Rhona Canoy .
SO… Each year when July comes around, the country prepares itself for the President’s State of the Nation Address. This is the time when our fearless leader (whoever that may be) grades himself or herself on how well they have performed and what they intend to do in the coming year. Don’t worry. We’re not going to get into what was said a couple of days ago. Everyone takes away from that speech what they will and it would be a waste of time arguing about its merits and demerits. But the event itself? Now, that’s a whole ’nother story.
Whatever it is about the Filipino’s love for pomp and circumstance, each year’s Sona is always eagerly anticipated. I suppose it is more our version of the US’s Oscars. The preparation and expense that goes into it is hardly even questioned by the most critical. We can question the cost of how many people accompany the President on his official trips abroad. But question the cost of the Sona? That’s not likely.
This year, we were treated to a media report on the protocols and logistics of the Sona. How the Batasan was prepared and decorated. How security was strategically placed and coordinated. How and where the President was to arrive, whether by land or by air. How and by whom he would be received upon arrival. How and where he would walk into the building. How and where he would have pre-show meetings, and with whom. How he would then walk into the plenary hall, and up the stage to deliver his speech. How and by whom the hall was decorated. How and by whom the event was directed. Quite a major production.
The red carpet is the highlight of the pre-show. Different media outlets will choose their most appealing news anchors to report on it. Who of course are also spiffied up for the event. Who the guests are will be discussed in detail as they are spotted by the cameras.The men in their crispy cream Barong Tagalogs (since this year the theme was Filipiniana) all looking alike. In their de rigueur black pants, it was hard to tell them apart from the security detail. And the women. Yes, the women who painstakingly prepared for this event as soon as they won the elections last May.
Each famous woman’s outfit would have already been speculated upon days before the event. What it was going to look like, designed by whom. And when the actual appearance was made, its appropriateness and how it complemented the wearer’s physical appeal or not is discussed at length. This year, for the most part, women appeared in various versions of the terno. This stiff-sleeved long Filipina formal dress made world-famous by Imelda Marcos seemed to be the preferred basic style. One supporter even went so far as to have the President’s face photo-printed on the shiny blue fabric of her outfit. To echo a friend’s Facebook sentiment, asskissing at it’s finest.
Which brings us (of course) to the media’s determination of who was the best- and worst-dressed woman there. Why this should matter is beyond me. Remember the furor over Nancy Binay’s air-balloonlike dress a few Sonas ago? Truth be told, I was impressed by newbie senator Imee Marcos’s fashion sense, but then she is and always has been a fashion maverick. Please let’s not get into a political discussion on the Marcoses. This is not what I’m writing about. And as a woman, I will give credit where credit is due. We all know her mother’s penchant for the terno. But Imee wore a dress of western design, actually quite simple and more symbolic (according to the designer’s description and interpretation) than Filipiniana.
All the money that goes into this event is quite impressive, if we must think about it. And we should. How much was budgeted to prepare the Batasan, I don’t know. But they did go to great lengths. The entire stage was covered in some kind of fabric. The Philharmonic Orchestra played in the lobby. Everything was spic and span. And how much the attendees spent is also worthy of conjecture. Surely livings were made on the days leading up to and including Monday.
Dress designers, dry cleaners, hair and makeup artists, electricity consumption due to clothes irons and hair irons and blow dryers and air conditioning to keep the beauties from sweating and ruining their appearance. Gasoline sales to provide fuel for all the cars which had to drive their guests to and from the venue. People outside selling snacks to the protesters who faithfully make an appearance each year, ineffective though their protests may be. Money exchanged hands.
As to the actual speech itself, like every year and like every other president past, nothing outstanding or earth shaking. Nothing we don’t already know. And nothing we ever take seriously. It’s really all about the show. And as we Filipinos know, we really love a good show. This year’s Sona was nothing new, and next year there will be another one. Kind of like our annual government cotillion. The US version of the Sona is no big deal. Yes, the attendees may be a bit more presentable in dress, but there are no gowns or tuxedos. There are no major preparations except maybe to steam clean the carpets of the congressional hall. The country doesn’t stop. So let’s be honest.
It’s not about what the President is going to say. And this year’s speech, although still long, was actually boring and lackluster. It’s all about the show. And I slept through most of it.