Postscript to the High Fashion Show at the Philippine SONA 2015
By Marivir R. Montebon
Why cannot they wear the work dress code of skirts and blazers and pants suits?
Why do they appear to be royalty in the midst of poverty?
It has become a tradition in the Philippines that when Congress opens on the third week of July every year, legislators and their wives and members of the executive arm of government walk to the halls of the Batasang Pambansa (National Legislature) to listen to the presidential report known as the State of the Nation Address.
I shall not dwell on the substance of the SONA this year, as there had been an over kill of that.
I shall make a plea, however, with how in form, this annual political tradition has become fashionably excessive and inappropriate as far as dress codes are concerned.
This is Philippine royalty right before my eyes, which is painful and an attack to the truth of poverty and want in the real ground. You see, the people in the upper echelon of Philippine society bask in glamour and limelight, forgetting the essence of public service and that instead of flaunting their expensive clothes, they ought to be ashamed that until now, there is no substantive leveling-off of the economic and cultural justice in the country.
I believe many of them are jaded, for power corrupts and makes you forget the painful reality of poverty and want. All many could care about is walking on the red carpet and showing off their marvelous Filipiniana and Barong Tagalog.
Why cannot the legislators and government officials and their spouses wear the work dress code of skirts and blazers and pants suits? Why the excessive statement? Why do they appear to be royalty in the midst of poverty? The code is called propriety. You can laugh at this impropriety and cry for the majority of the Filipinos.
I was personally a witness to this high fashion political show-off in 2001, the first time Gloria M. Arroyo sat as president and delivered the SONA. I was then an acting chief of staff for a Bohol congressman for six months, the shortest work stint I ever had in my life.
Vilma Santos, actress and governor and wife to Sen. Ralph Recto, defied age with her lovely eyes and the sweet smile ever captivating. She wore a huge lace Filipiniana, perhaps blue or was it beige. I couldn’t remember anymore. The camera man of ABS-CBN asked me to tap her shoulder to look back and wave before the camera. Since I was standing right beside her, I asked her to look back and wave to the camera. The governor did as she was requested. The following day, her face was all over the press, waving her hand to press people.
I think there was Lani Mercado, dusky and alluring. One would always mistake that pretty face as a perpetual angel. Then entered Congresswoman Imee Marcos who, aside from being so eloquent in managing committee level discussions of proposed laws, was ever vivacious and glamorous.
Then there was the press people who were/are so enamored with glamour. Also conditioned by the yearly tradition for covering this fashion and political show-off, they click their cameras to all the powers-that-be who enter the Batasan complex.
I, on that day, stood there along with the princes and princesses of the Philippine elite. My eyes were feasting on their fancy expensive designer clothes. But I also saw wolves and thieves inside. And everyday, while in Congress, I asked myself, what am I doing here?
Six months later, after witnessing all the deals in the office of likewise excessive commissions and government expenditures, I resigned. I had to do something better. But look, the high fashion impropriety during SONA is still going on. (Photo from Google.com)