MANILA, Philippines?Bare back, low-cut and recycled. Hard times prodded lawmakers and their spouses to dress less or dress wisely for Monday?s State of the Nation Address (SONA).
This was apparent in the gowns worn by Senators Loren Legarda and Miriam Defensor-Santiago who decided to ?recycle? their gowns.
Santiago was in a beige short-sleeved Filipiniana which she told reporters was actually an old gown. ?It?s 10 years old,? she said.
Legarda, on the other hand, wore a year-old fuchsia gown by Paul Cabral, a favorite designer of movie stars.
Legarda had taken apart beaded leis she had collected from visits to Mindanao and asked Cabral to embroider the beads, piece by piece, on the gown?s bodice and butterfly sleeves. To complete her Muslim theme, she carried a Celestina clutch made of Mandaya fabric and wore hot pink open-toed heels.
Legarda caught many admiring stares because her terno bared her back.
Panuelo, butterfly sleeves
Audrey Tan-Zubiri, wife of Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, donned a sleeveless ecru gown she had worn in the previous SONAs of 2003 and 2006. She updated what seems to be her favorite outfit with a vintage panuelo.
Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat?s black-and-baby-pink gown was last worn during her parents? wedding anniversary in June.
Puyat reworked the gown by asking designer Dennis Lustico to attach butterfly sleeves on the shoulder straps which was in keeping with the SONA?s Filipiniana dress code.
Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane wore a 6-year-old plaid barong Tagalog with khaki pants and black shoes.
Sen. Pia Cayetano also turned heads in her backless, chiffon gown.
She said her black-and-white ?modern terno? was a political statement.
?Be black or white. Not gray or in between,? Cayetano said.
Gigi Daza, wife of Northern Samar Rep. Paul Daza, stole the thunder with her low-cut, off-white terno that showed a lot of cleavage. Daza completed her outfit, made of feathery wisps of tulle by Puey Quiñones, with a gold clutch studded with Swarovski crystals and gold sandals.
New for a change
After five years of recycling her Patis Tesoro-designed outfits, Sen. Ana Maria Consuelo ?Jamby? Madrigal chose to wear something new.
?This is the first time I had a new gown [made],? she told reporters, showing off her beige dress jacket with a green flowing skirt.
Madrigal described her outfit as a ?modified Maria Clara? which was again designed by Tesoro.
In contrast, two female party-list lawmakers channeled their inner fashionista, if only to celebrate President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?s last SONA.
Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza arrived in the morning session in an off-white terno made of katsa (cheesecloth). While the bodice and butterfly sleeves were sprinkled with glass and bamboo beads, the skirt was hand-painted by social realist Boy Dominguez. It showed a smiling Arroyo sewing gold thread that twists around the throats of poor people.
Maza said the thread symbolizes Malacañang?s unrelenting efforts to promote Charter change.
From curtains to a gown
Maza said she originally planned to make curtains from the cheesecloth which she bought 10 years ago but later forgot all about it. Last year, she had it sewn into a terno which she had planned to wear at the opening session of Congress.
?But there was a plan to walk out so the gown was set aside. This time, however, I wanted to wear it in hopes that this will really be the last SONA of President Arroyo,? she said.
The lawmaker described her terno as ?very comfortable and cool,? adding that it cost her less than a sack of good-variety rice or some P2,000.
Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel wore a Greek-inspired, backless white gown by Joel Azebuche. She offset her pristine outfit with a red clutch, a red belt with a flower buckle and blood-red nails.
On her left shoulder strap, Baraquel pinned a small yellow ribbon, a reminder for people to pray for the healing of former president Corazon Aquino. ?This small ribbon is for her healing, relief and peace of mind,? she said.
Are the stones real?
For her valedictory SONA, President Macapagal Arroyo chose to wear a simple fuchsia gown designed by Inno Sotto.
The guests wore proudly Philippine-made outfits. Most of the men were in barong Tagalog while the women had more room to be creative.
Rhodora ?Bebet? Nograles, wife of Speaker Prospero Nograles, wore a white-and-yellow gown made of piña and organza by Larry Espinosa. Fabulous diamond earrings glittered just above her deconstructed butterfly sleeves.
Asked whether the stones were real, Nograles laughed and said, ?What kind of a question is that??
Tarlac Rep. Nikki Prieto-Teodoro, wife of Defense Secretary and presidential aspirant Gilbert Teodoro, wore a blue-green gown by Rajo Laurel which featured elegant beadwork.
Wives say ?cheese?
Angeli Tupas, wife of Iloilo Rep. Neil Tupas Jr., arrived with daughter Tory. They wore identical gowns with gold bodices and black balloon skirts by designer Sammy Amante Jr.
Janice Salimbangon, wife of Cebu Rep. Benhur Salimbangon, was statuesque in a mustard-yellow gown by Cary Santiago. She looked fierce in emeralds and gold jewelry and Italian-made strappy sandals.
The spouses of representatives had a photo session an hour before the scheduled delivery of the SONA at the second floor lobby of the Batasan building.
The mostly female posse created a sea of silk, tulle and chiffon as they posed under klieg lights in their colorful gowns.