The Barong Tagalog, more commonly known as simply Barong (and occasionally called Baro), is an embroidered formal shirt which is considered the national dress of the Philippines. It is lightweight and worn untucked over an undershirt.
Today, in lowland Christian Filipino culture it is common formal attire, especially at weddings. Less formal variants are used also as uniform in schools, universities and offices. Through the years, it has occasionally been feminized and worn by women. This may be seen either as an egalitarian or haute couture fashion statement, or as a form of power dressing when worn by female politicians such as when Philippine President Corazon Aquino wore it at various times during her presidency.
The Barong Tagalog was popularised as formal wear by President Ramón Magsaysay, who wore it to most private and state functions, including his own inauguration.
The term "Barong Tagalog" is usually shortened in modern Filipino as "Barong", though grammatically, barong is not a word that can stand alone. It contains the suffix -ng, which indicates that it is an adjective or an adjective must directly follow.
The root word of barong is the Tagalog word baro meaning "outfit" or "clothing". "Barong Tagalog" literally means "Tagalog outfit". The term was originally used to describe what people, both men and women, typically wore in the Tagalog region during the Spanish era. In time, the term caught on for the shirt alone, and other styles of dresses got their own names (e.g. Maria Clara, baro't saya, magsasaka, kamisa de chino, and terno).
Prior to the Spanish Era, the Tagalogs of Luzon already wore a garment that was a forerunner of the Barong Tagalog - the Baro. Earliest reference to the Baro was in the Historical account of Ma-i (Pre-Colonial name for the Philippines) that the Filipinos wore a sleeve-doublet of rough cotton cloth called kanga, reaching slightly below the waist. It was collarless and had an opening in front. The doublets indicated the social status and badge of courage of a man, red was for the Chiefs and the Bravest, Black and White for the Ordinary Citizen.
Spanish Colonial Era
A legend persists that the Spanish colonizers forced the Tagalogs to wear their baro with the shirt tails hanging out to distinguish them from the ruling class; its translucent fabric allegedly showed that wearer was not concealing a weapon underneath. Supposedly, native Filipinos were also prohibited from tucking in their shirts, which served to designate their low rank as well as to distinguish them from the people of mixed descent, the mestizaje, and the colony-born pure Castillians or insulares. This is only a legend, as pre-Hispanic Filipinos already wore untucked shirts, something common in tropical climates where temperatures and humidity are high.
Moreover, sociologists have argued against this theory by pointing out that an untucked style was very common in pre-colonial South- and Southeast Asian countries, and that the use of thin, translucent fabric developed naturally given the heat and humidity of the Philippines. Historians have likewise noted the absence of citations to any specific law in which that bans the tucking in their shirts. They also note that natives during the colonial era wore their shirts tucked at times. A common example cited in support of this argument is José Rizal and his contemporaries, who were photographed in Western clothing with their shirts tucked.
Like other cultural clothes, the style of the Barong Tagalog and the accessories worn with it spoke of the status of the person wearing it. The Mestizos would wear it with their leather shoes and bowler hat. The Ilustrados wore abaca-made Baro with plain collar, half open chest and pleated back design. The Ilustrados wore it with ordinary shoes, trousers and a hat - similar to that of Mestizos. The Baro was worn over a Camisa de Chino. The lower class wore coloured Camisa de Chino with loose pants and slippers which is still a practice in the countryside.
Types of cloth used
The finest shirts are made from a variety of indigenous fabrics. They have a sheer appearance and the best are custom embroidered in delicate folk patterns :
Piña fabric is hand-loomed from pineapple leaf fibers. Traditional piña weavers in the country, however, are dwindling, making the delicate piña cloth expensive and highly prized. They are used only for very formal events.
Organza fabric is a synthetic fabric for more affordable barongs.
Jusilyn fabric is another synthetic fabric for more affordable barongs.
The term Barong Tagalog is almost exclusively used to refer to the formal version of the barong; however, less formal versions also exist.
- Office BarongPolo barong refers to a short-sleeved version of the barong, often made with linen, ramie or cotton. This is the least formal version of the barong and is frequently used as men's office wear (akin to the Western suit and tie).
- Gusot MayamanGusót-Mayaman (Tagalog, "wrinkle-wealthy") and Linen barong are any barong not made of piña, jusi, or similarly delicate fabrics. These are generally considered less formal than the barong Tagalog, and are also reserved for everyday office wear.
- Polo JackShirt-jack barong are cut in shirt-jack style usually made of polyester-cotton, linen-cotton and the typical gusót-mayaman fabrics. Popularised by politicians wearing it during campaigns or field assignments, this style gives the wearer a look between casual and dressed-up. This type is however considered inappropriate for very formal occasions such as weddings.
Barong are commonly embroidered along the front in a u-shape, with small spots placed everywhere else. This is usually produced by any of the following methods:
- Hand-embroidered barong
- Machine-embroidered barong
- Computerised-embroidered barong
- Hand-painted barong
- Calado Barong ("pierced", a type of drawn thread embroidery.)
- Pinpricks (alforza)
Relation to the guayabera
Another disputed theory is whether the Barong Tagalog was a local adaptation or a precursor to the guayabera, a shirt popular in Latin American communities. According to those who claim that the baro is the precursor of the guayabera, the guayabera shirt was originally called the "Filipina" since Manila-Acapulco Galleons brought the shirt to Mexico from the Philippines.
At the 2007 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney, Australia, a press release from the organising committee described the Barong Tagalog, as a "peasant shirt". The Government of the Philippines called for clarifications regarding the description, considering the potentially derogatory connotations of the term "peasant".
A Presidential Security Group agent in a short-sleeve barong Tagalog.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Barong Tagalog.|
- Radio Television Malacañang. "Corazon C. Aquino, First State of the Nation Address, July 27, 1987" (Video). RTVM. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
- Barong Tagalog history
- Barong Tagalog history
- Barong History
- CubaNet News: The Miami Herald. Torture suspect arrested., Jul. 03, 2004