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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Addendum Part 10.3: 19th Century French Artist Illustrations of Life in the Philippines

Cyrille Pierre Théodore Laplace was a French naval captain that circumnavigated the world from 1829 to 1832. During the voyage, he visited the Philippines from September to November 1830. From these travels, a historical album was published called “Voyage autour du monde par les mers de l’Inde et de Chine de la Corvette de la Majesté La Favorite”, (1835) [Translation - Travel around the world through the seas of India and China on the royal ship “La Favorite”].

This album contained aquatint (a printing technique) picture plate images of the places and people they encountered, which were all carved by Sigismond Himely based on images drawn by artists François-Edmond Pâris, Louis Auguste de Sainson and Barthélémy Lauvergne.

 Laplace - Manille: Tagals homme et femme”, 1835 - features a Tagalog man in a Barong Tagalog and woman in baro't saya

The illustration we feature here is titled “Manille: Tagals homme et femme”, 1835, which depicts a Tagalog man and woman speaking in the middle of a town.

The text of the album describing the drawing here discussed new prosperity, international trade and the foreign influence on how the Tagalog people dressed and their customs. The author described Tagalog people’s character as “. . . thoughtful, calm, intelligent, affectionate and grateful but there is almost always a hint of defiance . . .” The author continued to describe Tagalog people’s physical attributes and how well they dressed and presented themselves.

The man here is very well-dressed, which indicates his upper class status. He wears a long white Barong Tagalog, that extends down to his knees, with a neckerchief tied around the collar. Neckerchief wearing was a practice adopted from Spaniards. The man wears a necklace and bracelet outside his barong, probably made of precious metals, and worn that way to signal status. He also wears striped wide leg trousers, slippers with stockings, a top hat and a scarf hanging on his shoulder. Most if not all of his clothing fabric and accessories are likely imported from the Galleon Trade.

The woman wears a baro’t saya (blouse and skirt) with pañuelo (shawl), tapis (overskirt), and mantilla (scarf) tied to her hair.