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From left, Senators Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe and Nancy Binay pose for a group photo during the opening of the third regular session of Congress on July 27.  (Photo by Mong Pintolo)


MANILA — Apparently heeding calls from some groups and netizens not to make the event a fashion show, many lawmakers and guests donned less flashy outfits at the sixth and last State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Aquino on July 27.

Sen. Loren Legarda and Representatives Mylene Garcia-Albano of Davao City, and Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela were in old formal wear.

Vice President Jejomar Binay also sported an old barong Tagalog, which he said he wears when he is invited as guest speaker.

Legarda wore a plain black top and pants accessorized with a wraparound from her textile collection.

Her shoes were from Marikina, while her bag was made by women from Barangay Holy Spirit in Quezon City from recycled newspaper.

Albano donned a coral and pistachio green terno by Rajo Laurel.

“I already wore this gown to a wedding and had terno sleeves added for the SONA,” Albano said.

De Jesus donned a gray tube gown with black bolero made by local designer Ruel Rivera, while Ilagan wore a black gown with a Lumad-inspired beaded blazer by Davao-based designer Jan of Limited.

“These are old, rehashed gowns for old lies and old rhetoric,” one of the militant lawmakers said, adding the gowns showed their mourning with women battered by poverty and violence under five years of Aquino’s “corrupt and inept leadership.”

Ilagan also said her blazer highlighted the plight of Lumads being driven away from their ancestral lands.

Instead of buying a new barong for Aquino’s last SONA, Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said he wore one of his “old, trusty” barongs.

“Since I started my term as legislator, I always shunned spending an extravagant sum for the SONA. The State of the Nation Address is a regular part of our work in Congress, and legislators should wear the outfit they commonly don on session days,” he said.

“Besides, reporting on the nation’s status should not be treated as if it’s the Oscars. Amid widespread poverty, lawmakers can never justify their lavish outfits,” he stressed.

Netizens also noticed that the gowns were less extravagant compared to previous SONAs.

“Is it my imagination or have the gowns toned down a bit since last year,” Trixie Cruz-Angeles, legal counsel of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, said on her Twitter account.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz earlier castigated government officials and personalities who don lavish outfits during the annual SONA.

He said the annual “fashion show” during SONA is insensitive to the plight of poor Filipinos.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-Nagkaisa (TUCP-Nagkaisa) had also urged senators and congressmen, including guests, not to make the SONA a fashion show.

Designer outfits

However, some legislators and their wives and female celebrity guests still took the opportunity to show off designs by prominent Filipino designers.

Presidential sister actress/host Kris Aquino donned a Filipiniana gown by designer Michael Leyva.

She said the brooch holding her pañuelo in place was from her mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

Taguig Rep. Lino Cayetano arrived with his wife, former Ateneo volleyball star Fille Cainglet in a Cary Santiago-designed gown.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III was joined by wife veteran actress Helen Gamboa, who donned a Paul Cabral creation.

Sen. Francis Escudero also wore a Cabral barong, while his wife, actress Heart Evangelista, donned an Inno Sotto gown.

Sen. Juan Edgar Angara’s wife Tootsy wore a Rajo Laurel-designed dress made from fabric from Mindanao.

Sen. Grace Poe wore a white terno by Cabral.

The terno had a swirl pattern of fine white and periwinkle bugle beads.

Meanwhile, Sen. Cynthia Villar was elegant in Nolie Hans fuschia gown with callado embroidery done by hand.

Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres donned a terno in white with lacing, which was made by Randy Ortiz.

Actress Dawn Zulueta, wife of Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Lagdameo Jr., wore a white Cary Santiago gown.

Maguindanao Rep. Sandra Sema wore a traditional gown made by the locals in Mindanao, while Deputy Minority Leader Carol Jayne Lopez wore a terno with French lace by Cabral.

Nancy in a ‘boring’ gown

Sen. Nancy Binay, on the other hand, arrived in a more appropriate gown, a far cry from the gown she donned last year which was dubbed a “hot air balloon” by her bashers.

She came in an iridescent midnight blue embroidered column terno that featured an asymmetric pattern of strips of piña on silk tulle with hints of baroque embroidery on the bodice.

The terno was made by Randy Ortiz, who made the controversial gown last year.

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