MANILA, JULY 30, 2012 (INQUIRER) By: Thelma Sioson San Juan - Somehow I got the feeling that this year’s Sona cocktails at the Batasan were different.

Held after the President’s State of the Nation Address last Monday, it had the same sumptuous, finger-licking fare, by Millie Reyes’ The Plaza, as last year’s, and I presume, the same exclusive list of invitees, from diplomats and top government officials, to legislators and their spouses.

But what I found different was the crush of people. There seemed to be a lot more this year.

This became evident as President Aquino made his appearance at the South Wing lobby, the cocktails venue—he was mobbed, sending the PSG to form a really super-tight cordon. Even the seasoned head of Protocol Miguel Perez-Rubio looked so harassed warding off people.

Everybody—men and women, in barong and terno or Filipiniana, young and old—jostled for spots near the President. Good luck to that; just people-watching could leave you with crushed toes. The PSG cordon was at least three people deep.

[PHOTO -SHRIMP cocktail in shot glasses]

This was so unlike last year, when the President freely walked the cocktail area, posed for photos, and exchanged a word or two with some guests. This year, he was whisked in and out of the cocktails area by the PSG.

While the columnists/pundits and the headlines have given their verdict on Aquino’s Sona—more praise than pun—to me, another gauge of the President’s stronger hold on power was the behind-the-scenes of the Sona cocktails.

There’s no doubt that the son of the country’s democracy icons has come into his own; he’s made us realize that at the end of the day, good governance rests on moral ascendancy, a leader’s sense of decency and core values that must prevail over vested interests.

Aquino bandwagon

But the Sona cocktails showed one more thing—the political establishment has embraced him, albeit literally more than it did last year. Everybody’s hopping on the Aquino bandwagon. Indeed, they’re now lured by the aura of power—which Aquino, whether he’s aware of it or not, now exudes.


As for the post-Sona mood of the President, it’s work as usual even as he tries to physically recover from the Sona activities. I don’t think he even noticed that the swarm of cocktails guests around him included pretty 20- or 30somethings.

We’re now inclined to believe what he said a while back—“Can’t afford any distraction, can’t affect the work.”

In the meantime, the beautiful women who have been linked to Mr. Aquino have moved on to their respective brand endorsements.

While being romantically associated with the country’s most eligible bachelor could be stifling and stressful—under the media microscope—you must admit it has its major plus: The woman becomes a national celebrity, hopping over even show-biz fame.

Brand-watching for Presidential 'Exes'

Shalani Soledad became the face the country has come to love; she now endorses Facial Care Center.

She also became a household name through Willie Revillame’s show, where, it is said, she merited a generous talent fee and thoughtful gifts from the host.

Now the wife of Rep. Roman Romulo, Shalani wasn’t able to attend the Sona because she was sick. For sure, she would have been a red-carpet favorite.

Stylist Liz Uy not only has become a premium stylist (six-figure fee), hers is also the name and face now popular even among the D and E markets, more than when she was John Lloyd’s girlfriend.

And she herself has many brand endorsements, the latest of which is the fashion line Plains & Prints.

Grace Lee—well, everybody knows how she’s risen from media talent to multi-brand celebrity.

Not only does she have a TV show, she also endorses many brands, including noodles—more than her talent manager Arnold Vegafria can count with his fingers. As Vegafria himself said with a big smile: “Many.”

Of course, as brand endorsers, these desirable women are the images on giant billboards, from the SLEX to Edsa to NLEX.

They’re also on the covers of glossies. As a magazine publisher (for Inquirer’s Look magazine), I can’t complain. Shalani was the highest-selling cover of Look. The current Grace Lee issue isn’t doing bad, either.

These days, however, there’s no high-profile presidential love life, so brand marketers will simply have to wait and sit it out. And—they might be in for a long wait.

Anyway, back to the Sona cocktails.

[PHOTO -JULIA Abad and Joseph Juico]

Looking so simple and svelte was Julia Abad, head of the Presidential Management Staff.

Julia was in a beige terno with subtle draping and supple fall.

She gave birth only 10 months ago and it’s interesting to know that, despite her hectic schedule, she’s managed to keep up the breastfeeding of her baby. (Sometimes even during Cabinet meetings, she would excuse herself briefly to repair to a room to pump milk.)


KARLA and Millie Reyes with US Ambassador Harry Thomas Carissa Cruz-Evangelista, in an Ivarluski Aseron skirt, showed off the t’nalak bags she produces for Kultura—she let the congressional spouses use them. Indeed, this was one Sona where indigenous weaves were highlighted.

I also noticed the women flashed their baubles this year, more than they did last year. I hardly remember last year’s armory. Last Monday there were pretty impressive pieces.

Linda Floirendo Lagdameo had a stunning neckpiece.

Dawn Zulueta Lagdameo had mouth-watering ruby drop earrings.

Gloria Angara opted not for glitter, but for a vintage look, the fine woman that she is.

Sen. Loren Legarda wore a t’boli belt and excavated gold earrings, a hand-me-down from her late mother Bessie. (Loren preferred an antique piña off-shoulder gown, shorn of embroidery—she wanted it simple yet elegant because she knew the red carpet would have color overload.)

Violet Reyes wore her diamonds so elegantly.

Trina Reyes’ diamond choker was even in the shape of a P-Noy ribbon. Now the women even wear “P-Noy.”

Just as mouth-watering as the jewels was the cocktails buffet prepared by Millie Reyes and her daughter Karla.

There were assorted sushi and sashimi, shrimp cocktail in shot glasses, vegetable spring rolls with tofu, pan de sal with kesong puti—my favorite, which I alternated with roast Angus corned beef, so tender and tasty.

There were also salmon belly brochette with caper butter sauce, turkey wraps with gravy and cranberry, spaghettini with sauce options: putanesca or sun-dried tomatoes with olives and tuyo flakes.

Of course, there was the signature The Plaza premium baked ham.

There were also the bite-size Plaza desserts that included cream cheese brownies, maja blanca, pandan kutchinta.

If my heels weren’t killing me, I would have stayed longer both for the people and the food. But I left the ballerina flats I brought (to change into, just in case) on my Plenary Hall seat, forgot all about it.

Going back to the scene at the Plenary Hall during the President’s Sona, one couldn’t but notice this pretty spouse of a legislator who, so obviously, didn’t stand up, like everybody did, to give the Chief Executive a standing ovation after his speech.

Seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was the only one seated in the gallery, she held her chin up and flashed that snobbish (or was it defiant) look.

Oh well, she could just be having a bad hair day—but then she was so well-coiffed.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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