By Jardine Chua
The old but still majestic Congress building in Manila once more played host to the country’s most eminent and respected public servants as 40 incumbent and former senators convened to celebrate the Senate of the Philippines’s 100 years of service to Filipinos at a dinner event early this month.
A veritable A-list of political heavyweights and icons, all clad in traditional Filipino formal wear, attended the commemorative dinner to celebrate the institution’s 100th year of existence since it was established on Oct. 16, 1916 during the American period.
The current batch of senators led by Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, along with Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon, Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senate Minority Ralph Recto, spearheaded the three-hour event.
Senate Presidents Aquilino Pimentel III, Franklin Drilon, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
Senator Chiz Escudero and wife Heart Evangelista
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto and Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos
Bro. Eddie Villanueva and Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto III
Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada and former Senator Loi Estrada
Loren Legarda, Sonny Angara, and Joel Villanueva
Senators JV Ejercito and Migz Zubiri
Senate Spouses Elvira Angara, Audrey Zubiri and Gladys Villanueva perform traditional Filipino dance
Ms. Bing Pimentel, Carmen Ziga, and former Senator Vic Ziga
Former Sen. Heherson Alvarez
The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra
It was Pimentel who welcomed the past and present senators and paid tribute to the great legacy of all the men and women who have served in the Senate throughout the last century.
“It was in this very building, in 1916, where the Philippine Senate first convened. We are proud to say that since then up to this present day, after 100 years, the Senate continues to be the vibrant repository of our country’s democratic ideals,” said Pimentel.
With them were their fellow Senators Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan, Risa Hontiveros, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, Grace Poe, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar, and Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri.
Some of the country’s highest leaders who once served in the Senate, like former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, former Vice-President Noli de Castro, along with former Senate Presidents Juan Ponce Enrile and Aquilino Pimentel Jr., also graced the event.
The presence of other political greats like former Senators Heherson Alvarez, Rodolfo Biazon, Nikki Coseteng, Rene Espina, Loi Estrada, Edgardo Ilarde, Eva Kalaw, Alfredo Lim, Joey Lina Jr., Jun Magsaysay Jr., Orly Mercado, Santanina Rasul, Wigberto Tanada, Francisco Tatad, and Victor Ziga, also made sure that every generation of the Philippine Senate since the 1970s was amply represented during the event.
Relatives and loved ones of present and past senators were also spotted at the special occasion, such as Batangas 6th istrict Representative Vilma Santos-Recto, Manila 4th District Representative Edward Maceda, along with top actresses Helen Gamboa and Heart Evangelista.
Entertainment during the dinner came in the form of powerful performances from the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra and singer Dulce, while the guests were treated to exquisite Filipino cuisine from Via Mare.
The traditional Filipino dance performed by the Senate Spouses Foundation Inc. led by Mrs. Bing Pimentel, the current Senate President’s mother, and Audrey Zubiri, Gladys Villanueva, and Elvira Angara, among others, which caused a particularly light-hearted episode during the dinner.
Among the highlights of the evening was when the four senate presidents present—Koko Pimentel III (2016 to present), Drilon (2000; 2001- 2004; 2004-2006; 2013-2016), Enrile (2008-2010; 2010-2013), and Nene Pimentel Jr. (2000- 2001) joined together to express their common support for the Senate’s service to the people.
Koko Pimentel, the event’s keynote speaker, said that since 1916, the institution had enacted countless relevant laws, checked abuses in government, concurred and rejected treaties, and performed its check-and-balance function as an impeachment court. “Why has the Senate lasted this long?” he asked. “Because all of us, who have served the Senate—and that means all of us here—have served with utmost dedication and devotion to the best interests of the Filipino people.”
Former Senator Joey Lina Jr., who delivered the message in behalf of former senators, agreed with Pimentel and said that the “Senate continues to be relevant, especially in the upcoming few weeks or months, when I believe the Senate will be called once more to shape Philippine history.”