The colors of SONA 2014
Yellow for PNoy, Peach for Impeachment, and White for We’re Still Deciding
Elegant butterfly sleeves were once again aflutter on the red carpet at the Batasang Pambansa’s North and South Halls for President Benigno S. Aquino III fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA). This year, amid the public clamor for a simpler, more modest nationalistic fashion “spectacle,” the Filipiniana gowns, at least the soft pastels and white terno brigade that constituted a significant section of the A-list guests and VIP arrivals, seemed dramatically refined—while some frocks were noticeably “politically colored.”
The exceptional looks were the subtle, suitably styled ones. Ormoc Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez was resplendent in a soft nude classic Filipiniana by Randy Ortiz. Heart Evangelista, girlfriend of Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero, was edgy albeit classy in a white caged-terno by Joey Samson. Sen. Grace Poe was a vision in white and lace dressed, by up-and-coming designer Rolette Esmilla. Sen. Nancy Binay wowed the crowd (as well as her detractors), in a white gown with nude details by Randy Ortiz. These ladies’ ensembles were as neutral as their political stand. “I wore white, walang bahid ng politika,” says Binay. Although earlier, when she walked down the red carpet, Binay wore a Randy Ortiz creation—a piña blouse with cut work embroidery and matching wide striped touf skirt—that became an internet sensation.
“As in other events, austere is given a new meaning. I think this has to do with a need to disassociate from the Napoles era extravagance,” says SONA fave JC Buendia, who has dressed up the President and his sister Kris Aquino.
But while fashion designer Frederick Peralta insisted that the “SONA is not an event where you display Filipino pageantry,” some guests kept their attires characteristically vivid and vibrant. Some were bejewelled, but, forgivingly, not over the top.
In true indigenous fashion, Sen. Loren Legarda wore a unique, colorful gown, a handcrafted Mandaya original from Davao Oriental that reflected her cultural beliefs. “I want to promote Philippine creativity and culture,” said Legarda, who wore a Bagobo outfit at last year’s SONA. On her sartorial heels is Senator Sonny Angara’s wife, Tootsie Angara, who wore a red, white, and black beaded-Ifugao textile by Rajo Laurel.
Wearing their advocacies on their sleeves, attendants either donned yellow ribbons (pro-PNoy) or peach attires (impeach PNoy) or other significant colors (Sol Aragones wore red in support of the LGBT group) to tell which side of the political arena they are on.
Presidential sisters were, of course, in yellow. Kris Aquino traded her usual bold colors for yellow and black French lace Maria Clara by Cary Santiago. The Gabriela group, with poster girl Juana Change, were all in peach. Tongues wagged when Imelda Marcos strode quickly down the carpet in a peach bejeweled gown by new designer Hilque Dairo, but the former First Lady later tells Manila Bulletin that it—“Please tell them”—was blush. PNoy’s cabinet members—Bam and Timi Aquino, Leila de Lima, Joey Salceda, Lucy Torres-Gomez, among others—pinned a yellow ribbon on their left chests. The men looked DAPper: Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquaio, and the man of the hour (and 34 minutes) President Aquino all wore Paul Cabral. Skinny, black pants and embroided barong Tagalog were a common fashion must-have in the men’s red carpet moments. They were red carpet-worthy just the same, although some—Lino Cayetano, Joey Salceda, Bam Aquino—opted for a recycled top. Who cares? The fed up Filipino tax payers. (with reports from Eugene Y. Santos; Photos by Pinggot Zulueta, Rudy Liwanag and Noel B. Pabalate)