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Sona 2023 red carpet fashion: A tribute to Cordilleras, upcycled garbs, and lots of designer gowns

By: Hannah Mallorca - | July 25,2023 - 10:03 AM

SONA fashion

Koko Pimentel, Imee Marcos, Heart Evangelista, Arlene Brosas. | Images: HANNAH MALLORCA/, Facebook/Senator Imee Marcos, Facebook/Gabriela partylist

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s second State of the Nation Address (Sona) was a special event for lawmakers and distinguished guests, but it was also a venue for them to showcase their fashion statements.

This year’s Sona marked the return of more striking garbs following several years of staid and somewhat austere fashion due to the econ

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Senator Nancy Binay. Image: Courtesy of Senator Nancy Binay’s office
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SONA fashion

Koko Pimentel, Imee Marcos, Heart Evangelista, Arlene Brosas. | Images: HANNAH MALLORCA/, Facebook/Senator Imee Marcos, Facebook/Gabriela partylist

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Senator Grace Poe. Image: Courtesy of Senator Grace Poe’s office









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Senator Loren Legarda. Image: HANNAH MALLORCA/

Senator Koko Pimentel

(From left) Senator Koko Pimentel with his wife Kathryna Yu-Pimentel. Image: HANNAH MALLORCA/



omic crunch that followed the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the ensembles were Filipino-made, while some guests took pains to upcycle old gowns for the environment.

International couturier Michael Leyva is probably this year’s most sought-after designer as most of the female guests’ Filipiniana terno were made by him. Among his clientele were Senator’s Nancy Binay, Grace Poe and actress-fashionista Heart Evangelista, wife of Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero.

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Senator Nancy Binay. Image: Courtesy of Senator Nancy Binay’s office

Designer looks
Binay went for a classic, yet understated white organza Filipiniana, her mother’s jewelry, and a white Cebu-made clutch bag. Meanwhile, Grace Poe chose to go for a black-and-white traditional ensemble.

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Senator Grace Poe. Image: Courtesy of Senator Grace Poe’s office

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(Rightmost) Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero with his wife, actress-socialite Heart Evangelista. Image: Courtesy of the Office of Senator Francis Escudero.Fresh from the GMA Gala last July 22, Evangelista’s intricate ensemble is a seeming 180-degree turnaround from her Maison Schiaparelli avant-garde outfit from the night before. This time, she wore an ivory-white jumpsuit by designer Ivarluski Aseron when she accompanied her husband for the reopening of the Senate session on Monday morning. Escudero, meanwhile, kept it simple and sleek in his Paul Cabral barong.

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Heart Evangelista. Image: Instagram/@michaelleyva_

Evangelista changed into a gown of a similar color when she and Escudero walked the Batasan red carpet. This time, she wore an understated column gown by Michael Leyva with a zigzag neckline and embellished with pearls and beads. She finished the look with a pastel yellow mini bag.

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Audrey Yu-Zubiri, wife of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri. Image: HANNAH MALLORCA/

On the other hand, Audrey Tan-Zubiri, wife of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, wore a floral Rajo Laurel off-shoulder dress with pleated fabric.

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Senator Mark Villar and his wife Emmeline Aglipay-Villar. Image: HANNAH MALLORCA /INQUIRER.netVillar

On the other hand, Senator Mark Villar kept it simple in a classic barong, while allowing his wife, Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, to shine with her Lesley Mobo creation. Her ivory-colored terno features a floral design of deep red flowers and with tassles over its butterfly sleeves.

Senator Koko Pimentel shared during an ambush interview that his barong is “10 years old,” as he wanted to keep it “simple” for Marcos Jr’s Sona. His wife Kathryna Yu-Pimentel looked stunning in a simple white and blue Filipiniana which was created by Michael Leyva.

Senator Koko Pimentel sona

(From left) Senator Koko Pimentel with his wife Kathryna Yu-Pimentel. Image: HANNAH MALLORCA /

Also wearing another Michael Leyva creation were Taguig Rep. Lani Cayetano and Biñan, Laguna Rep. Len Alonte.

Cayetano donned a tea-length cream-colored terno with dainty pastel flowers in strategic places. Alonte, on the other hand, wore a floor-length tassled lace Filipiniana column gown.

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Senator Loren Legarda. Image: HANNAH MALLORCA/

Upcycled barong, terno
Before she was a legislator, Senator Loren Legarda is already a known conservationist and environmentalist. Her advocacy for the sustainable fashion has always taken centerstage in her fashion choices. For her Senate look, Legarda wore an upcycled sheer terno hand-painted by Patis Tesoro — made of Philippine abaca, whose long skirt which she had adjusted with some skillful patchwork.

She also showed off a colorful handbag by Carissa Cruz, and her Marikina-made shoes by Tish.

