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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, 21st Century Philippines Part 3: President Rodrigo Duterte

Rodrigo Roa Duterte is a Filipino lawyer and politician, and he is the 16th and current president of the Philippines. Duterte was inaugurated as president on June 30, 2016 at the age of 71, making him the oldest person to become president. He is also the first president from Mindanao.

Duterte is the son of a Maranao school teacher mother and a Cebuano lawyer father. He was born into a political family with many relatives in public office. Duterte completed his bachelor’s degree in political science at Lyceum of the Philippines University and his law degree from San Beda College of Law. He passed the Philippine bar exam and served as a prosecutor in Davao City from 1977 to 1986.

Duterte first entered politics when he was appointed vice mayor of Davao City by President Corazon Aquino in 1986 after the People Power Revolution. In 1988, he ran for mayor of Davao City and won. Duterte served as mayor for three terms until 1998. After his first mayoral tenure, he ran for the congressional seat of the 1st district of Davao City in the House of Representatives and won. Duterte served one term as congressman before successfully running for mayor of Davao City again in 2001. He would be re-elected twice, serving as mayor until 2010.

In 2010, Duterte was elected as vice mayor of Davao City, succeeding his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, who was elected as mayor that year. After serving his three year term as vice mayor, he swapped offices with his daughter Sara again in 2013. This would be Duterte’s last term as mayor, serving until 2016.

Duterte ran for president in the 2016 elections and won by a decisive margin. His presidential administration is most notorious for its brutal war on drugs, which included the extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug users, sellers and other alleged criminals. Various human rights groups have also reported thousands of extrajudicial killings of drug users, petty criminals and street kids during Duterte’s rule in Davao City. An investigation by the International Criminal Court into his involvement in these killings is ongoing. Despite all this, Duterte enjoys high trust and approval ratings.

Duterte has been photographed often wearing the Barong Tagalog during his presidency. He prefers jusi (silk) barongs that are smooth, and he avoids course and rough barong materials. Duterte often wears barongs with simple, little or no embroidery (which technically are not barongs). He also habitually rolls up the sleeves of his barongs, which is a faux pas when wearing our national garment.

Duterte wears a jusi Barong Tagalog with simple machine embroidery in this presidential portrait

Duterte wears a jusi Barong Tagalog with simple machine embroidery in this presidential portrait.

Duterte is sworn in as president at his inauguration on June 30, 2016. The top he wears is not a barong

Duterte is sworn in as president at his inauguration on June 30, 2016. He wears a full button down barong without embroidery, which is technically just a shirt.

 A closer look at Duterte at his inauguration shows his embroidery-free “barong”

A closer look at Duterte at his inauguration shows his embroidery-free “barong”

Duterte meets with Filipinos in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 9, 2016. He wears a jusi Barong Tagalog

Duterte meets with Filipinos in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 9, 2016. He wears a jusi Barong Tagalog with the sleeves rolled up.

Duterte gives a speech at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on May 10, 2017. He wears a jusi barong with simple embroidery

Duterte gives a speech at Ninoy Aquino International Airport on May 10, 2017. He wears a jusi barong with simple embroidery and the sleeves rolled up.

 Duterte gives his State of the Nation Address in a Barong Tagalog at the House of Representatives in Quezon City - July 22, 2019

Duterte gives his State of the Nation Address in a Barong Tagalog at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 22, 2019.