State of the Outfit Review: SONA fashion under six years of Duterte administration

State of the Outfit Review: SONA fashion under six years of Duterte administration

Every year, people have their eyes out on the red carpet when a president is set to deliver his or her State of the Nation Address (SONA). Apart from the president’s speech, people are on the lookout for the politicians and their families on the red carpet. 

Less than a year before President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ends, we take a look back at how public officials presented themselves on SONAs throughout the years. What is the state of their SONA outfits? Have they improved? Or did they just get worse over the years? 

To get our minds off our president’s pee joke, we present you a list of the best and (sort of) worst dressed individuals on Duterte’s SONA during the past six years:

Best dressed

SONA 2021

This year’s SONA saw gowns embroidered with intricate designs inspired by traditional patterns gracing the red carpet.

Marga Nograles (2021)

Marga Nograles with husband Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles; Photo:

Marga did not set her foot outside to attend SONA 2021 but she definitely slayed her outfit even at their home. 

She wore a mixed print Inaul terno with Tboli hand-beading by Kaayo. Created by the weavers of South Cotabato, the fabric is infused with silk and gold threads. Furthermore, the orange Inaul weave is a symbol of tradition as the handmade fabric and designs are passed down from generation to generation.

SONA 2020

Even without the red carpet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, public officials proved they were still red-carpet-ready as most of them took to social media the annual SONA fashion runway.

All these beautiful faces matched with elegant gowns that took pride in Filipino designs. More than the dresses, one striking detail that marked SONA 2020 was the “Araw Brooch”, a project by the Philippine Fashion Coalition to symbolize hope and unity amid the challenges we have faced as a nation.

Senator Pia Cayetano (2020)

One of the iconic looks in last year’s SONA was that of Pia Cayetano’s Michael Leyva outfit. She wore a top showcasing an indigenous fabric from the Mandaya tribe. She paired it with blue bottoms, a violet purse, and of course, the Araw brooch. She also wore a mask matching her outfit which completed her splendid look!

SONA 2019

In 2019, Filipino designers took a new road in featuring local textiles by adding twists to classic Filipiniana. Vice President Leni Robredo and Marga Nograles are only two among the many attendees who took pride in ethnic weaves showcased in their modern Filipinianas.

Tootsy Angara (2019)

Sen. Sonny Angara’s wife, Tootsy; Photo: Michael Leyva

In a hall filled with dresses with ethnic designs, Tootsy definitely stood out with her white modern Filipiniana dress with silk Pina sleeves. Not only did she grace the red carpet with style but she also carried with her outfit a message in support of the LGBTQIA+ community– as seen in the rainbow pin on the upper right side of her dress.

SONA 2018

The 2018 SONA was dominated by reimagined ternos in soft colors and sweet pastels. From Kate Necesario to Jinkee Pacquaio, ladies showed what the quote, “simplicity is beauty”, means on the red carpet.

Audrey Tan Zubiri (2018)

Audrey Tan Zubiri with her husband Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri; Photo: Audrey Tan Zubiri

Audrey, a consistent name in the best-dressed list during SONAs, turned heads with her floral butterfly-sleeves partnered with an hour-glass shaped dress by Ito Curata.

SONA 2017

On Duterte’s second SONA, most politicians and attendees wore Mindanaoan-inspired outfits as a symbol of solidarity in light of the terrorist crisis in Marawi last 2017.

Heart Evangelista (2017)

Of course, we would not end this list without Heart Evangelista. Topping every best-dressed list, Heart, once again, flaunted her elegant outfits that complemented her good looks. 

In 2017, Heart wore a simple white terno by Jo Rubio in the morning and changed into a blue and gold Muslim-inspired print, Boom Sason, pantsuit in the afternoon.


Another highlight of the annual SONA red carpet are the head-turners not because of their great taste in fashion but for their lack of it. 

Warning: These public figures have been found guilty of the crime of being ill-dressed by the fashion police.

Salvador Panelo (2019)

Photo: Meane Corvera, Eagle News Service

Who would’ve thought that Salvador Panelo foresaw the rise of the Among Us game in his 2019 SONA coat filled with people wearing bright-colored hoodies which resembled the characters of the 2020 trending game? 

Known for his non-traditional, quirky coats and blazers, the former presidential spokesman never failed to disappoint fashion critics. A Twitter account was even created solely for checking Panelo’s outfits. 

Check out What Sal Panelo Wore on Twitter to see more of Panelo’s fashion adventures.

Gemma Sotto (2019)

Gemma Sotto; Photo: GMA News via Jannielyn Ann Bigtas

Tell us you’re a DDS without telling us you’re a DDS. Gemma Sotto obviously nailed this challenge. 

While others graced the red carpet with elegant gowns showcasing local textiles and ethnic weaves during SONA 2019, Sotto wore a dress with Duterte’s face all over it. This kind of idolatry, however, has raised the eyebrows of both the fashion police and the Supreme Court of Facebook. 

Sen. Imee Marcos (2018)

Sen. Imee Marcos; Photo: Aya Miura

While others wore soft colors and sweet pastels on the red carpet during the 2018 SONA, the then Ilocos Norte governor turned heads because of her bright red dress that matched the red carpet. Aside from the red carpet, do you know what resembles Marcos’ outfit better? Yes, you guessed it right– the blood of the victims of martial law during her father’s rule.

Sen. Nancy Binay (2018)

Of course, who can ever forget Sen. Nancy Binay’s fashion choices? From her iconic fashion blunder in SONA 2014, Sen. Nancy Binay once again became the talk of the town during SONA 2018 when she donned a gown matching the carpet at Batasang Pambansa. The funny senator even poked fun at her light blue gown saying, “nagma-match ako sa carpet.”

This year, Binay, whose fashion choices consistently generated memes that delighted netizens,  looks like she finally learned her lesson. In the recently concluded SONA, Binay re-wore and developed her 2016 outfit, a big improvement from her previous SONA fashion choices. Binay really nailed the glow-up challenge, didn’t she? 

Throughout the years, public officials have developed their fashion senses while others have continued exploring their fashion choices. Nonetheless, be it best or worst dressed, we all share the same hope in the end: that the president will, someday, report significant changes and remarkable developments in the country.

About the Author

Jean Loriele Raoet is a third-year journalism student at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. When she is not holding her pen, she loves to watch videos of puppies and babies playing together. During her free time, she plays the guitar and delves into music production. Apart from music and cute animals, she likes engaging in talks about mental health and children’s rights.

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