The Barong Tagalog is of great importance to the Filipino identity today. With such a diverse past, one of the Philippines' distinct characteristics is its population wearing the Barong Tagalog.
The Philippine Islands or the Republic of the Philippines wasn’t always called these Spanish king-branded names. There was a time when the archipelago was called Islas de los Pintados, Ma-i, or even the proposed Luzviminda, and many more throughout history.
Before the Americans and the Japanese in the 20th century and before the Spaniards in the 16th century, Muslims reigned over the islands, and before them was an Indianized kingdom in the 10th century. Today, the country is independent of foreign rule, but it still has yet to understand its true identity.
Unfortunately, globalization does not help matters in the least. Local Filipino teenagers grow up listening to International Top40 Hits not just because of the Internet, but because all over local TV, most of the “artistas” and many bands outside of TV are mostly singing international cover songs as well. Filipinos abroad have TFC and other Pinoy channels broadcasting from the motherland, but it is still mostly a barage of Western-influenced entertainment.
In turn, the younger generation dresses exactly the same as a kid in Europe especially with international brands such as Zara, Top Shop, and Forever21 all over the malls in the Philippines.
Culture purists do exist, but they are small academic circles who are too small or sub-cultures that are too underground or mountain villagers who are too far away from modern urban life to have any influence on the majority of the Filipino diaspora.
So who is the true Filipino? Is it those born in the Philippines? Is it those with Filipino ancenstry? Is it the natives still living in huts in the provinces? Is it the city dwellers pushing the country towards development and progress? Is it the Overseas Filipino Workers who brave loneliness and back-breaking work in other countries? Is it the masses who are still enveloped in poverty? Is it the army of call-center agents patiently hearing out the world’s complaints? Perhaps it is all of the above.
Barong Tagalog Attitude
One thing all of these groups might agree on is that Filipinos traditionally wear the Barong Tagalog.
In an age of identity confusion and foreign culture saturation, the Barong Tagalog stands proud as something uniquely Filipino. Along with the Jeepney and the stick-fighting discipline of Arnis, it truly shows the spirit of the Pinoy: making something from nothing.
The Barong, as it is commonly known today, evolved from the Spaniards insisting that Filipinos wear see-through material so that they can not conceal any weapons and even dictated that they do not tuck the garment in to indicate a lower class standing.
Though the Barong was once a symbol of oppression, today the country’s businessmen, leaders, formal-event attendees, and the majority of Filipinos, and even quirky non-Filipinos proudly wear this uniquely Pinoy staple of culture.
Quentin Tarantino Wearing Barong Tagalog
With distinctive local fibers and artisan detailing, the Barong Tagalog is still very remniscent of Filipino fore-fathers before globalization and the K-Pop teledramas. Hand-embroidery and hand-painting artisans, hand-weavers, and native fabrics such as pina, jusi, and organza are still being used today.
In fact, the style of the Barong has seen little change since President Ferdinand Marcos declared it the national attire in 1975. It still has it’s traditional Sports or Chinese collars. It still has the special side slits at the bottom and is still mostly worn untucked with a Camisa de Chino used as an undershirt.
Modern designers have also given it new life with contemporary cuts and unusual details, but any one who knows what it is can spot a Barong from a mile away.
Maybe being Filipino today is not about only speaking the native tongue, or eating bagoong until your tongue turns pink, or even having Filipino blood, whatever that is. Maybe it’s about learning about your roots but at the same time embracing the Filipino mix-ed community now, wherever you belong in this world.
And maybe when your community has their yearly fiesta, you can wear a Barong Tagalog. Just don’t do what some Filipinos do at buffets and conceal any lechon or pancit underneath the barong to take home, because people will see what you’re hiding…
You can purchase your Barong Tagalog at a great price at Barong Warehouse.