Supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo in the southern town of Argao, Cebu got a pleasant surprise on Wednesday after Robredo was seen wearing their "Hablon de Argao," a locally made dress, during the graduation of her youngest daughter Jillian in New York City.
"Malaki ang impact niya. Nabuhayan ng dugo ang mga volunteers dito sa Argao. Not only was it worn by VP Leni, but it was actually worn in a different country," said Rainera Lucero, a key leader of Robredo's supporters in the town.
(It had a big impact. Her volunteers here in Argao now have their spirits up.)
Robredo received the handwoven dress as a gift from her supporters in Argao, after she visited the town in February 24 at the height of the 2022 campaign period.
The dress, which Lucero had ordered as early as December 2021, was a gift of appreciation for including Argao as the only town in her first visit to Cebu.
"She had visited Toledo, Talisay, and Cebu cities, and Argao was the only town in her itinerary," Lucero said, adding that the dress was the gift they could think of that showcases her town's heritage and culture.
The Hablon de Argao industry had been suffering a decline over the years, but was only revived recently when it was made an extension project of the Cebu Technological University (CTU).
In a Facebook post, Lucero credited the people behind Robredo's Hablon graduation dress: weaver Josephine Cameros, sewer Jovencio Fuentes, as well as Jima Bejagan and Jorelyn Concepcion of CTU's Argao campus.
Concepcion is credited for reviving the Hablon industry in the town.
Surigao-based Cebu artist Jocel Capuyan Gozon handpainted the floral design on the dress.
Before Robredo wore the Hablon for Jillian's graduation, Lucero said she had been wondering where the dress went after they gave it to her months ago.
When the Vice President posted a picture of herself wearing the dress on her Instagram story, Lucero was in disbelief — until she saw the unmistakable neckline.
"Grabe iyong honor. Of all the dresses she received, iyon pa ang sinuot niya. Na-shock po kaming lahat. Iyong group chat po naming Argaoanons with Leni, nabuhay ulit. Grabe po talaga," she told ABS-CBN News.
(The honor was indescribable. Of all the dresses she received, she chose to wear the dress we gave her. We were all shocked. Our chat group was reenergized. It was unbelievable.)
Orders for the Hablon de Argao have reportedly increased since pictures of Robredo wearing it circulated online.
Lucero noted that the Hablon is a usual gift they give to important visitors of their town, but it was the first time they actually saw someone prominent wearing it.
Because of Robredo's apparent promotion of the dress, Lucero said that the youth of Argao are planning to start initiatives supporting the Hablon industry.
This, she said, was also inspired by Robredo's announcement of the launch of the Angat Buhay Foundation on July 1.