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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Addendum Part 10.22: 19th Century French Artist Illustrations of Life in the Philippines

The illustration here is titled La Rue de l’Escolta à Manille [Escolta Street in Manila], 1886, from Antoine-Alfred Marché (1844-1898). A description of Marché is in our previous installment 10.20.

Marché - La Rue de l’Escolta à Manille - there are three men in barongs here

Escolta Street is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Manila that was created in 1594. It runs east to west in the downtown district of Binondo. The name is from the Spanish word for “escort” after a delegation of people requested guards to be stationed on this path after people went missing and disappeared.

Escolta was known for its immigrant merchants, mostly from Fujian, China, that lined the streets with shops selling imported goods from China, Europe and Latin America. By the late 19th century, this street became the fashionable business district that was home to the tallest buildings and the Manila Stock Exchange. Escolta was Manila’s primary commercial district until it was replaced by Makati in the 1960’s.

In the first image above, we see the full piece with a view down Escolta Street flanked by multilevel buildings. There are people occupying both sides of street in front of various establishments. The women wear baro’t saya (top and skirt) with tapis (overskirt) and pañuelo or mantillas (scarves or shawls) covering them. To the left, some men wear western suits.

Marché - La Rue de l’Escolta à Manille - a closeup of three men in Barong Tagalog here

In the second image above, we have a closer look at the center of the drawing. A man of power of the principalia class commands the center. He is dressed distinctively in a Barong Tagalog with a jacket over it, a privilege given only to principales (people of the principalia class) by Spanish edict. He wears patterned pants, an imported western hat, and he carries a cane. His ensemble’s purpose is to distinguish and call attention to his class, status and power.

The male vendors at the left and in the background to the right of the second image wear more practical barongs with sleeves rolled up, pants with legs rolled up and straw salakot (native headwear) for durability, comfort and functionality during work.