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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Addendum Part 11.1: 19th Century English Artist Illustrations of Life in the Philippines

Sir John Bowring (1792-1872) was an English businessman, politician, diplomat, political economist, traveller, writer, and literary translator. He was the fourth governor of Hong Kong, and after his term as governor, he toured the Philippines.


Bowring wrote A Visit to the Philippine Islands, which was his narrative of his travels, and it was published in 1859. This work contained plenty of illustrations and information on many aspects of Philippine life.

 Bowring - Group of Natives - four women and two men in typical attire of that time, man in center wears Barong Tagalog with jacket

The illustration here is from A Visit, and it is titled Group of Natives. It features four women and two men dressed in typical outfits of that time.

The four women wear variations of baro’t saya (top and skirt) ensembles. The women to the left wear pañuelo (kerchief worn over the shoulders). The woman on the right wears a tapis (overskirt) and a salakot (native hat) on her head.

The man to the right appears to wear a traditional chinese shirt with knickers.


The man in the center sitting is a recurring figure in many works of art during this time. Judging from how he is dressed, he is of the principalia class (ruling upper class, Spanish government collaborators), and he is likely a gobernadorcillo (a municipal judge or governor). He wears a Barong Tagalog with a jacket over it, dress slacks, leather shoes, a fancy salakot, and he carries a cane. How he is dressed, which is not terribly practical for the climate and terrain, is for the purpose of signaling his status, class and authority.