Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Contrary to the manner in which they were depicted as uncivilized jungle clods during the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, the Filipinos, prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, had a thriving civilization of their own. Various aspects of which were derived from the Malays who settled in the country.

Traces of their early customs and traditions remain evident in some rural areas. They were marks of success in resisting the impact of modern civilization. Therefore, many pre-colonial Filipino customs and practices are still operative in many parts of the archipelago -- giving observers first-hand materials for reconstructing the nation's distant past.

Take for example its tradition of clothing. The male attire usually composed of the upper and lower parts. The upper was referred to as kanggan. It was a short-sleeved black or blue collarless jacket. The chosen color signified the wearer's rank -- the chief wore red, while those of lower stature wore black or blue. The lower part of the attire, called bahag, was usually a strip of cloth wrapped about the waist, passing down between the thighs; thereby leaving the wearer's thighs and legs exposed.

The women's dress was also comprised of the upper and lower parts. The upper was called camisa or baro. It was a jacket with sleeves. The lower part, on the other hand, was a loose skirt called saya by the Tagalogs and patadyong by the Visayans. A piece of red or white cloth, called tapis, was often wrapped about the waist as an accent.

A headgear made of cloth, called putong, was worn by the men. It was wrapped around his head. Its color signified the "manliness" of the man. Red usually indicated that the wearer had once engaged in a battle and victoriously killed an enemy. But for someone who had slain at least seven was entitled to wear an embroidered headgear.

The women wore no headgear; they merely wore their hair gracefully knotted at the back of the head.

With gold and precious stones abundant in the local mines and rivers, both male and female Filipinos wore ornaments or jewelries -- kalumbiga (armlets), pendants, bracelets, rings, earrings, and leglets.

As for their footwear, everyone walked barefoot in those early times, for the use of sandals and shoes didn't come about until the arrival and rule of the Spanish.

* * *

Additional resource:
History of the Filipino People
by Teodoro A. Agoncillo
Garotech Publishing

Bronze sculpture owned by The Silangan Foundation
Name of artist: still awaiting response from a foundation spokesperson


posted by Señor Enrique at 1:51 PM


Blogger Witness Street said...

Senor Enrique! I wonder why it took me so long to have encountered this magnificent site. Thank you very much for sharing photos of our beautiful country. I know it's not supposed to matter that you are "a former New Yorker", but it does to me. I am certainly looking forward to reading more. And to catching up and clicking all those links to the archives!


P.S. Will I be able to contact you through E-mail? My address, of course, is right here with the user name.

December 11, 2007 10:43 PM  

Anonymous kyels said...

Wow, the depiction of their traditional clothing is awesome. I believe those costumes are beautiful; my intuition.


December 12, 2007 12:18 AM  

Anonymous sardonic nell said...

hello eric! what a very interesting factual information. i didn't know that, so this is another bit of info for me. hehehe! and the image you used, it's quite interesting. i assume the lady don't were no brassiere, hahaha!

December 12, 2007 12:19 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Or a sport's bra for that matter, Nell ... hehehe.

I love this sculpture and the best entry I could come up with to go along with its picture is about the early Filipino manner of dress :)

December 12, 2007 7:56 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

This style of clothing can still be seen in some parts of the country, Kyels. And during festivals, many performers don these traditional clothes.

December 12, 2007 7:59 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Miggs (Witness Street) ... just visited your blogsite. You're a wonderful writer! I'll be visiting often to enjoy your articles. Left my email address on your site.

Thanks for dropping by!

December 12, 2007 8:03 AM  

Blogger niceheart said...

Hi Eric, I'm trying to figure out what the sculpture is about. I know there's a woman there lying on the ground, but what's that on top of her???

Btw, my girl friend is over there vacationing in Manila. She's interested in looking for a DSLR camera. Is that what it's called? I mentioned you to her, how you are a photo entusiast and how you know where to find the right stuff in Quiapo. She's read your entries and I told her to leave you a comment and maybe you could help her find what camera's good for her. :) She's planning to stay there until she finishes her maternity leave, around August.

December 12, 2007 1:12 PM  

Blogger luna miranda said...

