IN PHOTOS: SONA through the years

Every year, the Philippine president reports on the status of the country, presents the government's agenda for the year, and proposes legislative measures for Congress.

This tradition of delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) started in 1935 during the Commonwealth era.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the president must address Congress at the opening of its regular session.

When it takes place

The first SONA was delivered by President Manuel Quezon on November 25, 1935. The following year, pursuant to Commonwealth Act No. 17, the date for the SONA and the opening session of Congress became June 16. 

In 1937, Constitutional Act No. 49 changed the date of the opening of Congress to October 16.

On December 10, 1937, the National Assembly approved Commonwealth Act No. 244, which moved the opening of Congress to every fourth Monday of the year, starting in 1938.

Congress was abolished when President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. This was followed by the promulgation of the 1973 Constitution.

From 1973 to 1977, the SONA was delivered on September 21, the anniversary of the imposition of martial law. Since there was no Congress, the SONA was delivered before an assembly either in Malacañang Palace or at Rizal Park.

MARTIAL LAW ERA. President Ferdinand Marcos delivers his speech at Rizal Park.


Whenever the 21st of September fell on a Sunday, the SONA was delivered the Friday before, as was the case of the 10th SONA which was delivered on September 19, 1975.

Marcos delivered his 13th SONA during the opening session of the Interim Batasang Pambansa on June 12, 1978. From 1979, the SONA was delivered every fourth Monday of July, following the provisions in the Constitution.

In 1983, the SONA was delivered on January 17 to commemorate the anniversary of the ratification of the 1973 Constitution and the second anniversary of the lifting of martial law.

With the adoption of the 1987 Constitution, the Congress was restored. Like the Marcos Constitution, it set the opening of the regular session of Congress and the delivery of the SONA on every fourth Monday of July.

Where it took place

Most of the SONAs took place at the Batasan Pambansa Complex in Quezon City, while 29 were delivered at the Legislative Building in Manila (now the National Museum). 

OUTSIDE OF THE PHILIPPINES. President Elpidio Quirino delivered his second SONA via a radio broadcast inside the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the US on January 23, 1950.


SONA WITHOUT A CONGRESS. President Ferdinand Marcos delivered his SONA before an assembly either in Malacañang or at Rizal Park. In 1976, his address was given during the opening of the Batasang Bayan (appointed legislative body) at the Philippine International Convention Center.


Since 1935, there have been 81 SONAs delivered with Marcos having the most at 20, followed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 9.

Sergio Osmeña was the only president to address the legislature only once, on July 9, 1945.   

Other highlights

Lawmakers, their spouses, and other guests invited to the SONA usually dress their best, with many taking the opportunity to show off designs by prominent Filipino designers.

THE LADIES. Aurora Quezon with other spouses during the 1937 SONA.


GUESTS. Imelda Marcos (3rd from left) with then-First Lady Evangeline Macapagal (next) at the ladies' gallery during President Diosdado Macapagal's 3rd SONA.


The SONA is also a time for activists to take to the streets.

HEAVY SECURITY. President Ferdinand Marcos delivering his SONA inside a bulletproof enclosure following the series of protests.


UNITED PEOPLE'S SONA. Thousands of protesters march the streets at the United People's SONA held along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City to slam President Rodrigo Duterte's administration and clamor for human rights, freedom, and democracy in 2019.

Darren Langit/Rappler