As mentioned in the last installment, Nick Joaquin wrote, in the 1990 book Nineteenth Century Manila: the World of Damián Domingo, that the Tagalog name is derived from “taga ilog”, which literally means “from the river”, and the Tagalog people’s whole lives occurred by the water. They lived, worked, harvested food and traveled by the river.
The Pasig River is about 25 to 27 kilometers long, and traveling on it by canoe was a popular way to get people and goods around the Pasig and Manila areas during the time of the 19th century. In that era, you could hire a boatman as easily as you could hire a taxi driver in present times.
The Damián Domingo painting here is called Un Indio Banquero del Pueblo de Pasig [A Native Canoe Driver from the town of Pasig]. This piece is dated 1833 and is from Domingo’s Baboom collection of tipos del pais (types of the country, native dress) paintings, No. 3. Our description of Domingo and the Baboom collection is in our previous installment 18.1.
The subject here stands at the river with one foot on the shore and one foot on his canoe to hold it in place while waiting for passengers. He holds the bottom of his dark indigo wide leg knickers with his left hand to let air flow up. In his right hand, he holds his wood or rattan staff, that he uses to steer and drive the canoe, to balance his weight and stabilize himself upright.
The boatman wears a blue work Barong Tagalog, made of durable and breathable material (like cotton, linen or ramie) with the sleeves rolled up. The sleeves do not appear to be rolled very many times and may only extend down to his elbow or just past it if unrolled. The barong has a quarter opening on the front and a pointed fold down collar, as many work barongs did during this period.
The canoe driver also wears a rattan salakot on his head to protect him from the sun and rain. His salakot is made of the same material and matches the roof of his canoe.