Q. What is a Barong?
A. Barong is actually short for Barong Tagalog, which describes the formal men’s wear of the Philippines. It is properly referred to as the ‘Baro ng Tagalog’ (dress of the Tagalog). Contracting the first two words
Barong Tagalog sa Pilipinas
produces ‘Barong,’ which literally means ‘dress of.’ So, if we want to be correct, we wouldn’t say just ‘Barong.’ But, the slang way of referring to one of the beautiful formal shirts is simply Barong. Yes, the Barong Tagalog is a dress, a garment, a coat in itself. It is not merely a ‘shirt’. If it were, then it would need a coat or a jacket over it to qualify as formal wear and would have to be worn tucked inside the trousers.
‘Baro’ = Word for ‘dress’ in the Philippines, Tagalog dialect
‘Baro ng Tagalog’ = ‘dress of the Tagalog’ describes the formal ‘dress’ or upper garment for men in the Philippines
‘Barong Tagalog’ = contracted form of the above
‘Barong’ = literally means ‘dress of’ – but commonly used to refer to the formal men’s wear in the Philippines
Q. How the Barong Tagalog Evolved In History?
A. As the Philippines’ national dress, the Barong Tagalog enjoys a distinction all its own. Its fine needlework or hand-painted designs in cool cotton or handwoven pina or jusi have given it a flair that has won international recognition and acceptance.
President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who has worn the Barong Tagalog with such impeccable grace and searing devotion, underscored its prestige when he issued in 1975 a decree proclaiming Barong Tagalog Week (June 5-11) and more significantly, officially designating the Barong Tagalog as “the national attire”. The presidential act was meant to focus nation-wide attention on the Filipino national dress to wider use and enhance its export potential. As it is, both the wide use and export potential of the Barong Tagalog have been explored , its full impact just a matter of time.
What deserves another look is the manner the Filipino national costume has evolved and grown, picking up and shedding features fashion-related or otherwise in its journey from pre-Hispanic native wear to national dress. But first, a few things have to be straightened out. Barong Tagalog is properly referred to as the “Baro ng Tagalog” (dress of the Tagalog) and it cannot be contracted to simply “Barong” since that would be equivalent in English to saying “He is wearing a dress of”. The word “Barong”, one realizes, means “dress of”. If one wishes to shorten the phrase, then it would be “Baro” or “dress”. Yes, the Barong Tagalog is a dress, a garment, a coat in itself. It is not a “shirt”. If it were, then it would need a coat or a jacket over it to qualify as formal wear and would have to be worn tucked inside the trousers. The Earliest Baro The earliest known fact on the “Baro ng Tagalog” discloses that the natives of Ma-I (the Philippines as it was called before the Spaniards re-discovered the archipelago), and in particular, the Tagalogs, who lived in the island of Luzon, wore baro.