Reporting what politicians will be wearing on a government-sanctioned event such as the State of the Nationa Address (SONA) has become passé, even a total waste of time. Why would we choose to focus on which designer some senator will sport, or what obscure luxury brand a presidential aide will don when all over the country there are far more important issues to cover?
But here’s the exception: when the politicians themselves wear these issues on their sleeves (literally) to shed light on them, to bring these often unreported, unaddressed national issues into the spotlight—or at times to even get the President to notice that these issues exist and that they need addressing.
And it’s not an entirely new move. Over the years, representatives, senators, and other public officials took to the red carpet in attention-grabbing garb. But this year, a few days before President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth SONA, these early reveals are already sharing the pre-event exposure.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate is no stranger to political SONA wear. Since assuming office in 2013, Rep. Zarate has turned looks all the while sending a timely message each year. In 2016, for example, he wore hand-painted barong by artist Eugene Horca, which called for peace in the Mindanao region. This year, his barong painted by Karapatan legal counsel, Atty. Ma. Sol Taule depicts Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea asserting sovereignty over China.
Zarate’s fellow Bayan Muna Representative Femia Cullamat will also take to the SONA red carpet in a symbolic red dress laden with Manobo design with colors such as red, yellow, white, and black, which symbolizes courage, light, peace, and the struggles of the Lumad, respectively.
Pushing for P750 national minimum wage and ending contractualization is the message of Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdie Gaite’s barong.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago will be arriving at the SONA red carpet together with Russel Hopio, a 22-year old daughter of a fisherfolk family who lives near Manila Bay, and Sheerah Escudero, the sister of an extra-judicial killing victim in Angeles Pampanga as well as a human rights advocate.
Hopi and Escudero will both be wearing hand-painted sashes that illustrate two national issues that affect them: reclamation in Manila Bay and extra-judicial killings. The shashes are painted by artists Jomer Haban and Maeca Louisse Camus both from De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas‘s black frock with butterfly sleeves look like an ordinary gown at first look, but it’s actually a call to action to address the issue of water privatization. The lawmaker will pair this with a custom-made fan by artist Emiliana Kampilan aka “Dead Balagtas” which will bear the same message.
Citing the President’s oversight of the plight of teachers in his last SONA, where he promised to raise the salary of uniformed officers like police officers and soldiers, ACT Teachers Partylist Representative France Castro is bringing a fan with the hashtag “Tuparin ang Pangako.”
“Too many times, President Duterte had promised teachers that he will increase their salaries after increasing the salaries of uniformed personnel. Teachers are simply asking him to fulfill the many promises he made,” Castro said. “Our teachers are simply asking that they be given salaries that can provide them and their families decent lives.”
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Writer: CHRISTIAN SAN JOSE