OFFLINE: The annual dog and pony show called SONA

For starters, the P100 million spent to refurbish the Batasang Pambansa building was not only a useless expense, it was totally obscene. That’s a little under $2 million, and it would have cost only a tenth of that to have the place cleaned and repainted, where necessary.

But the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. – who had earlier said he wanted his first State of the Nation Address or SONA to be simple – demanded that the site be spic and span for this week’s event.

Not only was a huge amount that could have been used as financial support (AKA ayuda) for the poorest of the poor in these most difficult of times needlessly spent, an additional cost of God-knows-how-much was also spent in having more than 20,000 police officers and soldiers make sure that the president would be totally untouchable.

And for what?

By most accounts, Junior’s first SONA was a resounding success, as his fawning lapdogs also known as senators and congressmen who comprise a supermajority will tell you.

They said it was the greatest presidential address they had ever heard in their life. Which is pretty much what they say whenever a new president gives the address and they want to curry favors from that chief executive.

As one La Salle professor said, there was “nothing applaudable” about the one-hour speech. True. Junior’s SONA received less applause and standing ovations than the SONAs of former presidents Duterte, Aquino, Arroyo, et al.

I have written some speeches in the past, and good ones usually have a combination of nice sound bites coupled with words and phrases that tug at the heart strings.

But broken down to its parts, Junior’s speech was nothing more than a collection of motherhood statements that any relatively talented writer could have strung together. It had no substance.

As for Junior’s claim that he himself wrote his SONA, he can either tell that to the Philippine Marines – who would not believe him anyway – or to any of his supposed 31 million voters, most of whom are still waiting for rice to retail at P20 per kilo (an impossibility) or receive their share of the legendary Tallano gold (which is a tall tale that only men and women of extremely low IQ believe is gospel truth).

About the worst thing about this year’s SONA – in any SONA of modern times, actually – is the de facto fashion show that the assembled lawmakers and their families hold on the annual event.

The men don the most expensive barongs while the women wear all sorts of gowns that they will only wear once in their life, as to wear the same gown any other year would be considered a sin.

Some years ago, a still active senator whom I have grown to respect wore the most atrocious excuse of a gown imaginable. For all intents, it looked like a hot air balloon and I was expecting her to float off into the sunset at the end of the day.

I’m glad that Senator Nancy Binay has changed her stylist, as her gowns in recent years have been formal and not flashy.

The same cannot be said of the current vice president, who wore what was supposed to be a formal dress, if she were a tribal princess.

If Sara Duterte’s goal was to call attention to herself, then she succeeded in a big way.

The same can also be said of Senator Imee Marcos, who wore what was supposed to be a formal gown, but which was a bit too colorful for the afternoon function.

She was also toting something that looked like a bloated sex toy. I kid thee not, folks. If it was supposed to be a native bag of sorts, then whoever designed it probably has a wicked sense of humor.

I’m sure photos can be seen online, so you tell me if I’ve lost my marbles or if I speak with an element of truth.

The gents were mostly wearing barongs, which is a good thing. But almost all were obviously hand made by pricey tailoring shops.

I have to say that only one gentleman, freshman Senator Robinhood Padilla – yes, he now wants to be known as Robinhood – had me giving him the two thumbs up.

Asked where he had his barong made, Senator Robinhood told the merry men and women of the press that he bought it at good old SM, at the superstore’s Kultura section to be precise.

Indeed, Kultura does have an excellent selection of Filipiniana and if I ever need to wear a formal jusi or pina barong, I would either buy one there or just rent one.

And this may be the only time that I will praise Padilla, although one can never tell. Every once in a while, he spouts words of homegrown wisdom that give me cause to smile. Other times, he speaks gibberish nonsense.

If there was one SONA when a senator was wearing a totally different kind of barong, it was from decades ago when the late Senator Ramon Revilla, Sr. wore a black barong embroidered with some kind of modern albeit native design.

I looked at it for a long time, and decided that the man from Cavite had made a fashion statement that would be nearly impossible to beat.

But year after year, men and women still try to come out with a look that will be talked about for years to come, hopefully in a good way.

And this is where I have to end this with a sad note regarding the country’s current first lady. Mrs. Lisa Araneta Marcos (is her name spelled Liza?) wore a truly drab attire, which at least was not as bad as the monstrosity she wore at her husband’s inauguration a few weeks ago.

Back then, she wore a bright green dress that many compared to the attire worn by emergency workers worn as they try to save lives.

Lisa or Liza is no Imelda Marcos, that’s for sure. Say what you will against the former first lady, but Imelda was known as the fabulous one because she had a sense of style. Or at least the top couturiers of her time – Pitoy Moreno, Ben Farrales, Ramon Valera, et al — fell all over themselves to gift her with the classiest gowns and dresses.

And like Robinhood, this is the only time that I will speak well of Imelda Marcos, but only her sense of style.

My crystal ball says that next year’s SONA will be a repeat of this year’s SONA and all the SONAs before that, at least where overdressed lawmakers are concerned.

Yup, it’s nothing more than a dog and pony show of dubious entertainment value.

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