Photos by Sonny Espiritu

If fashion can bring people together for a common good to spread awareness on a serious health issue affecting many Filipino women (and some men), then it has served its purpose well. This was evident during the “Fashion Can Serve” fundraising fashion show held recently at the Raffles Makati grand ballroom.

Our country has the highest rate of breast cancer in Southeast Asia and ranks 9th in the world – undoubtedly prevalent in the Philippines. And yes, I personally know of brave women – who have battled the fight against the cancer or are still continuing to survive the ordeal – that are part of the statistics. My prayers and support goes out to all of them who each have an inspiring story to tell. For this columnist, it takes somebody strong to get through this medical issue and I can’t help but admire them for their spirit to press on and endure.  

Bernie Aboitiz, a cancer survivor, was radiant that evening
ICanServe Brand Ambassador Rissa Mananquil-Trillo in an Eric Delos Santos creation
Beauty in courage as personified by Crisann Celdran – a cancer survivor walking the catwalk during Fashion Can Serve

 ICanServe Ambassador Bianca Araneta-Elizalde in a Rajo Laurel creation
The message was clear, that early detection is key to breast cancer prevention. This is an advocacy championed by a group of women of the ICanServe Foundation, Inc. which provides hope for people at risk. The aforementioned beneficiary that evening shared their flagship program, “Ating Dibdibin” (Take Your Breast Care to Heart) to the audience composed of civic and business leaders and the fashionable social set. I’m told this is the first community-based breast cancer screening program that teaches detection techniques to the medical team of a locality. This drive brings education (which include diagnostic screening tests, seminars and trainings) directly to barangay health workers, midwives, nurses and doctors through their partnership with the local city government via the enactment of an ordinance, along with a permanent annual fund to sustain the program and subsidize the needs to rehabilitate patients with breast cancer.  

Michelle Dayrit-Soliven owned the catwalk, having survived her battle with cancer  
Lucy Torres’ mom and cancer survivor, Julie Torres
ICanServe Ambassador Amina Aranaz-Alunan in a Kristel Yulo creation
Patty Betita walked that catwalk with pride as a 
cancer survivor
Before the show, an auction was (effectively) spearheaded by the always engaging Tessa Prieto-Valdes who entertained the crowd with her gift of gab and utter wit. If my calculation is accurate, I estimate that she managed to raise (almost) a million pesos that evening (two thumbs up to you Tessa!) for ICanServe Foundation, Inc. 

Cancer survivor Ann Puno was a vision of beauty in strength in a Lulu Tan-Gan creation
Toni Abad is a woman of courage having survived cancer
ICanServe Ambassador Agot Isidro in Eric de los Santos
Cancer survivor Maritoni Fernandez 
An inspiring moment for cancer survivor Leah Caringal
Alya Honasan’s story as a cancer survivor is an inspiration
The event brought together Philippine fashion’s finest who lent their creative talents to showcase an exquisite collection of holiday wear by Rhett Eala, Rajo Laurel, Lulu Tan-Gan, Eric De los Santos, Maureen Disini and Kristel Yulo. The beautiful clothes were donned by models, celebrity advocates and breast cancer survivors (who all sashayed on stage with sheer confidence). The latter owned the catwalk and were (in my opinion) the highlight of the evening, all of whom merited rousing applause from the captivated audience. Indeed, they were a vision of beauty (in courage).

ICanServe Foundation’s (from left) Camille Samson, Bettina Osmeña, Roxanne Singson, Elizabeth Virata and Marie France’s Issa Litton who was that evening’s Master of Ceremonies
Marie France’s George Siy and Mimi Siy collaborated with ICanServe Foundation for Fashion Can Serve
Philanthropic ladies that supported ICanServe Foundation that evening – Marivic Vasquez, Glecy Mojares, and Patty Jalbuena
Also that evening, ICanServe Foundation in collaboration with Marie France paid a special homage to women with breast cancer. The joint project aims to reach out and celebrate the brave women who are battling the fight against breast cancer. They produced an empowering video entitled “Strength is Beautiful” – a tribute to evoke love and support for the women struggling with the illness. It was conceptualized and created by videographer Jason Magbanua, with the timeless voice of Lea Salonga singing a touching piece by Marie Hines entitled Save It All. Likewise, its core message of empathy and compassion was beautifully narrated by Dawn Zulueta-Lagdameo. To borrow excerpts from her compelling message – “We know your story… We are here to hold your hand to be with you and share your journey.” 

Family moment.  In full support of the Fashion Can Serve event were Atty. Rene Puno, Mel Meer, Renee Puno and Luis Puno. Renee and Luis’ mother is a cancer survivor and modeled for Lulu Tan-Gan
The video featured talents from both Marie France and sister company Facial Care Centre, all of whom volunteered their time and service to make the project possible. The video tribute included Agot Isidro, Bianca Araneta-Elizalde, Carmi Martin, Ana Roces, Bernadette Allyson, Shalani Soledad-Romulo, Patty Betita, Tessa Nieto-Villalon, Mikaela Lagdameo-Martinez, Rima Ostwani, Issa Litton, Sam Oh, Riki Flores, Camille Co, Lissa Kahayon and Kryz Uy.  Also lending support was Nikoy de Guzman.

Robin Horsman, Angeline Fiechter, Mimi Siy, George Siy, Dawn Zulueta-Lagdameo, 
Sharon Horsman, Jacqueline Share, NJ Torres and Peter Prestidge
A good college friend, Bernadette Allyson-Ejercito expressed, “It felt really good to be part of something I feel very strongly about. Breast cancer is a serious concern that we face as women. I wanted to do my part in encouraging and empowering these women, reassuring them they are not alone.” 

Marie France’s Rima Ostwani
Supporting ICanServe Foundation were Anton San Diego and Ina Ayala 
Marie France’s Mikaela Lagdameo-Martinez and Facial Care Centre’s 
Ana Roces
Indeed, to the women enduring their battle with breast cancer, you are not alone.  Side by side, we share with your moment of triumph!  

Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @francis_deleon8. 

Topics: walking abreast , throug fashion , marie france

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