Standing front and center with President Rodrigo Duterte during the successful and recently concluded 31st Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) Summit was Cielito “Honeylet” Salvador Avanceña, longtime partner of the President.
The former nurse and entrepreneur’s grace, elegance and fashion savvy was generally thought to be Duterte’s not so secret weapon as she hosted and entertained the spouses of the Asean leaders for the duration of the summit.
During the 3-day Summit, Honeylet stood beside the President hosting and attending important events such as the opening rites, and the gala dinner. She also hosted on her own several activities for the Asean spouses.
The press also took notice of her simple yet elegant look, be it in a pink ensemble she wore while touring the spouses of the Asean leaders around the Cultural Center of the Philippines or donning a formal terno for the Gala Dinner.
To quote popular online media source Rappler : “The 31st Asean Summit has officially come to an end and amid the inevitable glamour that ensues when the world’s most powerful leaders come together, President Rodrigo Duterte’s longtime partner Honeylet Avanceña was a picture of unruffled simplicity.”
That she could maintain that aura of style in this day and age where multiple outfit changes for a single event is normal, is a testament to the lady’s practicality yet innate elegance.
Honeylet, who is known for reusing her outfits, as she did for the President’s State of the Nation Address earlier this year, wore the same pink ensemble to the Asean Summit spouses program and when she hosted a 4-course lunch for them at the Manila Hotel.
According to some fashion press reports, she changed into more formal attire for the gala dinner where she opted for a terno in a dark silver printed fabric, with intricate beadwork on the butterfly sleeves and bodice. She maintained her swept backed look, which worked, well for her simple yet elegant style.
The Presidential Partner is known to favor Mindanao-based designers. Media pointed out that the green terno she wore at the 30th Asean Summit in April was again worn to the SONA in July, with the Davao-based designer just adding colorful Maranao embroidery at the bottom.
Lest our friends and readers begin to wonder why we are ‘transforming’ this column into a fashion blog, let me assure you that the only reason why we wrote this piece is because this writer appreciates Honeylet’s frugality and simplicity.
Honeylet’s character is in sharp contrast to the demeanor of the girlfriends of House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Davao Del Norte Representative and billionaire Antonio Floreindo.
The girlfriends of the two former bosom buddies had a well-publicized altercation reportedly over a seat assignment during the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City last year.
Maybe, Madam Honeylet, you can teach these girls a lesson or two about humility and good manners.
President Duterte has always abhorred extravagance, sticking to his folded Barongs and Marikina-made leather footwear.
We are sure that he appreciates the practical yet elegant style of the First Lady. Certainly the Filipino public should. She has shown what class and style is, without breaking the bank.
We also appreciate the way Honeylet has gone about her duties quietly and perfectly. In her own quiet way, she has fostered a stronger relationship with the countries we have hosted in the Asean Summit.
Our friends in Davao City told us that Honeylet was very simple and unassuming, ever since.
They said she was a beauty queen in her younger years having been Miss Davao Doctors College in 1988, and was first runner-up in the Mutya ng Dabaw beauty contest the same year.
She worked as a nurse in the United States for four years but returned to Davao upon the birth of her and the President’s daughter, Veronica.
During the 2016 elections, she and her daughter joined Duterte’s presidential campaign.
The spouses or partners of future Filipino leaders would do well to follow Honeylet’s example. To stand out, without calling undue attention to oneself. To stand behind and beside their spouse or partner with grace and dignity.
More importantly, Honeylet proved that it doesn’t take tons of money to have class and elegance.