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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Addendum Part 19.2: Untitled by Justiniano Asunción

Justiniano Asunción Untitled Painting - Male in striped Barong Tagalog, esclavina and salakot

The Justiniano Asunción painting featured here is untitled and undated and is from the 19th century. It is a tipos del pais (“types of the country”, native dress) painting depicting a snapshot of a typical day in the life of a man in the Philippines wearing his usual clothing. Paintings like this were sold to foreign tourists and the Philippine upper class.

The male appears to be a native or mixed blood Filipino that is of the working class, indicated by his bare feet and humble, practical clothing. He wears a striped work Barong Tagalog that is likely made of breathable fabric, like cotton, linen, ramie or abaca. Since his sleeves are rolled up multiple times, the material must be durable. Although the barong is covered, the barong elements of a collar, center top front opening and side vents or slits are visible.

Over his barong, the man wears an esclavina (rain cape) made of tree leaves to protect him from the elements. His wide-brimmed salakot on his head is also to shield his head from the rain and sun. Since his headwear is made of a solid and possibly metallic material, this indicates status and signals his importance in society. The subject also wears dark indigo wide-legged knickers likely made of cotton.

This man is probably a laborer, possibly an armed guard or law enforcement judging by the bladed weapon in his right hand.

Our description of the artist, Junstiniano Asunción, is in our previous installment 19.1