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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Spanish Colonial Philippines Part 1: the Boxer Codex

With the little information we had of pre-Spanish Tagalog clothing culture in the Philippines, we’ve attempted to bring to life the earliest known barongs, which date probably around the 13th or 14th century. Doing this without exact visual aids was a challenge.

This brings us to the earliest known artist renderings of what people in the Philippines looked like: the Boxer Codex. The name Boxer is from Charles Ralph Boxer, a professor, historian and expert on the Far East that studied this codex, or ancient manuscript in book form. The Boxer Codex dates back to 1590, and it contains descriptions of the Philippines and other Far Eastern countries through the eyes of Spanish and Portuguese explorers, priests, merchants and civil servants. It also contains paintings of people and animals from these places.

 

Though the author, artist and exact purpose of the codex is unknown, it is believed the paintings were done by either a Chinese or Filipino artist, and the codex was made by orders of a Spanish governor in the Philippines as a report of the territories governed.

Tagalogs are one of six ethnic groups from the Philippines to be depicted in the paintings. There are three paintings of Tagalog upper class couples, which are below.

 

From the Boxer Codex: a royal Tagalog couple in red

A royal Tagalog couple in red

 

From the Boxer Codex: a royal Tagalog man in red with his wife.

A royal Tagalog man in red with his wife. Red is the color distinctive of their royal class.

 

From the Boxer Codex: a Tagalog maginoo (noble, relative of a royal family) man in blue, which indicates his class, with his wife.

A Tagalog maginoo (noble, relative of a royal family) man in blue, which indicates his class, with his wife. Notice the wife is dressed in a different color in the second and third images (above). The who, where and when of these images are not known.

 

The upper class clothes depicted here are markedly different from the upper class Tagalog wardrobe we described yesterday, which was likely worn hundreds of years prior.

 

From the Boxer Codex: Common Tagalog women

Common Tagalog women

 

From the Boxer Codex: Either common Tagalog native men or native Visayan slave men
Either common Tagalog native men or native Visayan slave men