By: Carlo Castillo
The Barong Tagalog has been synonymous with traditional Filipino clothing. It’s almost automatic to see people wearing barong during events that require formal and semi-formal attire in the Philippines. However, Filipinos feel a different sense of pride when they see famous non-Filipinos wearing Barong Tagalog.
Celebrities, athletes, and multiple world leaders have worn the Barong Tagalog. Their usual reason for wearing the famous traditional Filipino clothing is a courtesy call to the Malacañang Palace or a summit. Multiple famous personalities have worn the Barong Tagalog through the years, and this list has the most notable ones.
The late Kobe Bryant visited the Philippines for the first time in 1998. He paid a courtesy visit to then-President, Joseph Estrada at Malacañang Palace on August 14, 1998. The young Black Mamba even posed for pictures while holding a basketball and wearing a Barong Tagalog. Kobe paired the Barong Tagalog with black slacks and black leather shoes.
Photo courtesy of Radyo Singko 92.3 News FM Facebook Page
This was one of the multiple visits of the late superstar in the country. The Hall-of-Famer visited the Philippines a total of seven times for various promotions and fan interaction events. His last visit to the country was on June 25, 2016. Kobe Bryant is arguably the most famous athlete ever to wear a Barong Tagalog, and this photo of him with ex-President Estrada is truly a gem.
Boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier
The ‘Thrilla in Manila’ is one of the most iconic events in all of boxing. On October 1, 1975, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier squared off for the heavyweight championship title at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines. It served as the culmination of the rivalry between the two legends of the sport of boxing.
Photo courtesy of CNN Philippines and Takeo Tanuma via Getty Images
Ali and Frazier paid a courtesy visit to former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Malacañang Palace. They wore Barong Tagalog during this official visit. The ‘Greatest’ and ‘Smokin Joe’ both showcased fancy Barong Tagalogs with embroidery designs.
Before Jeremy Renner became the iconic ‘Hawkeye’ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he starred in the action movie entitled the ‘Bourne Legacy,’ and the production crew shot scenes in the Philippines.
Photo Courtesy of Rappler
The Bourne Legacy team paid a courtesy visit to then-President Benigno Aquino III at the Malacañang Palace on February 22, 2012. The late President regarded the film as a helpful boost for tourism and hoped to have more films shot in the Philippines. The ‘Avenger’ wore a Barong Tagalog and paired it with cargo pants. Nevertheless, the actor still pulled off the traditional Filipino clothing in style.
The majority of the celebrities who wore Barong Tagalog were honoring a courtesy call to the President of the Philippines. On the other hand, Quentin Tarantino wore a Barong Tagalog while at the Golden Globe nominations back in 2007. This was one of the rare occasions that the Barong Tagalog was in full display to a bigger United States crowded. The iconic director might have worn it quite loosely but still gave the Filipino traditional clothing more exposure to the public.
Photo Courtesy of AP and Reuters
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton
The Philippines hosted the APEC Summit for the first time on November 24-25, 1996, and the delegates wore Barong Tagalog. Former United States President Bill Clinton was among those who attended the summit of leaders from the Asia-Pacific region. The two-day event was held at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Subic, Zambales.
Photo courtesy of PhilStar and AP/Joe Marquette
Former U.S. President Barrack Obama
The first black President of the United States always carried himself with poise. Ex-President Obama had been famous for his stylish way of wearing a suit ever since he was a senator. When he wore a Barong Tagalog for the APEC Summit in the Philippines, he also looked smooth with it. Former President Obama arguably looked one of the best among all of the former United States presidents who wore a Barong Tagalog.
World Leaders who Attended the 2015 APEC Summit in the Philippines
The second time that the Philippines hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC summit was in 2015. Delegates from different member countries wore Barong Tagalog. Among the notable ones were former U.S. President Barrack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The late Marlon Brando has been iconic for his role as ‘The Godfather,’ and this multi-awarded actor also had a movie career that spanned 60 years. When people discuss the best actors in cinema history, Marlon Brando’s name is usually thrown in the mix. Aside from being a heralded actor, Brando has also been regarded as one of the most handsome celebrities ever to grace Hollywood.
Photo courtesy of Granger.com
During a visit to the Philippines in 1955, Marlon Brando wore a stylish Barong Tagalog while meeting the Philippine Bachelor’s Club members and fans. He definitely carried it with style.
David Bowie was a rockstar, an actor, and a fashion icon. He is regarded as one of the most influential figures in the music industry.
Photo courtesy of David Bowie News Facebook Page and credit to Brian Ward.
In this 1971 photo, David Bowie can be seen wearing a Barong Tagalog. He paired it with bell bottoms during a Hunky Dory photo session with renowned photographer Brian Ward. A young David Bowie indeed rocked the Barong Tagalog in style.
The Barong Tagalog: Well Represented
Seeing the Barong Tagalog being worn by famous international personalities is a treat for Filipinos. The traditional formal attire may have yet to reach its full potential for global exposure but knowing that icons from the world of sport, movies, and music have worn the Barong Tagalog already brings a sense of pride to Filipinos. Hopefully, more international celebrities wear the Barong Tagalog in the future.