Call her the “Filipiñiana godmother.” First Lady Marie Louise “Liza” Araneta-Marcos thoughtfully solved at least 14 “Cinderella” problems in the lead-up to the country's 125th Independence Day on June 12.
To be more specific, and albeit sans a wand, she vanished any fashion apprehension any of the top female diplomats to the Philippines may have had upon receiving an invitation to the Independence Day Vin d' Honneur. The affair is also known as the traditional reception hosted by the President in Malacañang Palace to cap the most important national holiday.
Naturally, an all-Filipiñiana attire is requested for this formal twice-a-year occasion (the other Vin d' Honneur is held every New Year), even for the highly valued and distinguished foreign dignitaries who mainly comprise the very select guest list.
Now, if Cinderella's infamous “What am I to wear to the ball?” situation rears its scary head for actual Filipina nationals when such a dress code is required, what more for a foreigner, right? Imagine the fashion dilemma she must go through to ensure she affords her host country and its leaders the respect they deserve? Add to that the pressure to do her own nation proud as their official representative to the Philippines, and of course, to look good and feel good while she's at it. (That last part is just as important to any woman of substance).
Thankfully, the First Lady — who is thrilled by the growing number of female ambassadors being sent to the country — was a step ahead of Her Excellencies and graciously came up with the idea of gifting them with bespoke Filipiñana wear, designed no less by the Philippines' top couturiers.
Having just mounted the very successful “Likha 2” indigenous exhibit, which predominantly featured rich, local weaves by traditional and tribal Filipino artisans, the First Lady knew dressing the female ambassadors would be the perfect sidebar to her pet project and ongoing advocacy.
For not only would she be able to promote the unique talents of Filipino designers and craftsmen to a broader audience as she promised, but she could also highlight the country's rich cultural heritage multiple times in a single night.
Definitely a win all around!
And indeed, all boxes were ticked on both sides at the Vin d' Honneur as all 14 “international Cinderellas” elegantly made their respective entrances to the majestic Kalayaan Hall.
They all looked and felt beautiful in the proudly Philippine-made designs of Ivarluski Aseron, Avel Bacudio, J.C. Buendia, Mark Bumgarner, Paul Cabral, Jun Escario, Lulu Tan-Gan, Rajo Laurel, Michael Leyva, Dennis Lustico, Randy Ortiz, Puey Quinones, Philip Rodriguez, Milka Quin and Joey Samson.
“Each gown or dress incorporates the use of iconic shapes in Philippine fashion, as well as locally sourced weaves,” First Lady Liza happily remarked when The Manila Times Lifestyle caught up with her in the massive hall. Just as beautiful in her Paul Cabral Maria Clara, the President's wife beamed with pride as she joined her muses for a photo. After all, their collaboration didn't just underscore the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between the Philippines and the international community but also got their husbands' attention.
For, right after enumerating the dignitaries who needed welcoming during his message, President Bongbong Marcos couldn't help but talk about the remarkable — and ultra fashionable — idea he saw before him.
“May I say that the ladies of the Diplomatic Corps have put a new spin on our national costume and… with the help of some of our local designers, have created a wonderful spectacle.”
And while the ladies enjoyed their moment, the President even said, “To the gentlemen of the Diplomatic Corps, we're going to have to pick up our game. I will — after this evening — we will go and make sure that we too can preen like peacocks like the ladies this evening.”
A job well done, indeed, First Lady, the exceptional Filipino designers and the beautiful belles of the ball from the diplomatic corps.
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