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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Addendum Part 11.13: 19th Century English Artist Illustrations of Life in the Philippines

El Gobernadorcillo by CW Andrews. A municipal leader of the principal class is seated and wears a jacket over his Barong Tagalog

This piece is titled El Gobernadorcillo (1859) by English artist C. W. Andrews. It was published in the Philippine periodical Ilustracion Filipina. Our descriptions of Andrews and Ilustracion Filipina are in our previous installment 11.7.

The man depicted in this illustration is a municipal leader of the principalia class. This was the noble social class of Filipinos serving as heads of local government in collaboration and cooperation with the Spanish government. This man, or a character like him, appears in numerous pieces of art during this period, many of which we have posted previously in this series.

A man of this position, gobernadorcillo, serves as a municipal judge and/or town mayor. They collected taxes, managed town infrastructure, presided over civil court cases, among other functions. Serving two year terms, gobernadorcillos are elected by other principalia class members - cabezas de barangay (neighborhood heads or leaders).

Men of the principalia class dressed extravagantly and impractically for the tropical climate. Likely wearing the latest European fashion, their clothing served more to signal their status and position rather than for functionality. Principales (members of this class) were given special rights by Spanish edict to wear jackets over their Barong Tagalog, like the subject here. They also often wore slacks, leather shoes, and fancy salakot (native headwear). Gobernadorcillos carried canes with precious stones embedded in them, and they were always accompanied by police escorts when traveling around town.

See more about the principalia in Addendum Part 3.