Team Philippines’ barong for Paris Olympics unveiled to mixed reactions

Architect and fashion designer Francis Libiran designed the barong called ‘Sinag,’ which incorporates Philippine culture while also honoring the host country.

The Olympics craze is starting to gain momentum. As athletes continue to vie for a spot in their country’s roster in the last few weeks leading to the world’s biggest sporting event, sports fans, meanwhile, are waiting with bated breath and eager anticipation.

And part of the whole Olympic experience is, of course, the team uniforms, which are just as highly anticipated.

On Tuesday, Ralph Lauren unveiled its design for Team USA—the label’s ninth consecutive Olympics and Paralympics—that athletes will wear wear at the opening and closing ceremonies as well as a broader capsule wardrobe for their use during and after the Games.

On Wednesday, Team Philippines unveiled the barong tagalog that members of the national team will be wearing at the opening ceremony. Boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, both silver medalists at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, will be the Philippines’ flag bearers at the ceremony.

Designed by Francis Libiran, the barong called “Sinag” has sparked mixed reactions among Pinoy netizens. 

Paris Olympics Team Philippines: Francis Libiran
Francis Libiran’s vision for the barong is to blend Filipino heritage with the “grandeur of the Olympics.” Photo from ABS-CBN News
Paris Olympics Team Philippines: Francis Libiran design
The barong’s collar features ornate embroidery of Pintados-inspired warrior patterns, the intricacy and meticulousness of which are a testament to Libiran’s background in architecture. Photo from Philippine Olympic Committee’s Facebook page

A nod to Philippine culture with a hint of French

The renowned Filipino architect-slash-fashion designer’s vision for the barong is to blend Filipino heritage with the “grandeur of the Olympics.”

Libiran drew inspiration from the colors of the Philippine flag and also honored the host country by incorporating the French tricolor into the strap of the armor. “The colors of the strap pay tribute to France’s national flag, symbolizing our respect and gratitude to the host nation,” he said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.

The name of the design translates to “rays of the sun,” and symbolizes hope and optimism, embodying the spirit and pride of the Filipino people, he explained. The sun’s rays also incorporate Pintados-inspired warrior patterns, representing “bravery and fierceness.”

“The opening parade will take place along the River Seine, with athletes on boats drifting from Pont d’Austerlitz to Pont d’léna. To make a visual impact, I designed a wearable and detachable sling-style armor featuring the yellow sun rays of the Philippine flag set against a backdrop of red and blue,” he shared in the interview.

Libiran added that since this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Philippines’ participation in the Olympic Games, it is crucial to ensure the athletes shine on opening day. 

In the interview, he explained that he selected piña-jusi fabric from Kalibo, Aklan, which is known for its “delicate and luxurious texture.” The detachable sling armor, meanwhile, is made from silk organdy fabric, fully embroidered by his in-house artisans. 

Paris Olympics Team Philippines: Francis Libiran detachable design
Libiran shared in an interview with ABS-CBN News that the sling is detachable, making the barong suitable for other special occasions.

“It’s a sling that acts like (an) armor for the athletes. They can detach it, making the barong suitable for their other special occasions or functions,” Libiran said.

This is not the first time Libiran has lent his talent for Team Philippines. For instance, he designed the barong for the 30th Southeast Asian Games which the country hosted in 2019.

This occasion is even more special, however, as it is the first time that he has designed the national team’s barong for the Olympics. “This barong represents unity among Filipinos. It’s not just about me as a designer; it’s about making our athletes feel proud when they wear it,” he said. “Every time they compete, they carry the Philippine flag close to their hearts.” 

What netizens are saying

The unveiling of the design had social media buzzing, with netizens dishing out their own critique, ranging from admiration to disappointment. A quick look at comments on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) revealed mixed reactions, with those posted on the latter leaning more toward the negative. 

Most of the comments on the official Facebook page of the Philippine Olympic Committee have been positive, with some users saying they like the design, with one even hoping he can buy one for him, too.

Over on X, meanwhile, comments were much more divided. Seven hours after ABS-CBN News tweeted about the Libiran-designed barong, the post has already garnered 1,600 likes, 230 reposts, and 99 comments.

Paris Olympics Team Philippines: Francis Libiran Deb Cassano comment

X user Deb Cassano praised the design, saying that the detachable sling armor makes the barong practical because it can be used for occasions other than the Olympics’ opening ceremony—as Libiran intended.

Some users complimented Libiran’s creativity and the design’s uniqueness.

Paris Olympics Team Philippines: Francis Libiran comments

But Twitter being Twitter (or X being X), many users made fun of the design, with some of them saying the detachable sling looks like a medical cast or a sling bag.

Paris Olympics Team Philippines: Francis Libiran comments from netizens

Some even went as far as joking that Libiran is already anticipating injuries.

This is not the first time a sports-related design drew criticisms. In 2018, netizens poked fun at the logo of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games which the Philippines hosted. On the upside, the widely ridiculed design sparked the creativity of many netizens who rendered their own logos (most of which were quite impressive).

At the end of the day, we may have differences in our opinions of Team Philippines’ barong but one thing should bind us all as a nation—our 100% support for our hardworking athletes, whether in victory or in defeat.

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