Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino not only made waves among the locals in Manila in August, he literally waded through the flooded metro in a barong enroute to Malacanang to receive an award of recognition. In September, he wore the same to the launch of his book and film premiere of Death Proof in London.
In the recently-held Golden Globes announcement of nominees shown on television, Tarantino was again seen wearing the barong and the Pinoys took notice.
The barong, or more formally known as Barong Tagalong, has had its share of being the news topic, most recently at the 2007 APEC summit in Australia in which, according to the APEC organizing committee, they cited '"various sources of information" it compiled for their media backgrounder' when they gave out APEC-related kits and referred to the barong worn by the participating heads of state at the 1996 Summit in Subic as a 'mere peasant's shirt'.
This factoid prompted the Philippine government to request APEC for clarification. Many stories about the barong Tagalog have been woven into its fabric of existence. One particular reference to the barong in the Americas is how the barong purportedly influenced Cuba's own guayabera. A Latino forum entry in one of its threads has this post under Where are Guayaberas from? contributed by 'C.T. Mexica':
Note that the entry above also refers to the oft-repeated story of the barong as the locals' (aka "subjects") attire that was supposed to show distinction among the Spanish-era social classes. This story has, indeed, done the rounds.
I owe my earliest memory of the guayabera to my paternal grandfather who wore them during many a humid South Texas day that he complimented with a pair of linen trousers and the customary cowboy boots.
Older Puerto Ricans refer to them as jíbaros, stateside they are sometimes referred to as the "Mexican wedding shirt," whereas throughout Latin America there known as the guayabera, and finally as the barong tagalog in the Philippines, their birthplace.
Of course, any good Cuban would seriously beg to differ. Nevertheless, the barong tagalog originated in Philippines shortly after the arrival of the Spanish. Within the Spanish colonial caste system, the barong tagalog was a symbol of Filipino servitude based upon practical Spanish fears. Concerning attire, Filipino subjects were required to wear transparent and untucked shirts, less they attempt to conceal a weapon or attempt to dress in the manner of the overseers.
The barong tagalog eventually traveled east on Spanish galleons where they were slightly modified and honed into shirts with four pockets in the Yucatan and Caribbean. Since then they have been worn by the likes of Hemingway, many a tropical debonair, countless musicians and farmers alike as well as with Cuban and Filipino diplomats.
The long history of this shirt survives in the vision and designs of Martínez Montiel, provided in large assortment cuts and colors. This guayabera shirts can be found on fridayshirts website. White is the traditional and elegant choice of both novice and aficionado. However, if you want to peacock a little and flaunt opt for one of the brighter colors, such as yellow. The beauty of the guayabera lies within its versatility. It can be worn with either trousers or jeans and whatever your choice of footwear may be. Not to mention its natural compatibility with a straw fedora. Dress accordingly.
Back to Tarantino, he looks comfortable enough in the Filipino barong to be wearing it in functions abroad, albeit in sneakers instead of balat (leather; hide). Perhaps it was the surreal padyak (pedicab) ride he had in the streets of Manila in the middle of a tropical downpour, or the good time he reportedly had, courtesy of Pinoy hospitality, or simply that the barong, made of fine piña (pineapple fiber) or jusi (banana fiber), is a cool attire to wear or be in.
Lastly, it could also be the fact that Filipinos, one of the most talented lot anywhere, just got Tarantino right down to his sensibilities, when they 'localized' him in this classic intro short for the 2007 Cinemanila Film Fest in September:
A spot from TBWA\Santiago Mangada Puno, Manila to announce the guest of honor of this year's film festival -Quentin Tarantino.
• Product : Cinemanila International Film Festival
• Agency : TBWA\Manila
• Creatives :
Melvin Mangada (Executive Creative Director)
Badong Abesamis (Creative Director)
Angge Arches/Ali Silao (Art Director)
Ryan Rubillar/Badong Abesamis (Copywriter)
Sunny Lucero (Agency Producer)
• Director(s) : Mario Cornejo
• Prod. Co. : Reality
• Country : Philippines
• Sound design : Sound Production Company
• Post-prod : Larger than Life
Tarantino photos copyrighted to Reuters, The London Traveler and the Associated Press