s white silk gazar terno contrasted with black French lace on the bodice and sides of the skirt.
Not only did the terno look elegant, it made Stella appear taller and slimmer. She could have done without the net detail, which, she said, channeled the Maria Clara’s panuelo, but as a whole, the look worked.
We’ve seen previous versions of Joey Samson’s trademark cage terno top, but it was the first time we saw one in off white. And this one looked better because it allowed you to see the details on the silk jacquard number.
The idea appeared a bit radical to not a few old school ladies. Well, it was! It was inspired by a network of frames that make up the traditional petticoat. And Evangelista managed to pull it off quite nicely—from the fitted bodice with a dangerously low neckline, down to the roomy godet skirt.
The stylish wife of Sen. Sonny Angara could have chosen a more traditional terno in the usual colors and materials, and she would have, in all likelihood, still looked fabulous.
But she also wanted to look different and interesting while paying tribute to her Cordillera roots. Her umpteenth collaboration with Rajo Laurel, a partially beaded terno with rather tiny butterfly sleeves and made of woven fabrics from the north, was again a winner.
Marga, wife of Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles, eschewed embroidery and beadwork in favor of Bobby Castillo’s hand-painted cream Mikado silk terno.
From the fit to the color scheme, the look exuded simplicity and elegance. Indeed, you don’t have to suffuse your outfit in glittery Swarovski beads to look rich.
Sen. Grace Poe
What a difference a year makes! While Grace looked blah during last year’s Sona, she looked elegant and respectable this time in Roulette Esmilia’s vintage-looking ivory terno made of draped and embroidered lace.
Timi, wife of Sen. Bam Aquino, is already several months on the family way. Thanks to Noel Crisostomo’s empire-cut mint green chiffon terno, Timi managed to look interesting despite the baby bump.
With pleated details that gathered in the middle, French lace accents and a beaded belt and bow, the terno looked dainty, but age-appropriate. The shade of mint also flattered Timi’s fair skin. The expectant mother glowed in the outfit.
Nancy should take a leaf from Jenny, wife of An-Waray party-list Rep. Neil Montejo, on how to dress properly without looking boring.
At first blush, everything about Jenny’s serpentine terno by Randy Ortiz looked traditional—nude tulle with lilac embroidery.
But by making the barong-inspired embroidery larger than life, the designer was able to produce an interesting yet traditional and age-appropriate piece for his client.
Bambi del Rosario Young
Bambi, a model and socialite, has everything going for her—face, height and flawless complexion, but no one is immune from committing fashion faux pas.
She made the right move by slipping into Frederick Peralta’s blue green Mikado silk terno, which flattered her skin tone and emphasized her height.
Known for heavy beadwork, the designer chose to do away with the bling this time by creating a draped bodice with layered folds that mimicked fish scales. His efforts were largely rewarded by the way Bambi carried the dress.
Jed, wife of sometime Manila politician Ali Atienza, almost didn’t make it to our list because she and the hubby decided to initially do away with the red carpet. But she looked too striking not to be noticed.
Upon every media person’s insistence, Jed and Ali gamely cut through the velvet rope to be photographed. She’s pictured here wearing Andrea Tetangco’s serpentine white silk terno with mini train and accented with blue embroidery. Like a Chinese blue-and-white plate, Jed looked expensive and timeless.
Em, a Diwa party-list representative, was a picture of va va voom (in a good way) in Boom Sazon’s cream-colored terno with strategic cutouts.
Except for the inverted V on the sleeves, which reminded us of Private Benjamin, everything about the look is picture-perfect. In our book, Sazon also earns points for piecing together panels of fabric made of neoprene.
Except for Kris’s hair, which was more grade school than Filipiniana, the “presidential sister” looked elegant in Cary Santiago’s silk Maria Clara with a serpentine silhouette and in the family’s trademark yellow.
We initially found the appliqued black lace accent on the bodice too stark, but the gown eventually grew on us. Now, if only Kris had paid attention to her hair. What was with the tiny barrette?
Sen. Loren Legarda
The champion of indigenous people and queen of do-it-yourself looks did it again in an authentic Mandaya costume—from the hair accessories down to the jewelry, including a carved silver pendant call patina and a pair of wooden bracelets.
The only things Western about the look were Loren’s makeup and her pair of black Gucci wedges. She chose to pay tribute to the Mandayas, a tribe of mountain people in Davao Oriental, to celebrate the Unesco inscription on Mt. Hamiguitan as a World Heritage site.
Amid a see of Westernized ternos and Maria Claras, Legarda stood out and again managed to be photographed and talked about alongside much younger women. Although a lot of research and preparation went into her look, she seemed totally at ease while wearing it.