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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 7: President Ramon Magsaysay

Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay, Sr. was a Filipino soldier, military leader, politician and statesman with a storied career in public service to the people of the Philippines. He worked his way through college as a chauffeur and worked as an auto mechanic and shop superintendent of a bus company after his studies. From 1942 to 1945, Magsaysay served in the Philippine Army and formed and led guerilla forces against Japan during World War II. He then ran and won two terms in the House of Representatives from 1946 to 1950. In 1950, Magsaysay was appointed Secretary of National Defense by President Quirino, and he served until he resigned in 1953 and decided to challenge Quirino for the presidency. He won decisively over Quirino in the 1953 election. Magsaysay would be president until his tragic death in a plane crash in 1957.

President Magsaysay was considered a true man of the people after humble beginnings, moving up as a working man and soldier, dedicating his political career to serving the people, and making himself available to constituents. He often visited with common, everyday citizens. Magsaysay was a beloved president, and his administration was considered one of the cleanest and corruption-free in modern Philippine history. After his untimely death, between two and five million people attended his state funeral.

President Magsaysay is the reason why the Barong Tagalog became popular amongst Filipinos as formal and business attire and would become the national garment of the Philippines. It all started with his inauguration on December 30, 1953. Magsaysay wore a Barong Tagalog, which was a first for any Philippine president. He also wore barongs regularly to most official and personal functions, which was also a first. The natural color, translucent and embroidered barongs he wore so often and proudly would become the model for the Barong Tagalog we know as formal wear today.

 Magsaysay sits at Malacañang Palace in a Barong Tagalog, circa 1950’s.

Magsaysay sits at Malacañang Palace in a Barong Tagalog, circa 1950’s.

Magsaysay walks up the steps of Malacañang Palace in his barong on his Inauguration Day

Magsaysay walks up the steps of Malacañang Palace in his barong on his Inauguration Day

Magsaysay is sworn in at his inauguration ceremony by Chief Justice Ricardo Paras on Dec 30, 1953

Magsaysay is sworn in at his inauguration ceremony by Chief Justice Ricardo Paras on Dec 30, 1953

President Magsaysay meets with and receives the credentials of an ambassador in the ceremonial room of Malacañang Palace. He wears a Barong Tagalog.

President Magsaysay meets with and receives the credentials of an ambassador in the ceremonial room of Malacañang Palace. He wears a Barong Tagalog.

President Magsaysay meets with a crowd of boys on Christmas in his barong

President Magsaysay meets with a crowd of boys on Christmas in his barong

Magsaysay walks down the stairs after meeting at a constituent’s home. He wears a barong.

Magsaysay walks down the stairs after meeting at a constituent’s home. He wears a barong.

President Magsaysay meets and greets the people in his Barong Tagalog

President Magsaysay meets and greets the people in his Barong Tagalog