Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Addendum Part 18.10: Un Indio Aguacil del Pueblo de Tondo by Damián Domingo
In the 1990 book Nineteenth Century Manila: the World of Damián Domingo, author Nick Joaquin wrote that every town in this period had several municipal officers with various duties, including multiple bailiffs called “alguacil”.
In the Philippines, according to Joaquin, bailiffs duties included serving legal papers, making arrests, overseeing prisoners, collecting taxes and fees, and serving as town innkeeper and tourist hospitality officer.
Joaquin continued: from the appearance of the bailiff, depicted here in Damián Domingo’s painting Un Indio Aguacil del Pueblo de Tondo [A Native Bailiff from the Town of Tondo], his ornate and expensive clothing says that he came from the upper classes that monopolized municipal positions during this era.
This piece is included in Domingo’s Baboom collection of tipos del pais (types of the country, native dress) paintings, No. 3 (1833). Our description of Domingo and the Baboom collection is in our previous installment 18.1.
Bailiffs were another part of the principalia class of elite native or mestizo municipal leaders that worked in cooperation with the Spanish government. As other principales (members of this class), bailiffs dressed similarly. Bailiffs’ authority was signaled by their clothing and staff, which this man carries in his right hand.
The bailiff here wears a Barong Tagalog untucked with a string tie and an embroidery adorned jacket over it. Wearing a jacket over a barong was a privilege granted specifically to principales by Spanish edict.
Despite the impracticality of the clothing worn on his upper body in a tropical climate, the man here also wears dark wide leg trousers with embroidery at the bottoms, which were practical for allowing air to flow through for comfort.
Per Joaquin, handkerchiefs, which the bailiff holds here, were apparently always kept in the hand and not in the pocket. This was likely due to wiping perspiration often.
The officer here also wears slippers on his feet and a western style top hat, like other principales.