m. klara

Barong Tagalogs
May 13, 2009, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Culture 101, My Wedding | Tags: ,

As someone who is a fashion/syle monger, I am all about aesthetics for the wedding. I’m going for a down-to-earth vintage feel which incorporates a lot of lace and sheer fabric. Which makes me feel a lot better about the dress I did buy. Anyway, I was racking my brain trying to figure out what the men could wear to fit this vintage vibe and I thought: barong tagalogs.

Barong tagalogs are the traditional formal Filipino attire in the Philippines. As you can see, the lace and sheer material would fit the vintage vibe to a T.

However, I struggle with the historical significance of the garment. During Spanish rule, the barong tagalog was worn by the natives to distinguish them from the upper-class Spaniards. The sheer material was so that the Filipino couldn’t hide weapons under their shirts or to prevent them from stealing from their Spanish masters.

According to history, the barong tagalog is supposed to have evolved into the formal wear it’s known for today after it was declared the national dress of the Philippines. Still, I kind of struggle with that. When it comes to cultural dress, I don’t want my men to wear it lightly. It’s definitely a source of pride for some of the men in my family, such as my brother, but I’m not sure how I feel about this garment having such an important place in my wedding when I’m aware of its history.

I think part of the struggle is that many Filipinos still tend to have this colonial mentality where they accept their position in society as lesser than and that they should feel grateful to have had Western forces “civilize” them. So even though Filipinos embrace the idea that barong tagalogs have evolved to represent anti-colonization, a part of me wonders if this is another manifestation of colonial mentality.

I just got off the phone with my brother. And while he understands my concerns, he still doesn’t mind wearing it. Aesthetically, it’s very pleasing to my eye and it totally fits the theme of my wedding. Plus, it has cultural significance and I love the idea of expressing my cultural pride in my wedding. I just don’t want to come to a conclusion about how I feel about barong tagalogs later on down the road and have it be throughout all my wedding pictures for the rest of my life.

Then there’s another part of me that tells me I should just find a way to accept the history of the barong tagalog and create new meanings for it. I just did some research on the kebaya of Indonesia and apparently, it has a history of colonization as well. Now, it’s seen as formal wear for many Asian countries.

Does anyone else find it disturbing that these traditional forms of dress have histories of colonization? The dilemma is that, Spanish culture is so intertwined with Filipino culture that if I were to boycott certain Filipino traditions based on their colonial history, we would have very little tradition left. But I guess that’s the general effect of colonization: to eradicate so-called “uncivilized” behaviors and rituals in favor of more Western “civilized” ones. Either way, their mission was accomplished. All indigenous traditions are no longer practiced or only known by those Filipino tribes that have been ostracized by the rest of Filipino society.

Another part of me does not want the men on my court wear traditional tuxedos. I’m American, but I’m not All-American. The artistic, Filipino side of me wants to incorporate this aesthetically pleasing, cultural part of myself into my wedding. I think I’d rather do that than have them wear tuxedos.