“This is an upcycled sheer terno top made of hand-painted Philippine abaca made by Patis Tesoro. Medyo di na kasya ang baywang kaya nagpalagay ako ng patchwork sa gilid para magkasya. So ang lesson dito, ‘di kailangan ng bago. Pwede namang yung luma ay ina-upcycle. Sinusuportahan natin ang mga MSMEs kaya ang sapatos ko ay Marikina by Tish, at ang aking bag ay isang batang designer, si Carissa Cruz. Gustong gusto kong ipinapakita ang mga gawang Pilipino, ng mga kababaihan — Si Patis, Carissa at si Tish,” she said.

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Senator Bong Go. Image: HANNAH MALLORCA/

Meanwhile, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said in an ambush interview that his barong is made with fabric from his hometown in Davao, but he pointed out that the “highlight” of his ensemble is a pin of the Philippine flag while putting a hand on his right chest.

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Senator Imee Marcos. Image: Facebook/Senator Imee Marcos

Senator Imee Marcos was certainly dressed not quite the rest as she wore a traditional handwoven dress of the ethnic Igorot people, composed of a tight-fitting tube dress with blue and red stripes, which she paired with a pair of bright red pumps, and hair beads and arm accessories in the same color. She also had on across her chest and arms a henna tattoo tattoo design in keeping with her chosen ensemble.

When asked to describe what she is wearing, she simply said: “I wore the whole Cordillera [region] at the red carpet.”

“Maging ang mga tattoo sa aking katawan ay may kahulugan katulad ng napili kong araw at buwan na sumisimbolo sa aking walang sawang pagserbisyo at dedikasyon sa pagtulong sa mga tao, at ang tuko sa aking braso ay sumisimbolo ng patuloy na pagbabago ng bawat isa at pagkakaroon ng imortal na paninindigan at kahalagahan sa lipunan,” her office said in a statement.

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(From left) Kabataan partylist rep. Raoul Manuel and ACT Teachers partylist rep. France Castro. Image: Courtesy of BEATRICE PINLAC/

Powerful statements
SONA 2023 was also an opportunity for progressive lawmakers to call for human rights, wage increase, and other issues that matter, as they chose to voice out their desire for tchange in their ensembles.

Kabataan partylist Rep. Raoul Manuel’s classic barong was transformed into a Bonifacio-inspired handpainted ensemble, apparently showing a burning flame in shades of blue, white, and orange — which was done by student artist Albert Raqueño.

ACT Teachers partylist rep. France Castro’s Filipiniana, meanwhile, wore a deep read terno with a hand-painted sash that paid tribute to government employees, teachers, and nurses, as she called for “significant salary increase.” The terno was done by artist Michael Joselo.

Joselo also painted the peplum detail of Rep. Arlene Brosas’ blush pink Filipiniana top and pants, which is described as an “urgent call” for women’s rights and junking of the Maharlika Investment Fund.”

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Gabriela partylist Rep. Arlene Brosas. Facebook/Gabriela partylist

“Sa nalalapit na Sona ni President Marcos Jr., suot ni Assistant Minority Leader at Gabriela […] Rep. Arlene Brosas ang panawagan ng malawak na hanay ng kababaihan para sa nakabubuhay na sahod at pagpapabasura sa tinaguriang Maharlika Scam,” their statement read.

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Senator Risa Hontiveros. Image: Courtesy of Senator Risa Hontiveros’ office

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros’ modern baro’t saya was created by designer Joel Acebuche, which includes a “hand-embroidered piña calado” from Lumban, Laguna. The bodice of her ensemble is then made with “piña fabric cut into strips and woven into a banig-like pattern,” while her outfit was finished with a “pair of shoes by a century-old Marikina shoemaker.”

“The shoes also have a woven design named after the senator’s aunt, Leonor. She will carry a hand woven tikog purse made from Samar,” Hontiveros’ office added.

It can also be noted that Hontiveros didn’t change her ensemble from the opening of the second session of the 19th Congress to the titular SONA.

Sara Duterte Sona

Vice-President Sara Duterte and First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos.

Ladies in yellow
Vice President Sara Duterte and First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, in a seeming show of solidarity among the ladies holding the highest position in the land, wore striking yellow outfits, as they happened to be seated next to each other during Marcos Jr.’s Sona. Incidentally, the color is widely identified with the camp of their political rivals — the Aquinos.

According to a statement from Duterte’s office, her traditional Bangala, paired with matching trousers and a flowing inaul or malong, which is made in Maguindanao.

“Inaul is a Maguindanao fabric intricately handwoven using cotton and silk. It is a treasured cultural gem that profoundly reflects the pride, bravery, heritage, and history of the people of Maguindanao,” her office added.

The vice president’s attire was brought to life by Cotabato City-based designer Israel Ellah Ungkakay, who’s “promoting the culture and tradition of the Moro people of Mindanao through her designs for 16 years.”

On the other hand, the First Lady donned a yellow Filipiniana by designer Lesley Mobo, with hand-embroidered flowers adorning its chiffon butterfly sleeves and top.


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TAGS: fashion, Sona 2023, Sona fashion

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