Ancient tradition recounts that the first Malay settlers in the archipelago purchased the valleys and plains of PanayIsland from the native Aetas in exchange for a golden salakót and a very long pearl necklace called a manangyad, which touched the ground when worn by the wife of the Aeta chieftain.
The custom of embellishing the salakót developed during the Spanish Era. Though normally worn by farmers, wealthy and landed Christian Filipinos and mestizos (especially the members of the nobility called the Principalía) would also wear the salakót. It would be adorned with embossed silver, and sometimes silver coins and pendants were hung from the hat's brim. Many depictions of gobernadorcillos and cabezas de barangay would portray these colonial public functionaries as wearing ornate salakots. It was not uncommon for this class to wear salakót made of more prized materials, such as tortoiseshell and precious metals.