As awaited as the words President Aquino will utter tomorrow during his State of the Nation Address are the numerous versions of Filipiniana that our government officials, especially the women, would wear.
Year after year, the red carpet comes into focus and the officials or their significant others gamely pose for the cameras.
With the fanfare, you’d think it were the Academy Awards instead of the annual reporting of the Chief Executive to his bosses who installed him in power in the first place.
The attention from the media and the public, as well as the dedication of these fashion-forward VIPs, have gotten to a point where activist groups have asked them to tone down the display in deference to the poor, hungry, ill-clothed and unemployed Filipinos out there.
A little sensitivity is in order, they say.
I have no problem, however, with the annual fashion show. Yes, there is entertainment value. Yes, some of the memes are hilarious. And some of the dresses are lovely to begin with.
More than that, it is a peek into what is inside the heads and hearts of the people who run the show in this country.
What do they hold important? How does this manifest in the way they carry themselves?
Dictating on the officials to tone down the way they dress is an infringement into their personal sphere—and nobody wants that. We’re not the fashion police here. Nor are we dictators.
If they want to strut their way to the Batasan wearing a gown embroidered with diamonds, let them. Whose good judgment would come into attack? Who will be criticized as having no sense of the suffering in this country? Not mine, certainly.
And if they want ridiculous feathers, or elaborate lace, by all means, let them. Their own common sense, not ours, would come under scrutiny.
Sometimes the best way to ask people not to do something is to actually tell them they can do whatever they want—and then spook them with the consequences.
In the end, a person does not stand or fall on one outfit worn on a single day.
Our government officials’ value is not to delight us with what they wear, however tacky or classy. It’s one afternoon -- let the ladies wear their dresses. Everybody likes getting dolled up sometimes.
The SONA is not just reporting day. It also marks the beginning of legislative sessions where laws are crafted and debated. Do we really care what Representative X is wearing or how unflattering Senator Y’s outfit looks on her? No, as long as they give us good laws, they raise valid questions, make us think, use our money well and not make us cringe in shame that they are the ones representing us, we’re fine. They can wear rags or gold bullions for all we care.
By all means, let us watch the fashion show tomorrow. Our eyes must feast, sometimes. But after that, let us hear and let us think, and let our officials show us what they are made of —sans the trimmings, sans the promises.