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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 20th Century Philippines Part 9: President Carlos P. Garcia

Carlos Polistico Garcia was a Filipino teacher, poet, lawyer, military leader and politician dedicating many years to public service. After completing his university and law school studies and passing the Philippine bar exam, Garcia taught high school in his native Bohol and became a famous poet. His first entry into politics was to run for Congressman of the district of Bohol, and he won and served two terms from 1925 to 1931. Garcia was then elected governor of Bohol in 1933, and he served in that office until 1941.

Garcia ran successfully for Senate in 1941, but he was unable to serve because World War II broke out and Japanese forces occupied the Philippines. Garcia was active in the resistance movement, where he refused to surrender and cooperate with Japan. He instead advised and led guerilla forces and the free government of Bohol. After World War II, Garcia assumed his Senate seat and was chosen to be the Senate majority floor leader from 1946 to 1953.

In 1953, Garcia ran for Vice President with his running mate Ramon Magsaysay. Both men won their respective races, and President Magsaysay appointed Garcia Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Garcia served in this office concurrently while being Vice President. Upon President Magsaysay’s untimely death on March 17, 1957, Garcia assumed the presidency and became the eighth president of the Philippines. He completed the short remainder of Magsaysay’s term. Garcia then successfully ran for president later that year. He completed his four year term as president and ran for re-election in 1961. Garcia lost his re-election bid and then retired from politics.

President Garcia wore the Barong Tagalog often during his political career. Based on available pictures, he was fond of wearing suits and ties, but he was photographed wearing barongs just as much. Garcia was often wearing barongs when meeting foreign leaders in the Philippines and abroad and also during personal and local functions.

President Garcia sits at his desk at Malacañang Palace in a Barong Tagalog.

President Garcia sits at his desk at Malacañang Palace in a Barong Tagalog.

Garcia walks through a crowd of supporters in his Barong Tagalog.

Garcia walks through a crowd of supporters in his Barong Tagalog.

President Garcia walks with US President Eisenhower in Malacañang Palace during Eisenhower’s visit to the Philippines in June 1960. Both presidents wear barongs

President Garcia walks with US President Eisenhower in Malacañang Palace during Eisenhower’s visit to the Philippines in June 1960. This was the first time a sitting US President visited the Philippines, and this strengthened relations between the countries. Both presidents wear a Barong Tagalog. The custom of visiting US presidents wearing barongs continues in the present day.

Commemorative stamps were issued in December 1960 in honor of President Eisenhower’s historical visit to the Philippines. The stamp image shows both presidents in barongs.

Commemorative stamps were issued in December 1960 in honor of President Eisenhower’s historical visit to the Philippines. The stamp image shows both presidents in barongs.

President Garcia shakes hands with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Supreme King) of Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur airport on February 8, 1961. He wears a barong tagalog

President Garcia shakes hands with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Supreme King) of Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur airport on February 8, 1961 to begin his state visit. He wears a Barong Tagalog.

Garcia is sworn in as president at Malacañang Palace on March 18, 1957, a day after the tragic death of President Ramon Magsaysay.

Garcia is sworn in as president at Malacañang Palace on March 18, 1957, a day after the tragic death of President Ramon Magsaysay. He wears a suit and tie.

Garcia is sworn in as president during his inauguration ceremony on December 30, 1957 after winning the election that year
Garcia is sworn in as president during his inauguration ceremony on December 30, 1957 after winning the election that year. He wears a suit and tie. This is the last time a president of the Philippines would take the oath of office in western formal wear.