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The Barong Tagalog

The Barong Tagalog refers to the formal men’s wear in the Philippines. Barong is short for ‘baro ng’ ( dress of) hence ‘Baro ng Tagalog, (Dress of the Tagalog). Today, it is simply referred to as the Barong with elaborate designs and made from embroidered piña fabric, abaca or banana silk.

Google Images

During the 16th century pre-Spanish period, the people of Ma-I (Philippines before the Spanish colonization) particularly the Tagalog natives of Luzon wore ‘baro’ or canga – a sleeve-doublet of rough cotton cloth.

Google Images

In the 18th century, only the Illustrados or the wealthy and landed Filipinos were allowed to wear the baro made from hand woven embroidery and sheer fabric. However, they were forbidden to tuck it. It was meant to distinguish them from the Spanish rulers. There was also some accounts that transparent, sheer fabric were used for the Barong Tagalog and without pockets to prevent the indios from hiding any weapons in their shirt and engaging in theft.

The Barong Tagalog has evolved since then. Several variations in design were made and it was worn by men from all walks of life. It even made its way to the highest post in the land – the presidency. President Ramon Magsaysay (1955-1957) made the Barong Tagalog even more popular when he decided to wear it in his inauguration and in all his personal and official affairs. Since then, the succeeding Presidents adopted Magsaysay’s practice.

The inauguration of Pres. Ramon Magsaysay, Dec. 30, 1953. Google Images.

Former President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1374 which established March 5-11, 1975 as Barong Filipino Week and designated Barong Tagalog as the national attire. The decree brought a nation-wide attention on the Barong Tagalog to much wider use. This period also saw the the Barong’s export potential.

As mentioned above, Filipinos today still prefer to have their Barong Tagalog embroidered. Some supposed that the Barong Tagalog inspired garments from other countries such as the multi-cultural aloha shirt of Hawaii, and the traditional guayabera of Latin America.

The Baro ng Tagalog or Barong Tagalog became one the symbols of pride, dignity, patriotism and Filipino soul.

References: The Weird and Wonderful History of the Barong Tagalog. Barong Tagalog History of Barong Tagalog

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