Oscars of PH? Miriam wants SONA uniform
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Oscars of the Philippines? Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago has had enough of the bling.
After skipping the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and watching it on television, Santiago said she will file a resolution prescribing an official uniform for lawmakers who she blasted for their “obsession to bling.”
In a statement on Tuesday, July 23, Santiago hit the “thoughtless extravagance” on display in the SONA red carpet at a time the country is suffering from “acute public want” and faces territorial disputes with China and Taiwan.
“I watched TV and could not stand it. The SONA event should be a serious time for the Congress to pick up policy directions indicated by the President. It should not be treated as Oscar night in Hollywood, with a red carpet, where peacocks spread their tails and turn around and around, as coached by media in a feeding frenzy,” Santiago said.
Santiago was absent in the SONA and the opening of session on Monday as she is on medical leave due to chronic fatigue syndrome.
Instead of the attire of what she called the “bling SONA crowd,” Santiago gave suggestions on what legislators should wear.
“For women, it should be a short pencil skirt, paired with a simple short-sleeved barong blouse. Jewelry should be a single strand of Philippine pearls. For men, it should be a plain long-sleeved barong. Both men and women could wear a ceremonial ribbon with the Congress logo. For the gallery, it should be office attire.”
“Most important of all, the attitude should not be frivolous and giggly. The attitude should be serious and businesslike,” she added.
The lawmaker said the attire should simply indicate membership in the Senate and the House of Representatives, to separate them from other guests.
Santiago said her stand against ostentatious SONA fashion even has basis in law.
Citing Article 25 of the Civil Code, Santiago said, “Thoughtless extravagance in expenses for pleasure or display during a period of acute public want or emergency may be stopped by order of the courts at the instance of any government or private charitable institution.”
In the annual SONA, both houses of Congress hold a joint session to hear the President discuss his accomplishments and lay out his or her priorities and plans for the rest of his or her term.
Beyond being a political gathering, designers have said that the SONA has become a fashion who’s who.
“We've turned SONA into another Oscar Awards, you know it's our own version. SONA is more much awaited compared to these other award-giving bodies and red carpet events,” fashion designer Randy Ortiz said in a previous interview with Rappler.
Ortiz designs the SONA attire of lawmakers including senators like Nancy Binay.
The 2013 SONA lived up to fashion hype, with guests in extravagant ternos and barongs.
‘Gemma Araneta for SONA consultant’
While she is proud of world-class Filipino fabrics and designers, Santiago said, “The SONA event is not the proper venue for their talents.”
Santiago recommended that a historian “with a sense of duty” be named consultant for the SONA and other joint sessions of Congress.
“I respectfully nominate Gemma Cruz Araneta. Professionally, she is a brilliant historian, and was the country’s first Miss International. She is not a mannequin for a designer. She is just Gemma. In fact, come to think of it, she should be a senator,” Santiago said.
Araneta is former tourism secretary under the Estrada administration.
The senator said she made the recommendation because despite her expertise in law, she lacks “any intelligent acquaintance with fashion.”
Santiago reminded her colleagues that the highlight of the SONA is the President’s speech.
“It is not the flashy women. Now the flaky men are even getting into the act. They also parade, sometimes with photogenic arm candy, into the session hall and preen like their female counterparts,” she said.
‘Fashionalism’ for Loren, practicality for Grace
Sen Loren Legarda said she did not feel alluded to because her SONA attire had no cost. She wore hand-me-down and borrowed skirts and belts from the Bagobo and TBoli tribes.
Legarda even offered to design the uniform for free, saying she will use fabrics from the 110 ethno-linguistic groups.
“You choose the indigenous peoples group and I will design or borrow their malong,” Legarda told reporters.
Legarda said that some SONA guests wore extravagant gowns but she wanted to show that lawmakers need not spend a lot of money for the event.
“I just wanted to be relevant and meaningful and I wanted to make a statement that you don’t have to be extravagant to stand out and look good. How you wear and what you wear is an expression of how you feel.”
She added, “I call it my ‘fashionalism:’ fashion and nationalism.”
Legarda even wants to amend Santiago’s resolution to require senators to wear local fabrics every Monday in line with her Tropical Fabrics Law.
Sen Grace Poe is open to wearing indigenous fabrics in the SONA but said it will not be practical if the attire will not be used for uniforms as well.
“If it’s not going to be used as uniform, you will have to think where else you can use the indigenous fabric,” she told reporters.
She said not all lawmakers spend big on SONA fashion because she even took it upon herself to limit her budget for her SONA gown.
Asked about the need to regulate the SONA attire, Poe said, “No. it’s a one-time in the year [event]. You can dress up the way you want in a traditional manner but again, it doesn’t take away anything from me if it happens.”
Binay: There's pomp, there's advocacy
Sen Nancy Binay said she will support Santiago and Legarda's initiatives.
“Perhaps there is a need for that because what is more highlighted is what people wear in the SONA. Maybe this time, it’s high time to bring back the focus on the real purpose we hold the SONA and not to discuss the outfits that we wore,” Binay told reporters.
Binay pointed out that while some lawmakers go for pomp, others like partylist representatives have used the occasion to express their advocacies.
“Sometimes it’s the designers who want to show off their designs and are willing to do it at [a low] cost to highlight their designs. Maybe we should study this because the focus on the red carpet is surprising,” she said.
What are your thoughts on Santiago’s proposal? Let us know in the comments section below. – Rappler.com