Saturday, June 11, 2011

Barong Tagalog

Many of you probably have wondered (and still wondering) why Barong Tagalog is the national costume for men in the Philippines.    Today's generation probably thought that this dress originated from a sort of Spanish Elitist because of its sophisticated and kind of elite look and design.   But getting an email from a friend made me think otherwise.   And I would like to share it to you all.  Below is the email which tells of the history of Barong Tagalog and how it came to be the national costume of the Philippines.  Added also is a music video entitled "Barong Tagalog" sung by Ruben Tagalog which i found in youtube and a picture of a Hollywood Director wearing a Barong Tagalog to the Golden Globe Awards.

Why the Barong Tagalog is the national costume of the Philippines
During the Spanish occupation of the Philippines (over 300 years from 1561-1889) the barong tagalog was required by the Spanish government for Filipinos (indios) to be worn at most times to show the difference between the rich and the poor. the poor who serve the rich must always be in uniform.

Take their chauffeurs, maids, and employees as examples. They are in uniform to immediately distinguish them from the employers. When the Spaniards colonized the Filipinos, they had to make it abundantly clear who the boss was through the imposition of a dress code. Men were not allowed to tuck their shirttails in. That was the mark of his inferior status.

Second, the cloth material should be transparent so that he could not conceal any weapon that could be used against the masters. Third, as a precaution on thievery, pockets are not allowed on  the shirt.

By the turn of the century a new middle class began to emerge among the Filipinos. These were known as the principalia. They have mastered Spanish laws and were able to obtain title to lands. They became successful in business and agriculture and sent their sons to be educated abroad. They were privileged to build their houses in the poblacion around the plaza near the seats of power.

Only a member of the principalia could be addressed by the title DON, and only they were allowed to vote. They had all the trappings of power and status, but for one undeniable fact:
they still had to wear their shirttails out, if only to remind them that they were still Indios.

What the Spanish authorities did not smother out was the Filipino's will power and dermination to psychologically conquer their colonial masters, through improvisation and  reinterpretation. The Filipino's stylistic bongga (flashy dresser) was a reaction against the overt discrimination and insensitive oppression of the Spaniards.

For example, Filipinos were forbidden to use imported silk and fabrics for their Barong, so they ingeniously used pineapple  leaves to weave the pinya jusi cloth of the barong, turning the outfit into such delicate material, of luminous silky rich  mixture much finer than silk. And to add insult to injury, they hand- embroidered the front with such exquisite abandon: Calado and hand- work all over.

Palgrave, the ethnographer noted, "The capitan's shirt was the native barong, of fine and delicate fiber, embroidered and frilled; it was light and cool and not tucked in the trousers". (Corpuz, 74)

The Barong Tagalog gained its power, prestige, and status when President Quezon, the first Filipino president, declared it the National dress. The status of the lowly inferior Barong thus became another symbol of Filipinos' resistance to colonization.

After World War II, Philippine presidents began wearing the Barong Tagalog at their installation into office and on every formal state occasion. In contemporary times the Barong Tagalog is the power dress. As an abogado de campanilla, you cannot afford not to wear the Barong Tagalog when arguing a case in Philippine courts.

Today, every visitor and foreign dignitary invited to a Malacanang Palace state function must, by necessity, and dictated by protocol, be dressed to the nines in a Barong Tagalog.   The invitations specifically say come in "Barong" instead of the traditional "Coat and Tie". Thus, every one invited to dinner at the Presidential Palace and in many Filipino homes will unknowingly and unwittingly have to experience directly, what it feels to have to wear his shirttails out, to suffer the indignity of having the material of his barong transparent so that he can not conceal any weapon; and horrors (que horror!), to be accused directly of incipient thievery by having no pockets in his barong to put the silver. So, when El Señor Spanish Ambassador is invited to a state dinner, you can say, "Ah, what sweet revenge!" (buti nga!!! )

And after Director Quentin Tarantino (director of Pulp Fiction, Desperado, Kill Bill, and many more) came to visit the Philippines he came to love the Barong Tagalog that he also wore it during the Golden Globe Awards in 2007.   Way to go Direk! 

Director Quintin Tarantino during his visit to the Philippines were he was exposed to the beauty of the Barong Tagalog here shown when he paid a courtesy call to then Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

 Hollywood Director Quintin Tarantino wears our Barong Pilipino

If the foreigners like Quentin Tarantino came to love our national costume, why wouldn't we, the Filipinos, learn to love it too?  It is our national costume, we should be the first to be proud of it and live to preserve it for future generations.  

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“Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” - Dr. Jose Rizal

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