Friday, April 20, 2012

Reinventing the barong Tagalog

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ barong Tagalog has certainly gone a long way since it was popularized as formal wear by late President Ramon Magsaysay during the 1950s.

The embroidered garment usually made of piña, jusi or banana fabric has been reinvented countless times, as seen on runways both here and abroad.

The trend seems to have been picked up by international fashion houses as well. Two items in Valentino’s ready-to-wear spring/summer 2012 collection, for instance, had a striking resemblance to the Philippine garment.

But instead of men, women donned the belted barong, which were paired with black lace skirts.

This item in Valentino’s ready-to-wear spring/summer 2012 collection had a striking resemblance to the barong Tagalog. Photo from

Several Filipinos were quick to notice the similarities between Valentino’s pieces and the country’s very own barong. Among them is Ben Chan, the big boss of popular local clothing brand Bench.

“Valentino goes Filipiniana. Saw this at Valentino shop in Milan. Bravo Pilipino!” Chan said on Twitter.

Stylist Ferdi Salvador, for his part, said: “Here’s the barong in another stylized version. It’s so hot in the US. Valentino has two barongs in the current collection.”

Barong – Hollywood style

Jeremy Renner wearing a barong with a pair of cargo pants

If the Valentino fashion house paired the barong with a lace skirt, a Hollywood actor was brave enough to wear it with fatigue cargo pants in front of the Philippine President.

Last February, “The Bourne Legacy” star Jeremy Renner gave his twist to the country’s national costume during a courtesy call on President Benigno Aquino III in Malacañang.

Renner and his co-stars were in the Philippines to shoot some scenes for the movie, which is the fourth installment of the “Bourne” film series.

The actor’s outfit became the talk of the town after a photo of him during the courtesy call was posted in social networking sites.

Black barong

Diether Ocampo wearing a black barong

While some designers played with the barong’s style and suggested new ways to wear it, others experimented with the garment’s color.

Instead of the usual cream or white, the embroidered garment came in different shades, mostly black, in a fashion show held by Metro magazine last year.

Local celebrities like Diether Ocampo strutted down the runway in a black Barong matched with black pants and leather shoes.

The event, dubbed “Metrowear Filipiniana,” was an attempt at reinterpreting traditional Filipino wear such as the barong and the terno, which is primarily composed of a blouse and a long skirt.

About a hundred local designers participated in the event.

Statement barong

Others, meanwhile, used the barong to make a political statement.

Teddy Casiño's FOI-inspired barong

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño, for instance, turned to multi-awarded designer Edgar San Diego to create a “statement barong” which represents one of his pet advocacies, the Freedom of Information Bill.

Embroidered on his beige barong was a statement calling for the immediate passage of the measure.

President Aquino, meanwhile, had designer JC Buendia create a barong that bears the iconic yellow ribbon, which is closely associated with his parents and his presidential campaign.

He wore it when he was proclaimed the country’s 15th chief executive in 2010.

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