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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Addendum Part 19.4: Un Yndio Natural by Justiniano Asunción

Un Yndio Natural by Justiniano Asunción - Native Filipino man in striped Barong Tagalog

This painting is part of a set of tipos del pais (“types of the country”, native dress) paintings, sold to tourists, depicting snapshots of typical people and how they dressed in the Philippines. The picture set would include the painting in our previous installment 19.3.

This piece is attributed to Justiniano Asunción and is believed to be from 1841. It is titled Un Yndio Natural [A Native Inhabitant]. Our description of the artist, Justiniano Asunción, is in our previous installment 19.1.

The 19th century was a prosperous time for many in the Philippines, including natives. Many natives were gaining wealth and showing it off with their clothing, like their mestizo and Spanish counterparts.

The subject of this painting is a native Filipino man of the middle or upper classes flamboyantly dressed in colorful fine garments and accessories. Well-dressed men of this time were referred to as dandies.

The man here wears a long Barong Tagalog with red stripe silk panels, all over embroidery, French cuffs with embroidered lace detailing at the ends, a standing collar with embroidered lace, and a buttoned-up quarter opening in the front surrounded by embroidery.

He wears wide leg multicolor stripe trousers likely made of silk, velvet or leather slippers, a top hat from the west, a necklace and yellow neckerchief. He carries a red parasol under his left arm and holds a lit cigarillo in his right hand.

The native man here is generally dressed the same as the rich mestizos in the last few Asunción paintings we discussed. The fact that natives and mestizos dressed so similarly to Spaniards at this time angered Spanish officials. It especially angered Sinibaldo de Mas, the Spanish ambassador to Asia, since natives, mestizos, Spaniards and the various social classes looked too similar and were difficult to distinguish.

De Mas successfully petitioned the Spanish government to pass an edict that was essentially a dress code governing how people were allowed to dress. Natives had to leave their shirts or barongs untucked. Neckerchiefs were only to be worn by Spaniards. Native and mestizo municipal officials working with the Spanish government (principales) were given the privilege of wearing jackets over their barongs. These were among many other rules of dress and behavior in the edict. Please note that these rules had nothing to do with hiding weapons.