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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 10: President Diosdado Macapagal

Diosdado Pangan Macapagal, Sr. was a Filipino lawyer and politician with a storied career in both professions. Coming from very humble beginnings, Macapagal worked hard for his education. He relied on a scholarship, part-time work as an accountant, producing and starring in operettas, and financial assistance from relatives and a philanthropist to be able to afford his bachelor of laws degree.

After passing the Philippine bar exam in 1936, Macapagal switched between private law practice and being a government lawyer. From 1949 to 1957, Macapagal was elected to and served two terms as congressman for the 1st District of Pampanga. In 1957, he ran for the vice presidency and won. Though, his running mate, Jose Yulo, lost his bid for the presidency. Macapagal served four years as Vice President under President Carlos Garcia, and this was the first time a President and Vice President were elected from rival parties. He was not assigned a cabinet position and was only assigned ceremonial duties. As a result, Macapagal served as a critic to the Garcia administration and used his time in office to campaign and get acquainted with constituents.

In the 1961 presidential election, Macapagal challenged Garcia and won, becoming the ninth president of the Philippines. After serving four years, he ran for re-election in 1965 and lost to Ferdinand Marcos. In 1971, Macapagal was elected president of the Constitutional Convention that drafted the 1973 Philippine Constitution. After questioning the ratification and modification of this constitution, he formed the National Union for Liberation to oppose the Marcos regime. After democracy was restored in the country, Macapagal served on the Philippine Council of State and later retired.

After reviewing available photos of President Macapagal, he seemingly wore the Barong Tagalog often. It appears he split his time wearing barongs and suits and ties. Most importantly, he valued the barong enough to wear it to his presidential inauguration and to many official and personal functions.

President Macapagal poses at his desk in a Barong Tagalog at Malacañang Palace on his Inauguration Day on December 30, 1961

President Macapagal poses at his desk in a Barong Tagalog at Malacañang Palace on his Inauguration Day on December 30, 1961. His barong is likely made of piña with raya hand embroidery.

 President Macapagal takes the presidential oath of office in a barong at Luneta Grandstand in Manila on December 30, 1961

President Macapagal takes the presidential oath of office in a barong at Luneta Grandstand in Manila on December 30, 1961

 President Macapagal leaves his mother-in-law’s residence with family. Males wear Barong Tagalog

President Macapagal leaves his mother-in-law’s residence with First Lady Eva and their children Arturo, Gloria and Diosdado, Jr. on their way to Malacañang Palace on Inauguration Day. Macapagal and his sons wear barongs, and his wife wears a terno gown.

President Macapagal, in Barong Tagalog, gives his first State of the Nation Address in the Legislative Building in Manila on January 22, 1962

President Macapagal gives his first State of the Nation Address in the Legislative Building in Manila on January 22, 1962. He wears a Barong Tagalog.

Macapagal addresses the audience in a Barong Tagalog. The photo is likely circa 1960’s.

Macapagal addresses the audience in a Barong Tagalog. The photo is likely circa 1960’s.