Barong Tagalog


Barong Tagalog

A Barong Tagalog (or simply Barong, from the word baro) is an embroidered formal garment of the Philippines. It is very lightweight and worn untucked (similar to a coat/dress shirt), over an undershirt. It is a common wedding and formal attire for Filipino men as well as women. The term "Barong Tagalog" literally means "Tagalog dress" (i.e., "baro ng Tagalog" or "dress of the Tagalog") in the Filipino language.

The barong was popularized as formal wear by Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, who wore it to most official and personal affairs, including his inauguration as president. The barong was officially made the national costume by a decree from President Ferdinand Marcos in 1975.

Origin

This Filipino tradition dates back to the Spanish Colonial era. A legend persists that the Spaniards made Filipinos wear barongs untucked to distinguish them from the ruling class, its translucent fabric helping the Spaniards to see that the wearer was not bearing any weapon under the garment.

Connoisseurs of historical details say that during the Spanish era, the rulers required that the baro of the indio be made of flimsy material so that he could not conceal weapons on his person. Supposedly, the indio was also prohibited from tucking in his shirt, to designate his low rank and to tell him apart from the mestizaje and insulares.

Sociologists have argued against this theory, however, pointing out that untucked wear was very common in pre-colonial Southeast and South Asian countries, and that the use of thin, translucent fabric developed naturally given the heat and humidity of the Philippines. Historians, likewise, have noted the absence of a citation to the specific law where the Spaniards supposedly prohibited the natives from tucking in their shirts. They also note that natives during the Spanish 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 — although the era of the barong predated Rizal's time.

In a lighter vein, some speculate that the indio's baro did not have pockets because he was poor and did not have money to put in them anyway.

History has it that the Guayabera originated from Cuba and was made iconic in the Cuban culture but was inspired by the Philippines’ Barong Tagalog.

Another disputed theory is whether the barong was a local adaptation or a precursor to the guayabera, a shirt popular in the Latin American communities. [www.exploring-mexico.com/2007/04/17/the-exotic-style-of-the-mexican-guayabera - "History has it that the Guayabera originated from Cuba and was made iconic in the Cuban culture but was inspired by the Philippines’ Barong Tagalog"] According to those who claim that the barong is the precursor of the guayabera (pronounced "gwa-ya-ber-ra" with an almost silent "G"), the guayabera shirt was originally called "Filipina" during the era of Manila Galleon tradeships when it was brought to Mexico from the Philippines. [CubaNet News: [http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y04/jul04/05e5.htm The Miami Herald. Torture suspect arrested.] , Jul. 03, 2004]

Type of cloth used

Filipinos don their finest formal Barongs in a variety of fabrics.

Piña fabric - is hand-loomed from pineapple leaf fibers. And because Piña weavers in the Philippines are dwindling, its scarcity makes the delicate Piña cloth expensive and is thus used for very formal events. Jusi fabric - is mechanically woven and was once made from abacca or banana silk. Today, China is the main source of polyester Jusi.

Banana fabric - is another sheer fabric used in formal occasions. Made and hand woven from banana fiber, it usually comes with geometric design details. This fabric hails from the Visayas island of Negros.

Piña-Jusi fabric - is the latest barong fabric that just came out of the market and is gaining much popularity. With the sheerness of pineapple fibers and the strength of the jusi fiber, this "new" fabric blend offers the market the same formality needed on special occasions at a more reasonable price range.

Variations

The term "Barong Tagalog" is used almost exclusively to refer to the formal version of the barong; however, less formal variations of this national costume also exist.

* Polo Barong - The term "polo 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, often used as office wear (akin to the suit and tie).

* "Gusot-Mayaman" ("gusot" means "wrinkled" and "mayaman" means "wealthy") and Linen Barongs - Barongs that are not constructed with pina, jusi, or similarly delicate fabrics are generally considered less formal than the Barong Tagalog. Both "gusot-mayaman" and linen barongs are used for everyday office wear.

* Shirt-jack Barong - Barong cut in shirt-jack style usually in poly-cotton, linen-cotton and gusot-mayaman fabrics. Popularized by politicians and government officials and worn during campaigns or out-in-the-field assignments. This barong style gives the wearer a more casual look yet lends a more dressed-up appearance from the usual street worn casual wear.

Barong Decorative Details

* Hand Embroidery

* Machine Embroidery

* Computerized Embroidery

* Hand Painting

* Pintucks (Alforza)

* Lace-inserts/Apliques

The Barong Tagalog exhibits the loose, long lines of its Chinese sources, the airy tropical appearance of Indo-Malay costume, the elongated effect of Hindu dressing, and the ornamental restraint of European men's clothing.

Though the Barong appears to have retained its essential look since it was first worn, through the years, almost imperceptibly, the Barong's round neck, straight long sleeves and mid-thigh hemline were ingeniously modified with collar, cuffs and side slits.

Such details of costume history may well be apocryphal- if we consider that the fabric of the Barong were traditionally either abacca, piña or jusi. And these fabrics were naturally sheer, flimsy and semi-transparent, with a stiffness that discourages tucking, and a fineness that would sag with sewn pockets.

However lowly or lofty its heritage may be, the Barong Tagalog became the consummate Filipino costume for men, worn by statesmen, tycoons and artists in all events of importance.

To seal its national stature, the Barong Tagalog is the official wear of the President of the Philippines.

Controversy

At the 2007 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney, Australia, a press release from the organizing committee described the Barong Tagalog, the Filipino's national costume for men, as a "peasant shirt". [ABS-CBN Interactive: [http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryID=91724 RP cries foul as APEC tags natl costume as 'peasant shirt'] , 9/9/2007] The Philippine Government is calling for clarifications regarding the said issue.

References

* [http://www.barong.com The authority on Barong Tagalog]
* [http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Tagalog/Cynthia/costumes/barong_tagalog.htm Barong Tagalog history from MyBarong.com]


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