All Things Asian Event Post: 04.04.2012 – The Barong Tagalog: More Than Just Piña Fabric

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

All Things Asian Event: April 2-16

Zara’s All Things Asian Event Post:

The Barong Tagalog: More than Just Piña Fabric

The blogs: That Hapa Chick; Live, Laugh, I Love Books; and My Words Ate Me are hosting the All Things Asian Event featuring guest posts about anything and everything about the Asian culture!

My guest post blogging interview will be featured on one of the host blogs on April 13.

But, until then, each and every day, a guest post will be featured until April 16, 2012, so be sure to drop by and visit the hosting blogs! Just click on theAll Things Asian button above that links to the host blog.

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As for me, I couldn’t pass up the chance to post a few articles as part of the All Things Asian Event on my own blog, alongside this important event because quite simply put: I’m Asian! And I’m especially honoured and driven to share the beauty of Asia with my readers to foster awareness, community, and inclusivity—all things that are especially important to me.

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In Canada, we are blessed with all four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. In the Philippines, there are only two seasons of note as in most tropical countries:

Dry season – is characterized by its low humidity, which usually runs between November to May during the amihan (northeast monsoon).

Wet season (or rainy season) – is when most of the average annual rainfall in a region occurs and when air quality improves, which is usually between June to October during the habagat (southwest monsoon).

As for my history, members of my family have told me their stories of childhood, which included running in the streets in the rain or stooping below a rain gutter for a cool down.

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A favourite pastime is children running, playing, or showering in the rain!

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And with this weather, both of meteorology and of politics, comes a history of the fashion in the Philippines.

As a North American, men usually wear a suit or a tuxedo to formal events.

But, in the Philippines, that type of wardrobe would stifle a man because of the excruciating heat. Instead, it is known that the cultural and formal dress for Filipino men is the traditional Barong Tagalog.

Barong Tagalog

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The barong Tagalog is an embroidered, lightweight, formal garment, worn untucked and over a kamiseta (a cotton undershirt).

The barong is made from a variety of materials:

Piña fabric, which is hand-loomed from pineapple leaf fibres and because of its growing scarcity, the cloth is expensive and this type of barong is reserved for very formal events.

Jusi fabric is made from abacca or banana silk.

Banana fabric is made and hand-woven from banana fibre and usually comes with geometric design details that come from the Visayas island of Negros.

Pineapple
Extracting the pineapple fibres.
Embroidered barong

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This is all fine and dandy, but do you know the history of how this traditional formal wear came about?

It is understood that:

the Spaniards who conquered the Philippines made Filipinos wear the barong untucked to distinguish them from the ruling class

and because of its sheer fabric, it helped Spaniards see that the wearer was not bearing a weapon underneath in potential rebellion!

A Filipina gun seller shows a handgun at the opening of the 2010 Defense & Sporting Arms show in Mandaluyong City, east suburban Manila, Philippines in promoting responsible gun ownership in the Philippines.

The tucking of the Barong Tagalog shirt was prohibited by the Spaniards so that Filipinos could be designated as low-ranking and distinguished from the people of mixed descent, the mestizaje, and the islanders, or insulares.

The irony here and wonderful outcome is that:

the Filipino community has reclaimed its wearing of the Barong Tagalog.

What used to be worn to signify a low rank and subservient culture to its oppressive ruling class is now worn independently for important, formal functions that signify important milestones and financial and social success.

Though the history of the barong comes from a dark past, Filipinos now wear the Barong Tagalog as a unifying dress code, identifying them as Filipino nationalists and men with excellent taste and cultural pride!

Mahbuhay!

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Be sure to return tomorrow for more information about the Philippines and the continual celebration of the All Things Asian Event!

For previously posted features by The Bibliotaphe’s Closet for the All Things Asian Event, visit the Event Page here.

Zara Alexis
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4 thoughts on “All Things Asian Event Post: 04.04.2012 – The Barong Tagalog: More Than Just Piña Fabric”

  1. Last year, my grandmom refused to believe that none of the boys in Ateneo wore barongs for graduation. I think it’s fallen out of style among the 20-somethings, which I guess is kind of sad, but my own brother hates it with a passion because it’s too hot.

    1. Yes, that is sad to hear. The men and boys in my family still take pride in wearing the barong. When my son was four, he wore his to parties all the time! And it looks great in pictures, too. I love the different embroidery designs of the Barong Tagalog. More on the “Pinas” tomorrow! Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. 😀

  2. Barongs are gorgeous!

    I have to tell you, the most shocking thing to me in the Philippines is all the guns…and the shop in the middle of the mall called “Guns for the Good Guys”!

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