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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Barong Tagalog

The Barong Tagalog, is the most widely known Filipino attire for both men and women. Weddings, christenings and other formal Filipino gatherings would seem unusual if a barong is not in sight. A sense of elegance makes the barong the first choice of attire at special events. The barong as we know it, is a far cry from what it was a long time ago.

Originally called “Baro ng Tagalog” (Dress of the Tagalog) and made initially of abaca and banana silk, the barong traces its beginnings from the peasants of the Spanish era. Legend has it that the Spaniards made Filipinos wear barong untucked to distinguish them from the ruling class and to ensure that with its translucent fabric, any weapon concealed under the garment would be seen.

On the contrary, sociologists pointed out that untucked wear was common in pre-colonial Southeast and South Asian countries. In addition, historians have not noted any specific laws under Spanish rule prohibiting the natives from tucking their barong.

José Rizal and his contemporaries were photographed with their shirts tucked. For the majority of the Filipinos, the use of the barong is driven naturally by the heat and humidity of the Philippine weather rather than the fear of Spaniards of peasants obscuring weapons.

The recognition of the barong as a formal attire was popularised by the late President Ramon Magsaysay. In 1975, the late President Ferdinand Marcos officially made the barong the Philippine national costume.

In its present form, barong is worn untucked over an undershirt. It is usually embroidered with geometric designs and made of either the expensive hand loomed piña (pineapple leaf fibre), or of Jusi, a mechanically woven fabric from silk organza or hand-woven from banana fibre. The latest fabric, Pina-Jusi has gained popularity with the sheerness of pineapple fibres and the strength of the Jusi fibre. The barong’s thin and light fabric is very much suited to the Philippine climate.

In recent decades, less formal versions of the Barong Tagalog have been created, presumably to make them more affordable and wearable. Foremost of these offshoots is the Polo Barong. It is often used as office wear, is short-sleeved, and often made with linen, ramie or cotton. For a smart casual look came the "Gusot Mayaman" (meaning "wrinkled" and "wealthy" respectively), Linen Barongs and the Shirt-jack Barong. They are usually in poly-cotton and linen-cotton fabrics. These barong style outfits were popularised by politicians and government officials when worn during campaigns or out-in-the-field assignments.

From what was once a staple shirt of the peasant, the barong has evolved into an elegant attire of today – a cherished possession of Filipinos. The barong links us to our cultural heritage and to our national identity.



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