Barong Tagalog: Wikis


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A barong Tagalog held against the light, showing the translucency of the fabric.
Barong Tagalog
The barong Tagalog (collarless version)

The 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 "a dress that is Tagalog", or "a Tagalog dress" (i.e., "baro na Tagalog", with "barong" being a contraction of "baro na") in the Filipino language.

The barong was popularised as formal wear by Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, who wore it to most official and personal affairs, including his inauguration as president.



A long time before the Spanish arrived in the Philippines, the Tagalog people on Luzon island already wore a dress that can be seen as the origin of the Barong Tagalog. The dress reached slightly below the waist, was colourless and had an opening in the front.[1]

A legend persists that the Spaniards made Filipinos wear their barongs untucked to distinguish them from the ruling class; its translucent fabric allegedly helped the Spaniards to see that the wearer was not bearing any weapon under the garment.[2] During the Spanish era, 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 south-east- 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.

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. [3] 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 trade-ships when it was brought to Mexico from the Philippines. [4]

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.

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.


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 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 are 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 are 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/appliqués
  • Calado


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". [5] The Philippine Government called for clarifications regarding the description.


  1. ^ Barong Tagalog history
  2. ^ Barong Tagalog history
  3. ^ The authority on Barong Tagalog - "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"
  4. ^ CubaNet News: The Miami Herald. Torture suspect arrested., Jul. 03, 2004
  5. ^ ABS-CBN Interactive: RP cries foul as APEC tags natl costume as 'peasant shirt', 9/9/2007

See also

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