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Journey of the Barong Tagalog, Spanish Colonial Philippines Part 11: 18th / 19th Century Working Class & Commoners

During the 18th and 19th centuries in the Philippines, the majority, working class people and commoners, dressed less extravagantly than the upper classes we discussed previously. Though everyday clothing was for comfort, function, practicality and durability, they dressed with style and followed fashion trends to the extent they could afford to.

During the Manila-Acapulco Trade (1565-1815), there was such a wide variety of quality imported affordable material that even the poorer classes could buy an occasional silk fabric or Chinese cotton. In those times, common people more often purchased fabric to make into clothing, and finished garments less so.

Visitacion R. de la Torre, in her book The Barong Tagalog: The Philippines’ National Wear (1986), describes ordinary people wearing “loose shirts of course quimara cloth, often blue or blue-and-white-striped, and worn over trousers.” Those “shirts” were often baro or barongs, and “quimara” was likely a canvas-like cotton variant. They not only wore trousers with their barongs, but many also wore shorter breeches, often rolled up for comfort while working. De la Torre describes commoner accessories being “a kerchief flung over the shoulder and worn as a putong [like a turban] on the head” and black high hats for special occasions.

Illustration of a football game in a native residential neighborhood. Likely circa 18th/19th century. From de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog. Most men wear loose barongs over trousers with European hats.

Illustration of a football game in a native residential neighborhood. Likely circa 18th/19th century. From de la Torre’s book The Barong Tagalog. Most men wear loose barongs over trousers with European hats. Some of the more fashionable carry umbrellas and wear patterned trousers.

Filipino men with rolled up breeches, high hats and sandals, probably in 18th/19th century. From de la Torre’s The Barong Tagalog.

Men with rolled up breeches, high hats and sandals, probably in 18th/19th century. The man on the left is likely of the principalia class because of his cane and fancy hat. The two men on the right are likely working class. Man on right carries weapons. Illustration from de la Torre’s The Barong Tagalog.

 

Illustration of a humble Philippine home, probably 18th/19th century. The males wear modest striped barongs. From de la Torre’s The Barong Tagalog

Illustration of a humble Philippine home, probably 18th/19th century. The males wear modest striped barongs. From de la Torre’s The Barong Tagalog.

Commoners playing cards. The males wear striped barongs, striped pants and putong or hats. Illustration from de la Torre’s The Barong Tagalog.

Commoners playing cards. The males wear striped barongs, striped pants and putong or hats. Illustration from de la Torre’s The Barong Tagalog. Likely circa 18th/19th century.

Street vendors selling fabric. The vendors wear plain white cotton barongs, striped pants and hats. Drawing by Johann Karuth from J.A. Karuth Album, 1858.

Street vendors selling fabric. The vendors wear plain white cotton barongs, striped pants and hats. Drawing by Johann Karuth from J.A. Karuth Album, 1858.

A fruit vendor wearing a white cotton barong with the sleeves rolled up while he works. He also wears loose white trousers and a putong on his head. Illustration from de la Torre’s The Barong Tagalog.

A fruit vendor wearing a white cotton barong with the sleeves rolled up while he works. He also wears loose white trousers and a putong on his head. Illustration from de la Torre’s The Barong Tagalog. Likely circa 18th/19th century