19th century Manila was an international, popular and thriving city. According to Nick Joaquin, author of Nineteenth Century Manila: the World of Damián Domingo (1990), it was a center for international trade and a home for foreign businesses and the people that operated them - from China, the United States and Europe.
Manila was improving its infrastructure for its higher class of residents that demanded it. Joaquin documents that electricity was powering homes, businesses and the city. The city sought to upgrade its lighting, moving on from petroleum lamps. It also improved its transportation systems with streetcar lines and other modes of transport. There was even a telephone system that served the entire city.
This cosmopolitan metropolis had its own hybrid culture. According to Joaquin, Manila had four theaters, theater troupes, foreign music groups, Italian opera companies, orchestras and a circus.
Joaquin notes Manila was a safe city with people keeping doors open and burglary being an unknown occurrence. Local customs and society dictated that lunch was precisely at noon. Dinner was at about 8:00 pm. People visited one another from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Reunions and musical soirées usually started at 8:00 pm.
A recurring character in this society and culture was the Manila dandy, as is shown in Damián Domingo’s piece here titled Un Indio de Manila Bestido [A Native of Manila in Gala Clothing]. This well-dressed and worldly native Filipino man often participated in high society in Manila. He was of the upper class and able to afford the latest fashion and best fabrics and accessories coming from the Americas and Europe from the Manila Galleon Trade and also locally from Chinese traders and native weavers.
The male subject wears a translucent Barong Tagalog with red vertical stripes. Our guess is that the translucent barong fabric is piña since it is expensive and it glows. He wears a long sleeve camisa de chino as an undershirt to his barong to cover his body. To complement his barong, he also wears a neckerchief and a necklace.
He wears wide-leg cropped saya saya pants with embroidered detailing at the bottoms. His slippers on his feet also have embroidery on them. His top hat is from the west. He carries his colorful umbrella under his left arm, a handkerchief in his left hand, and he smokes a cigarette with his right hand.