The Barong Tagalog: A Timeless Filipino Tradition
by Jett Pe Benito
the old adage says, "The clothes make the man." For millions
of Filipino men, this is never more true as when he wears
the barong tagalog. Almost every Filipino male has one in
his closet, or at least has worn it once in his lifetime.
Whether it is for that declamation contest in 3rd grade, or
for dancing as part of a pair in a cotillion, the barong tagalog
has always been considered a staple.
Filipino weddings, the barong tagalog always makes
an appearance. Below are the thoughts and views
of three respected designers who have long realized
and want you to know that there is more to the
barong tagalog than just something that Filipino
Bautista, Arlyne Tumbokon of La
Herminia Piña Weaving Industry and
Bong De Ocampo of Exclusively His all agree that
the barong tagalog traces its roots to the Spanish-colonial
groom would surely look dashing in these barongs
from Exclusively His.
De Ocampo relates,
"The origin of the barong stemmed from the social strata between
the hacienderos and the indios. To distinguish
the noble man from the masses, indios were required
to keep their shirts untucked." She adds, "The shirt had to
be transparent enough to be sure that he carried no weapons
nor stolen goods. Thus, the barong was created. It used to
be made of lightweight cotton until it evolved into the different
kinds of fabrics that we know today such as jusi and
points out that "the barong was the attire of the Gobernador
Heneral, but the wearing of piña was done
even in the pre-Spanish era where piña cloth
was used to barter with porcelain products of the Chinese."
When it comes
to barongs, Bautista says that details and design are the
main basis for the outcome of the barong. "Though the embroidered
types of barong remain a classic, the sinuksok-type
of design has gained more popularity and preference with the
groom's attire. A combination
La Herminia Piña
sinuksok and various patterns of embroidery
are also incorporated nowadays," he says. Tumbokon
adds that the sinuksok (hand-woven
design) is done while the barong itself is being
barongs are considered the traditional Filipino
man's attire staple, the use of jusi and
piña will never be out of the
prevailing trend. De Ocampo shares that a certain
fabric combining more silk with piña
is currently being developed. This fabric
is said to be less itchy and more wearable.
She adds, "Embroidery designs actually play
the largest part in the design of the barong.
The u-shaped ethnic design is the most popularly
used presently." She notes though that designers
are becoming more adventurous when it comes
to designing the modern barong. "Lately, we've
been infusing some Oriental touches to the design
or East Indian touches by giving the neckline
a mao collar or nehru collar. Sometimes, we
use Chinese frog buttons or knot buttons to
add more interest."
Their own take
of these three designers, who have long been designing
and making barongs, have their individualistic
choices of materials and design.
prefers to work with the piña-silk
and uses the sinuksok design because
of its simplicity and elegance.
De Ocampo is partial to jusi or piña.
She continues, "Recently, a faux version of piña
was developed on jusi called piña-piñahan
or piña jusi wherein the appearance
of piña is painted on jusi.
Hence it appears textured but is actually as smooth
as jusi." Furthermore, she says, "I usually
design according to the theme of the wedding.
But it doesn't deviate much from the usual design
of the traditional barong. With men, it's just
a matter of embroidery shape,
jusi barong from Exclusively His.
they want it u-shaped or full-open or scattered all
around. But generally, the more elaborate designs
are applied on piña. I've been toying
a lot with the suksok design for piña
which means that the design is woven into the
fabric as opposed to embroidered on the fabric."
Bautista's personal preference is working with the
pure piña cloth of which he has mastered,
he also considers piña blended with
silk as a "go-getter". His design considerations lean
towards geometric patterns, flora, and fauna inspirations.
Even artworks and silhouettes from the different colonial
ages from the Western world are featured in his designs.
Barong by Joel Bautista
three designers agree that barongs are here
to stay. "A more aggressive statement to declare
is that, I think the Western style of dressing
will never be able to catch up in a sense that
the prime consideration of the majority is focused
on comfort dressing for a tropical climate that
we have in our country," says Bautista.
barong is a classic and traditional option for
weddings, not to mention, cooler than wearing
a tux or suit. It's got a quiet unassuming elegance
and can blend pretty much with any entourage
design," says De Ocampo. "Moreover, you can
be in any size, shape, or color and still look
decent in a barong."
barong tagalog has come a long way and shows
no signs of fading away for it is one of the
few things that define what is truly Filipino.