Why viral Sablay-wearing Fil-Am did not wear Barong Tagalog at gala

May 11, 2023 - 2:49 PM
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UP Sablay_Pablo Torre
Photo of the "Sablay" of the University of the Philippines; Pablo Torre in the 2nd Annual Gold Gala of Gold House in Los Angeles in this photo on his Instagram on May 9, 2023 (Photo from University of the Philippines Diliman website; pstorre/Instagram)

The Filipino-American journalist who got in hot water for wearing an academic costume shared why he was not able to wear the traditional Barong Tagalog at a gala event.

Pictures of ESPN program host Pablo Torre previously went viral after he was seen wearing the “Sablay” of the University of the Philippines during the 2nd Annual Gold Gala of Gold House in Los Angeles.

The event honors trailblazing Asian American and Pacific Islander creatives worldwide.

Meanwhile, the journalist, a Harvard University graduate, said that he borrowed it from his father who graduated from UP.

“I didn’t go to UP. But both of my parents, and both of their late fathers, did. So shoutout to my dad for letting me borrow his sablay for one night, so I could pay tribute to all of them,” Torre said in an Instagram post with a Philippine flag emoji.

His initiative earned mixed reactions from the local online community, with some commending him for giving representation when he wore UP’s academic regalia.

Others, however, argued that the academic costume symbolizes the culmination of a student’s hard work and efforts in attaining their degree from the country’s national university.

“UP was already difficult to get into, it’s even harder to get out of while earning that Sablay. It’s a badge of honor and a source of our pride as alumni of that university, so seeing it being worn by just anyone kinda devalues the meaning of it all,” a Pinoy tweeted before.

READ: What’s a Sablay?: UP’s official academic costume on spotlight as non-UP grad wears it on gala

The buzz reached Torre himself, who issued a clarification through a note uploaded on Twitter on Thursday, May 11.

“I needed to clarify this, for the record. (Love you, Dad.),” he wrote as a caption with emojis of the Philippine and American flags. His note reads:

Last Saturday, I was honored by Gold House, an Asian-American nonprofit, as part of their “A100” list for 2023. They’re doing something rare in the United States: formally recognizing members of the Asian Pacific diaspora for their “impact on culture and society.”

After graduating from Harvard, and then spending the last decade at ESPN, this was unlike any other recognition I’d received. The gala’s dress code was “multicultural black tie.” And what I tried to do was share a distinctly Asian-American honor with my family, the Philippines, and her state university. Both my parents are proud graduates of the University of the Philippines. So were both of their fathers, now deceased. The institution of UP is a truly multigenerational source of pride.

I posted a short explanation on Instagram earlier this week about my intent. And then I remembered how social media, without context, can be hell. So please take this as a sincere apology for borrowing my dad’s sablay — and please don’t blame anyone else. The sablay was not yet part of UP ceremonies in the 1970s, when my parents both graduated. My dad only received his sablay for his 50th class reunion last year. But I will never forget the photo he sent our family when he tried it on for the very first time, at age 76, beaming with pride.

In the replies thread of his post, a Twitter user called on Torre to “please wear a barong next time,” referring to the Barong Tagalog.

“I’m begging you,” the user added with a loudly crying emoji.

Torre then revealed that he actually had the Filipino national attire in his wardrobe.

“I got a new one! Didn’t fit. And didn’t have time to get it adjusted before the event. My fault,” he responded to the Twitter user.

Another user had the same suggestion, explaining that the sablay is considered an “academic achievement” outfit.

“Just wear a Barong Tagalog next time, sir @PabloTorre, so that you’ll be safe in the eyes of the Filipino netizens. UP Sablay is an academic achievement dress that can be worn only by individuals who graduated [from] UP. There are a lot of National attire to wear, good sir,” the Twitter user added, attaching images to his post.

“Agreed and agreed,” Torre responded to him with a handshake emoji.

The Barong Tagalog is an embroidered long-sleeve garment that is the traditional Filipino attire for men.

It is usually made of sheer lightweight woven fabric of either “piña” or “jusi.”

The attire is usually worn during formal occasions, social gatherings and other events like weddings and baptisms.

The Barong Tagalog is paired with dark-colored formal pants or trousers.