The night of fashion & passion (for life)

WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng - The Philippine Star

When ICanServe (ICS) Foundation and Marie France staged the first edition of Fashion Can Serve, a very special kind of event was created — an evening that not only saw a sampling of the finest in Philippine fashion, but also a night when breast cancer awareness and early detection was highlighted via the participation of ICS ambassadors and survivors as muses for the six designers. That SM Woman, and its carrying the Thai bra brand Sabina, was a presenter further brought home the message of breast cancer awareness, as Sabina has produced the first Asian-made Sewing Bra — specially designed for survivors’ post-mastectomy. And when Marie France gifted ICS with, and unveiled, a specially made video that had narration by Dawn Zulueta-Lagdameo over a track sung by Lea Salonga — you had a night of tears amidst smiles, applause and cheers for the indomitable spirit of the Filipino woman. And all this before the fashion show had even commenced! For the ones who had made it to the Raffles Makati ballroom, this was one event with a difference, a night that had heart and the passion for living and surviving stamped all over it — with all the funds raised going to the grass roots Ating Dibdibin program of ICS.

But don’t just take my word for it, as with my sister, Libet Virata, being the current ICS chairperson (and a survivor herself), I am far from being an unbiased observer. One of the guests that night was Bea Zobel Jr., and she had this to say, “I felt totally united and supported as a woman. Breast cancer is a reality...but we have a solution and together we can fight it. Loved it! And the survivors being so positive and looking so damn gorgeous; that I looked at myself and said ‘Bea! Shape up’!” And I believe that was one of the most important messages of the night.

I can only begin to guess at what the personal ordeal and anguish of going through breast cancer must entail, but the night was also a clarion call to all women to recognize that breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence! If detected early, there is life after breast cancer, and it can be more precious, with double the passion and zest. I know one of my personal highlights was watching my co-Allure columnist Michelle Dayrit-Soliven, who has survived twice, sashay down the ramp, and make it her personal real estate! Watching the beam and pride on the faces of Rene Puno and Paolo Abad as both their wives, Ann and Toni respectively, had their walk down the runway also made my night.

New ICS ambassador Amina Aranaz-Alunan had created a special tote bag for ICS, and posted afterwards that there was no model pout that night, as she couldn’t repress her smiling during her turn on the catwalk — it was just so palpable, that shared feeling of joy amidst the seriousness of why we were all gathered there that night, during Breast Cancer Awareness month. And ICS founder Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala had mother Letty in the audience, who brought a grin to my face when she leapt to her feet to applaud her writer (and Dog Mama) Alya Honasan, who brought an element of rock n’ roll to the show. Leah Caringal shed a model’s decorum and raised both arms in triumph as she made her appearance. The night was full of moments such as these, and I loved the humor of Julie Torres who walked down the ramp while on the screen was written: Mother of Lucy (because that’s how she’s always introduced). And more humor had been on the cards earlier that night as Tessa Prieto-Valdes handled the mini-auction in a style that can only be called vintage-Tessa, and she stayed to watch the show as so many of her friends were among the muses. Event host Issa Litton was herself on the Marie France video Gift and recognized the work of Jason Magbanua, who had directed the film.

I was with my sister as the first steps to making that night a reality, which began early this year — and there were initial doubts and naysayers, as while ICS had been made beneficiary in various events, this would be the first time to mount the concept Fashion Can Serve. For also taking that “leap of faith” I know ICS would like to recognize Security Bank, Del Monte, Rado, Globe Platinum, SSI, Wilcon, Auto Nation, Ortigas, 2nd Avenue, Summit Publishing, Golden Touch, Inewvation, Remy Martin and Cointreau, Ralph’s and Heineken, Make Up For Ever, Aveda, Homme et Femme, El Nido, the Philippine Make Up Artists Association, Miladay, Aranaz, Fortune Travel, the PDI and The Philippine STAR. They all played a part in making those initial doubts vanish.

To Rajo Laurel, Rhett Eala, Eric delos Santos, Lulu Tan Gan, Kristel Yulo-Diaz and Maureen Disini, as well as direk Jackie Aquino, you can’t imagine how my sister and her ICS committee members Bettina Osmeña, Tang Singson and Camille Samson were on Cloud 9, seeing all the hard work coming to fruition, with guest after guest approaching them to gush about how special the night had been. Your readiness to say “Yes” to this first edition of Fashion Can Serve was instrumental in giving legs and wings to this endeavor.

If there was an empty seat that night, I would like to think that seat was reserved for my mother. She succumbed to cancer back in 1996 (although not breast cancer), and during her lifetime counted on the likes of Pitoy Moreno, Inno Sotto, and especially Auggie Cordero, as close friends. Being witness to a night when fashion was staking its claim in the fight against cancer would have made her especially proud of my Ate and ICanServe.














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