The camisa de chino is the collarless shirt with a two or three button front opening and cuffless sleeves attributed to Chinese laborers in and around the Philippines during and before colonial times. They were often made of cotton and other fabrics appropriate for wearing against bare skin. In part 12 of our Spanish Colonial portion of this series, we discussed how the camisa de chino was preferred for work, activity, everyday wear and as undergarments for the Barong Tagalog. The camisa de chino and barong are similar and related but separate and distinct garments.
As we’ve mentioned before, the camisa de chino gets confused with the Barong Tagalog a lot because of their similar features. After World War II (1945 and after), a fancier version of the camisa de chino was popularized in the Philippines. To make things more confusing, the camisa de chino began to share more traits with the barong. Changes and updates included using traditional translucent barong materials, like piña, and incorporating similar embroidery designs and stripe patterns from barongs. Front chest pockets were a new addition not attributable to barongs. This fancier design opened the camisa de chino up for wear during more fancy occasions and less for the everyday and active purposes.
As the 20th century continues into the 21st century, some designers will continue to produce fancy versions of the camisa de chino and incorrectly call them barongs.
A camisa de chino made of translucent material with Philippine native scene imagery embroidered all over. Likely circa 1940’s or 1950’s.
A camisa de chino made of translucent fabric with a vertical stripe pattern similar to Barong Tagalog designs. Likely circa 1940’s or 1950’s.
Photos from Visitacion R. de la Torre’s The Barong Tagalog: The Philippines’ National Wear (1986).