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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Addendum Part 10.8: 19th Century French Artist Illustrations of Life in the Philippines

Paul Proust de la Gironière was a French doctor and traveler that lived in the Philippines for many years. After practicing medicine in Manila, he developed his farming estate in Jala Jala in current day Rizal province, where he resided from 1819 to 1839.

De la Gironière raised hogs on his estate and made previously unproductive soil into fertile land where he grew indigo, sugarcane and coffee. He was the first to grow thousands of square meters of successful coffee crops, winning him a prize from the Spanish government. De la Gironière also introduced improved sugar refining techniques, set up the first plantation railway and built a church.

Famous French voyagers visited de la Gironière’s estate while in the Philippines. Were it not for the tragic deaths of his wife, children and brother in his adopted country, he may have never returned to France. 14 years after his return, he released Vingt Années aux Philippines in 1853, his first book about his experiences. De la Gironière then released Aventures d’un Gentilhomme Breton aux Iles Philippines in 1855 and Moeurs Indiennes et Quelques Pensées Philosophiques Pendant un Voyage à Majaijai in 1862.

Costume de Chasse [Hunting Costume], 1857, shows frenchman Paul Proust de la Gironière dressed like a Filipino in a barong tagalog

In Aventures, de la Gironière used illustrations from printing plates by French voyagers that visited him in Jala Jala, like Lafond and Dumont d’Urville. This book also contained new drawings by French artist Henri Valentin, like the one we feature here titled Costume de Chasse [Hunting Costume], 1857.

In this image, de la Gironière, a Frenchman, is depicted in Philippine clothing with his rifle after a hunt. He wears his Barong Tagalog tucked into his dark, rolled up work pants and a salakot on his head. Tucking his barong into his pants was not a practical choice given the tropical climate, so this choice may be attributed to the Sinibaldo de Mas-inspired Spanish edict of that time that said natives and mestizos were to be distinguished by wearing barongs outside the trousers. Or this may have been a personal preference or aesthetic choice for the purpose of posing for this portrait.