ONE of the excitements in life is dressing up for an important occasion.

One's attire is a well-planned way ahead of time, especially if the occasion calls for dressing up. A look over before a mirror on how acceptable the attire is a habit developed as one grows up through the years. A turn or two will suffice before going out of the home.

Attending wedding ceremonies, parties, conferences and public forums with renowned speakers and personalities mandates an outfit that does not make one a sore thumb in the crowd. There are exceptions though when one has the ulterior and selfish motive to attract attention and gain popularity either for positive or negative impressions.

On an occasion or two, one must have experienced the reprehensible feeling of either being overdressed or not properly dressed up. The urge is to get away from the place as fast as one could make it. The most convenient way for an exit is to make an excuse for visiting the comfort room and leave. Otherwise, one would experience the empty uneasiness and appalling pangs of flying butterflies in the stomach.

Either way, it's a situation of the square peg that cannot fit into a round hole. A sore thumb, that's it.

Despite the educated knowledge of protocol on proper attire, sometimes cultural upbringing makes people forget the norms of decorum.

In these modern times, written invitations indicating the proper dress code advisory are sent to target groups of people. If it's a wedding celebration, those with written invitations are expected to dress up accordingly for either lunch or dinner. Other good-wishers would, however, prefer informal receptions in either the bride's or groom's residence to avoid the uncomfortable strict dress codes of formal attires.

An invitation is a gesture of respect and recognition of the relationship. The gesture, nonetheless, requires, among others, mutual and reciprocal respect. If one cannot oblige, he is ethically duty-bound to send his/her regrets days before the occasion.

Normally, an occasion dictates a dress code (for men) such as formal coat and tie, business suit, barong Tagalog or decently casual. Should one feel unable to meet such conditions, the sound counsel of the gentleman in him would be to send an RSVP or regrets.

Three reasons were advanced: first, one has declined the respect accorded to him; second, one's inability to return the respect extended to him; and last but not the least, one's refusal to respect himself therefore his presence does not deserve respect.

I recall those Friday night jam sessions in my college years when the unwritten dress code for boys is coat and tie (or no tie) or barong Tagalog. Those were must-attend jam sessions with beautiful coeds an adolescent cannot miss.

I had to borrow my co-boarder's coat every time even if it did not fit me well and looked very loose. When I had one for my own semesters later, friends and classmates used to borrow mine, too, until somebody forgot whom to return it to.

Among Cordillerans, dressing up for occasions is not at all a concern.

For women, wearing a native outfit is acceptable in formal gatherings, be it in weddings, baptism, office or corporate meetings, welcoming dignitaries, etc. The colors and designs of their attires would even identify which tribe they belong to. And using the same set of clothes does not matter at all; and never a subject of chismis among the fairer sex.

For men, wearing g-string, too, is a formal outfit. Lawyer Mauricio Domogan made it a habit during his incumbencies as city mayor and congressman. But it was the late Mountain Province governor and Congressman Alfredo Lamen who brazenly used his mites-ridden g-strings on the floor of Congress to defend the integrity of Igorots.

Henceforward, succeeding Cordillera members of Congress attended sessions in g-strings; but not as elaborate as the way Lamen dressed up in his military combat boots and a faded coat. No doubt, Rep. Lamen had captivated his audiences and has earned the calling as the most colorful politician from the Mountain Province (now Cordillera Administrative Region) ever has.