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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 5: President Manuel A. Roxas

Manuel Acuña Roxas was a Filipino lawyer, military officer and politician with an extensive career in the Philippine government holding many important offices. He was the youngest governor of Capiz at age 27 serving from 1919 to 1922. Roxas was a member of the Philippine House of Representatives serving from 1922 to 1938, with twelve of those years as Speaker of the House. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention from 1934 to 1935, and he was elected to the Senate in 1941.

Roxas was unable to serve as a Senator because of World War II, where he served as a liaison officer between the Philippine and US Military and directed the resistance to Japan in Mindanao. Roxas was captured by Japanese forces in 1942 and served as an advisor to President Laurel during Japan’s occupation of the Philippines. He was secretly sympathetic to the guerilla movement, and he eventually rejoined the Philippine Military to fight for his country’s liberation from Japan.

After World War II, Roxas served in the Philippine Senate as Senate President from 1945 to 1946. He ran for President of the Philippines in 1946 and was victorious. Roxas became the third and last president of the Philippine Commonwealth and the first president of the independent Third Philippine Republic after the US ceded sovereignty over the country on July 4, 1946. Roxas is the fifth president of the Philippines, and he served until his untimely death in 1948.

Much like other Filipino politicians of his time, President Roxas was a very well-dressed man. Of all available photos found of him, the bulk of the photos showed Roxas in either suits or military uniform. He was rarely photographed wearing the Barong Tagalog, but he did wear them and did not mind being the only one wearing a barong.

Manuel Roxas smokes a cigarette and converses with an American dignitary in his Barong Tagalog

Roxas smokes a cigarette and converses with an American dignitary in his Barong Tagalog during a function. The year of the photo is unknown. It is likely circa 1940s.

Manuel Roxas is wearing a Barong Tagalog during a buffet dinner with American dignitaries

Roxas is wearing a Barong Tagalog during a buffet dinner with American dignitaries on the left and to the far right. The date of this photo is unknown. It is likely circa 1940s.

Manuel Roxas is the second from the left in a Barong Tagalog. He dances with his wife Trinidad Roxas y de Leon.

Roxas is the second from the left in a Barong Tagalog. He dances with his wife Trinidad Roxas y de Leon. The year of the photo is unknown, but it is probably circa 1940s.

Manuel Roxas is the second from the left in a Barong Tagalog. He sits with other members of Congress

Roxas is the second from the left in a Barong Tagalog. He sits with eventual Vice President and President Elpidio Quirino on the far left. Third from the left is Jose Avelino, a congressman, senator and senate president. Standing to the far right is Eugenio Perez, a congressman and speaker of the house. The year of the photo is unknown, but it is probably circa 1930s.

Manuel Roxas is in the center wearing a Barong Tagalog. To the right of him is Elpidio Quirino. This photo is from 1933

Roxas is in the center wearing a Barong Tagalog. To the right of him is Elpidio Quirino. This photo is from 1933.

Manuel Roxas takes his oath of office as president during the Independence Ceremony of July 4, 1946

Roxas takes his oath of office as president during the Independence Ceremony of July 4, 1946. Administering the oath is Chief Justice Manuel Moran. To the right is First Lady Trinidad. Roxas wears a suit and tie.