2. Red Charity Gala founders (left) Kaye Tinga and (right) Tessa Prieto with fashion designer Ivarluski Aseron.

BIGGER doesn’t always mean better. One of the most awaited parties of Manila’s social circuit, the Red Charity Gala, is back in the spotlight after a forced hiatus due to the pandemic. The party’s return on Oct. 8 at the Peninsula Manila will be a lot more intimate and subdued, reflective of the designs of this year’s featured designer, Ivarluski Aseron.

During a press conference on Sept. 29 at the Pen, Red Charity Gala co-founders, socialites Kaye Tinga and Tessa Prieto, showed off the items up for auction, including furniture, jewelry, and stays at Peninsula properties abroad (among others). The gala, held every year since 2009 except during the COVID pandemic, is on its 12th edition this year.

“We really debated hard whether we would continue the legacy that we started,” said Ms. Prieto in an interview with BusinessWorld. “I think, after much clamor to continue help for the Red Cross and the other beneficiaries, we said, ‘let’s do it.’ It really doesn’t take much to mount this. People are still as generous. They have also saved a lot of money in the past three years.”

In a speech, she said, “We really want to be open to all the other beneficiaries. We’re not exclusive to the Philippine Red Cross or Assumption HS81 Foundation. We want to help where we can.”

While those two organizations are benefiting from the gala, Ms. Prieto pointed out to BusinessWorld that they have also taken up the Save Palawan Seas Foundation as a beneficiary, while adding the Hope for Lupus Foundation to the list. According to a statement, the gala’s proceeds have built two children’s libraries in Eastern Samar, and provided two-year senior high school scholarships for 20 deserving students in Passi, Iloilo.

The Philippine Red Cross and the Assumption HS81 Foundation have also contributed to training youth volunteers for first aid, emergency and disaster readiness. Relief operations during fires and calamities were also a priority, providing aid when it is needed most. During the pandemic, both foundations also extended support to frontliners, providing them with hot meals and fresh produce. During those trying times, their resources were also allocated to isolation facilities, vaccination sites, and RT-PCR saliva collection sites in Makati.

“We actually average between 10 million (pesos) upward,” Ms. Prieto said on the donations the Red Cross Gala accepts. “But you know, this year, we would just be happy to even get half.”

Ms. Prieto discussed the changes to the Gala this year (aside from the change of venue). “It’s really more of a curated event. More subdued, yet just as purposeful. We are now more focused on really giving back.”

Mr. Aseron’s designs are related to this theme. “It’s not like loud and bling, different from the other designers in the past,” she said. This year, the runway will be set closer to the audience, in order for them to better observe Mr. Aseron’s work.

Since she joked onstage that Mr. Aseron wasn’t present at the launch because he had to finish his 50-piece collection for the show, BusinessWorld asked if she was kidding about the number of outfits. “No, it is,” she said. “I know, because we have to pay each model.”

With grand parties coming back it may seem like the privations of the pandemic are definitely over. Talking about what it is like restarting the party after years of not holding one because of a global disaster, Ms. Prieto said they are “a bit anxious, yet excited as well.”

“It’s going back to the essence of giving back through fashion; it’s what we want to focus on,” she said. “Where charity begins, it’s like a universal purpose. If others raise more than us, it doesn’t matter. We want to give as much as we can.”

For more updates, follow Red Charity Gala on Instagram (@redcharitygala). — Joseph L. Garcia