Who needs a sports' bra with that?! :D Interesting sculpture, S.E.

December 12, 2007 3:18 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I'm really feeling guilty now that i hadn't written down the name of the artist, Luna. I really love his works. He has a series of this grotesque figure in smaller clay version.

I ought to feature his other works soon.

December 12, 2007 5:40 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hello Irene,

Please pass on my email address to her.

Good, now I can get you and the kids some hopia. Hope she won't mind taking them back to Canada :)

December 12, 2007 5:42 PM  

Blogger nutart said...

now, THAT is an interesting piece of sculpture! I kept going back to it while reading your post. You know how to challenge my focus-ing ability :-).

I have read quite a lot of articles on ehtnic apparel and may napapansin lang ako with all these books---the "models" are always nakasimangot! The only picture I recall of a native Ifugao girl smiling (really smiling while puffing on a pipe and of course, half naked) was that of a photo of Masferre. But all the smae, I'm really fascinated with our local "costumes." Do you know that weavers of the south are considered "spiritual" beings because of their mastery of the loom? They're not even allowed to be seen daw by just anybody.

December 12, 2007 7:56 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The early camera systems were huge and very intimidating, Bernadette. And this may be the reason why most early models looked coerced or upset.

Now that's something I never knew -- weavers were highly respected. Thanks for sharing :)

December 13, 2007 7:12 AM  

Blogger la carlotta said...

i still have the mini version of baro't saya which i wore in a school dance festival when i was still in kinder 1. looking at that now, it's a wonder i had fit in there hahaha. =)

btw, that sculpture is very eye-catching. =)

December 13, 2007 9:26 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Some may consider this sculpyure grotesque, ugly and vulgar, but there is something endearing about it. I think it's the liberating ("I don't care what you think but I'll follow my bliss anyway") attitude projected by the figure.

No wonder you referred to your baro't saya as "mini version," Carla ... hehehe. I thought they were made for dolls or something :)

Nonetheless, isn't it fun when you're able to store some old stuff and then get to look at them later on in life?

December 13, 2007 10:57 AM  

Blogger Sidney said...

He,he... I don't know the name of the artist either... but what I know is that he likes big boobs ! ;-)

December 13, 2007 11:39 AM  

Blogger mtan said...

Hi Senor! I saw that sculpture and several of its companions at the gallery in Antipolo (darn it, I can't remember the name of the place!) a few months ago; Pietro? Piedra? Owned by Dr. Joven who also owns Sitio Remedios in Currimao, Ilocos Norte. I do love a voluptuous piece of bronze, but honestly, I do think the over the top bosom is not forme. I'm more of an earth mother stylist myself, like the ones they unearthed in europe years ago. These pieces remind me more of the animation/comic book stylings of men who need to have women with big bazongas, unnecessarily large (can you imagine how painful it is to walk around with those lugs??). lol

December 13, 2007 11:42 AM  

Blogger BW said...

I could imagine that before the Spaniards came, Filipinos weren't running around nude. Certainly the influence of the Indonesian and Malay culture was rich by the time the Spaniards came.

The bahags were identified with tribal folks even to the present day and age but I think the patadyong made it to the Pinoy mainstream culture and was used by older women even up until the 60's, esp in the provinces.

December 13, 2007 11:55 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You're right, BW, the Filipinos were able to retain many of their traditional manner of clothing. And as you said, some are still quite popular until now.

I think it's cool to think of and honor our ancestors every now and then :)

December 13, 2007 12:49 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Lol ... like Roy Lichtenstein, the pop art artist, MTan!

You're right ... this sculpture is inside the artist haven with Pinto Gallery owned by Dr. Cuanan in Antipolo. I hear they're planning on serving cafe food soon so everyone could enjoy this compound.

December 13, 2007 12:53 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Shhhh ... Sidney. There may be minors around.


December 13, 2007 12:54 PM  

Blogger joe said...

Hahaha ;) I'll take the 5th on this Eric. I might be barking up the wrong tree as one famous painter says.

December 13, 2007 2:07 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Lol ... a smart idea, Joe :)

December 14, 2007 6:53 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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